On March 17, Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz appeared on the "Blackhawks Talk Podcast' and gave a vote of confidence to the management group led by President & CEO John McDonough and GM Stan Bowman.
"They will figure it out," Wirtz said. "I promise you."
On Monday, McDonough was relieved of his duties after 13 years with the organization, where he played an integral role in changing the hockey culture in Chicago. During his tenure, the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cup titles, went to the playoffs nine consecutive seasons and had a United Center sellout streak of 531 games, which is ongoing.
Before accomplishing all of that, McDonough helped rekindle fractured relationships with some of the greatest players in team history. He aggressively pushed for the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field that put the Blackhawks on the national map. The list goes on and on.
"His contributions went well beyond leading the team to three Stanley Cup Championships," Wirtz said in statement. "He rebuilt the front office and helped guide the organization toward a winning vision."
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There's no denying McDonough was as important as anyone to the renaissance of a franchise that was dubbed by ESPN as the worst in professional sports in 2004. But it was probably time for a change at the top.
"As difficult as this is," Wirtz said concluded, "we believe it was the right decision for the future of the organization and its fans."
The real question is: Why now? What changed from six weeks ago?
The timing is certainly peculiar, but the COVID-19 pandemic allowed Wirtz to reassess the state of the franchise as a whole. The conclusion? The Blackhawks need a shift in mentality.
“While we can reassure our fans there will be hockey again, no one knows what that will look like," Wirtz said. "What we do know is that it will take a new mindset to successfully transition the organization to win both on and off the ice."
Danny Wirtz, Rocky's 43-year-old son, will immediately take over as the interim president while the team conducts its search. He has been an active advisor with the Blackhawks for the past decade and will work closely with Rocky to "identify our next leader."
McDonough was the right leader to build and oversee the dynasty era. It will take a new one to get the Blackhawks back on track.
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