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With McDonough, Hawks ready to rock
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

John McDonough


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz is expected to announce the appointment today.


ABC 7 Chicago

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Published: 11/20/2007 9:01 AM | Updated: 11/20/2007 5:00 PM

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There should no longer be any doubt about who has the best power play in the National Hockey League.

It's Rocky Wirtz, hands down.

The proactive Blackhawks chairman was at it again on Tuesday, stunning the city's sports community by hiring John McDonough away from the Cubs to be the Hawks' new team president.

"This speaks volumes for our franchise, for him to leave them to come to us," said Hawks general manager Dale Tallon, who joked that McDonough was "overqualified" for the job. "It's exactly what we need."

Abolishing the home TV blackout policy was Wirtz's boldest move until Tuesday. Wirtz also removed Bob Pulford as senior vice president upon taking over the club in October, a symbolic move that signaled the Hawks were about to be run differently from the way his father, the late Bill Wirtz, did things.

"He just continues to amaze," Tallon said, speaking of his new boss. "This is a message to all of us, that we're going to leave no stone unturned and we're going to develop a franchise that is going to be top notch in all departments, and we're going to win championships.

"It's spreading through the whole organization," said Tallon. "It's all 'yes' now instead of, 'Well, I don't know if we can, we'll get back to you on it.' Now it's go for it."

McDonough, a 54-year-old Elk Grove Village resident, is considered one of the best in the pro sports industry at marketing and promotions as evidenced by how he helped the Cubs establish one attendance record after another at Wrigley Field.

Prior to taking over as Cubs president at the end of the 2006 season, the innovative and savvy McDonough was their longtime marketing and broadcast chief who, among his other novel ideas, created the winter fan convention that nearly every MLB team has copied.

Wirtz first met with McDonough 10 days ago at a restaurant in Schaumburg after getting permission from the Cubs. The two hit it off instantly with Wirtz leaving four hours later certain he had the guy to lead the Hawks from a business side.

"Of all the people in the country, in our humble opinion, the best person for that job was right in front of our nose," Wirtz said. "The important thing, again in our opinion, was to have someone from Chicago who understands and gets the Chicago sports scene, who understands Chicago fans and who understands all the make up of this wonderful city.

"What we wanted to do was bring someone in to coordinate the hockey operations with the business, marketing and sales side, and there's no one better to that than John McDonough."

McDonough got a five-year contract, admitting the stability of the Hawks' offer was a factor in his decision to leave the Cubs and their uncertain ownership situation.

McDonough offered no specifics of how he would attack the formidable task of repairing the Hawks' image in a city and with a fan base that had given up on the organization the last decade.

"I have a lot of ideas. I have pages of ideas that Rocky hasn't even seen yet," McDonough said. "I enjoy the creative process. I enjoy being in a situation where someone would say, 'That's going to be tough to do. That's going to be a challenge.' That's what really inspires me.

"We've got a lot of work to do and we're going to hit the ground sprinting."

McDonough spoke of the talented young team the Hawks are building, the state-of-the-art United Center that he expects to fill, and the team's logo and uniform, which are recognized as perhaps the best in the NHL.

"I looked at this as a challenge, as the right opportunity for me at the right time," McDonough said. "I've followed the Blackhawks my entire career. It's one of the great brands in all of professional sports and I have the great confidence that we are going to restore and reinvigorate this great franchise.

"To all of you Blackhawks fans that are out there, it's time to come back. It's time to be enthusiastic. It's time to be energetic. It's time to get excited about the Chicago Blackhawks.

"You've always heard that, well, there aren't as many Blackhawks fans as there might be Bears fans or Cubs fans. We're going to wake them up. They're going to come out."

McDonough made no secret of what he considers his biggest challenge.

"The biggest challenge is to win," he said. "Winning is the greatest marketing idea of all-time. I want to fill that building on a regular basis and the ultimate goal is again is for the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup."

McDonough's wealth of experience in broadcasting will surely mean more Hawks home games on television.

In fact, Wirtz told reporters Tuesday that more home games likely would be added to this season's TV schedule.

"From an outsider just looking on the other side of the fence, just the amount of exposure by announcing that we're going to put seven games on television, it tells me the potential of this great franchise," McDonough said.