Chicago Blackhawks: John McDonough’s Conundrum

By Gail Kauchak

For this post, I was originally going to take an inside look at the Chicago Blackhawks’ President and CEO, John McDonough. This was in keeping with my summer theme of “getting to know” Chicago Blackhawks players and staff. But in light of the recent Patrick Kane situation, fans likely want to know what is going to happen to No. 88, and how it will affect the future of the Chicago Blackhawks.

As president and CEO of the Blackhawks, McDonough will play a very important role in how the Kane saga all pans out.  So while we’re finding out a little more about him, let’s also see if we can gain some insight into how he might handle this situation.

Before he joined the ’Hawks, McDonough spent 24 years (1983-2007) with the Chicago Cubs. He served as the team’s senior vice president of marketing and broadcasting, later CEO and finally president. During his time with the Cubs, they set numerous attendance records, and McDonough is credited with spearheading the annual Cubs Convention, as well as the famous celebrity renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.

McDonough joined the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007. He is credited with being a big part of rejuvenating the franchise. McDonough’s specialty is marketing, and he got to work growing the fan base and trying to make the Chicago Blackhawks a household name as soon as he arrived.

He welcomed Hall of Famers Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito to be team ambassadors.  He worked out a partnership with both WGN TV and Comcast SportsNet to allow all 82 regular season games to be broadcast on television for the first time in the team’s history. He made a deal with WGN radio to broadcast team games on the radio as well.

Under McDonough’s leadership, the Chicago Blackhawks have grown their season ticketholder base from 3,400 to more the 14,000. They have led the NHL in attendance for the last seven consecutive seasons. Of course McDonough also instituted the now-annual Blackhawks Convention, the first of its kind in the NHL.

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says McDonough is always in his ear with ideas to for the National Hockey League’s continued growth, and of course involving the Chicago Blackhawks. He helped bring the Winter Classic to Chicago in 2009, where they played the rival Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. Since then, the ’Hawks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field for the Stadium Series in 2014, and they were a part of the Winter Classic in 2015 against the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park. They are scheduled to be involved in another Stadium Series in 2016, hosted by the Minnesota Wild.

So McDonough has worked very hard to turn this franchise around. The Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups in the last six years, and they are known as a model franchise, one to be looked up to and emulated by other NHL teams. They are extremely conscious of their public image. They are very family-oriented, and they have one of the strongest female fan bases in the NHL.

And then Patrick Kane, one of the faces of this franchise, is accused of sexually assaulting a young woman. To say this is not good is a heinous understatement. Being McDonough and the rest of the Blackhawks brass, what do they do?

Yes, Kane is one of your star players, and arguably one the best hockey players in the world. But the reputation of the Chicago Blackhawks has to come first and foremost. As well as doing the right thing.

And it’s not like Kane hasn’t been given a number of chances. When he first came to Chicago, he lived with Stan Bowman. (Because he was very young, or because he needed to be babysat?) Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know all this.  There’s the incident with the taxi cab driver in 2009. Then the limo in Vancouver in 2010. And the weekend in Madison in 2012.

After Kane’s escapades in Madison, there was much talk that the Blackhawks brass had had enough, and trade rumors were abundant. But McDonough and crew stayed quiet. They didn’t trade Kane, and instead he went to Switzerland in 2012 to play hockey during the NHL lockout. Accompanied by his mom as a chaperone.

Since then, nothing new has surfaced in regards to Kaner’s partying ways. He actually built back up his reputation, and everyone has been talking about how much he has matured while leaving all that other stuff behind him.

Until now.

Let’s face it, no matter how the investigation surrounding Kane is resolved, he has broken his commitment  to the Chicago Blackhawks. As a matter of fact, he gets paid $10 million dollars to stay out of trouble. If I was McDonough and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks brass, I would have a very hard time supporting Patrick Kane right now.

It’s very sad that we are talking about this instead of projecting what’s going to be happening on the ice in October.  But this situation is not going to go away. Take heart, Blackhawks fans! Your favorite team will eventually take to the ice.

Whether it’s with or without Kane is yet to be seen.

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Next: Patrick Kane Investigation Update

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