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McDonough Happy, Not Satisfied, With Hawks' Success

by Dan Rosen / Chicago Blackhawks
Invigorated, confident and happy are adjectives that aptly describe Chicago Blackhawks President John McDonough these days.

The curtain may soon be closing on the Blackhawks' remarkable playoff run, what with the Red Wings leading the Blackhawks, 3-1, but the man presiding over the organization's day-to-day operations is not ready to call anything a success just like he's not ready to call the Western Conference Finals over.

Overwhelmed, amazed and satisfied aren't words that fit into McDonough's daily vocabulary.

"Has there been a moment this year, whether it's the Winter Classic or the 104 points (in the regular season), where I sat back and said 'Wow?' " McDonough rhetorically asked in a phone interview Tuesday. "No, there hasn't been a moment. It comes from a personal philosophy that I don't believe we're entitled to any of this. We're not entitled to one more fan walking into our building or one more win. We're going to have to earn our way with everything and we have lot of ground to make up."

On paper, short of winning the Stanley Cup it appears the Blackhawks have accomplished just about everything an organization wants to accomplish.

They've had more than one million fans walk through the United Center turnstiles this season, a first for the franchise. Season ticket sales have increased more than 300 percent since McDonough took over 18 months ago. The Blackhawks, irrelevant for years in a saturated sports market, are the talk of the Windy City nowadays.

Heck, even Chicago icon Michael Jordan fought two hours of rush hour traffic to come to Game 3 against Detroit last week. He wore a Blackhawks jersey.

"If I was surprised by any of this than I think it would lead one to believe that I didn't think we could do this, and I did," McDonough said. "I have high expectations and we have really progressed."

Outside of Jordan's appearance at the United Center for a hockey game, which McDonough said validated everything the Hawks are trying to do, the President remains largely unfazed by the hoopla surrounding his team.

"You can go from being a fairly bright guy to being the village idiot in no time," McDonough said. "Having been with another organization (the Chicago Cubs) and having been to the postseason five times and seeing sellouts every day for 25 years it puts this into perspective."

OK, so where does McDonough think the Hawks can improve?

It starts with communication.

He reminded that he has only known General Manager Dale Tallon for 18 months and coach Joel Quenneville for 10 months.

He's known his Senior V.P. of Business Operations Jay Blunk for 23 years, "but for the most part we're still getting to know each other," McDonough said. "I do believe now there is a very high level of expertise and a high level of expectations and I think that's very, very healthy as long as its realistic."

McDonough is aware that as the Hawks' management group continues on, questions about how they're going to keep the team's young core together will arise.

"That's good because our hockey operations people know that we have a lot of young assets and we're going to do the best we can to keep that core together," McDonough said. "That is something we have all had long conversations about. Decisions here are going to be made with the label of big picture. There won't be any knee jerk reactions."

Driving McDonough is his unwavering commitment to bringing the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time since 1961. It's why he says he's terribly hard on himself and is looking only for "consistent excellence" from the folks he employs.

He needs to only look into the opposing locker room for proof of how well that philosophy can work.

Before they became a dynastic team, the Red Wings had to build from the ground floor with an eager staff of managers that were bound to the organizational philosophy of consistent excellence.

"You don't plug a team in and just go," McDonough said. "There are no guarantees for next year. You just have to assume that you're going to have to earn everything you get next year. It's not progress, progress, progress and boom, the Stanley Cup. It doesn't work that way."

Maybe not, but it appears McDonough has found the path to that kind of success.

"Nobody is awestruck by this," McDonough said. "Nobody is gushing. Nobody is thinking, 'Can you believe this?' This is progressing well and now it's, 'What do we do to sustain this, to dial it up another notch and then another notch and then another notch?' "

Contact Dan Rosen at

Author: Dan Rosen | Staff Writer

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