The Blackhawks recently took full control over the Rockford IceHogs, their AHL affiliate. The team has been seeing 4 straight years of declining attendance, and an aging facility for fans to attend and watch games. There is a decent amount of talent that played in Rockford this past season, including several Blackhawks draft picks.
To evolve into a first-class hockey operation, the ‘Hawks and the ‘Hogs need to be in lock-step on everything from strategy and scheme, to player development, to branding and marketing. This move to take control is a step in the right direction.
As the President of Hockey Operations, I would look at moving the IceHogs to a new location. Rockford has a special relationship with the ‘Hogs, but I can’t ignore 4 years of declining attendance and the state of their facility. Plus, my loyal ‘Hawks fan base needs a more accessible venue to draw more fans, and create more crossover opportunities for revenue and brand-building.
I might also consider re-naming them (maybe to the IceHawks?), but would also work on changing up their branding and logos to be consistent with the NHL team. I would find a new venue for them or build one, that can handle up to 12,000 fans, and host special events there as well to keep generating excitement and revenue for the organization.
I would also make it a priority to beef up the marketing for the team, so that not only can they hype up future Blackhawks’ fan favorites, but also high-end prospects of other teams coming to town, so there are multiple layers of appeal for IceHogs games. AHL hockey can be a profitable business for the Blackhawks organization if they do it right.