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One Minute Remaining: Remembering Tommy Ivan

by Harvey Wittenberg / Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and his staff have done a great job in building the team into a Stanley Cup champion twice and a perennial playoff contender since he took over in 2009. Bowman's task today is even more daunting due to the hard salary cap, which affects his ability to make deals to build up young talent through trades and key draft selections.

Back in 1952, when Arthur Wirtz and Jim Norris bought the floundering Blackhawks, there were rumors that the Chicago franchise might be moved to St. Louis. On July 8, 1954, the owners lured one of the league's most successful coaches away from Detroit—Tommy Ivan. Although he never played in the NHL and was only 5 feet 5 inches, he coached the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups over seven seasons and six first-place finishes.

After taking over as Blackhawks GM, Ivan had to build a team that had made the playoffs just once in seven seasons. With the backing of the owners, Ivan established a farm system by forging an affiliation with the Buffalo Bisons and getting sponsorship of a junior team—the St. Catherines Black Hawks.

Ivan had a keen eye for talent, swinging a trade with Detroit for goalie Glenn Hall and Ted Lindsay and getting veteran Tod Sloan and rookie Eric Nesterenko from Toronto. The farm system paid off, providing defenseman Pierre Pilote plus talented forwards Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.

Still, it took a few years before he brought Chicago's first Stanley Cup since 1938 to the Blackhawks in 1961. In 1963, Ivan brought in bench boss Billy Reay, who ranks as the team's winningest coach and never had a losing season. Ivan then engineered the best waiver deal in Blackhawks history by getting goalie Tony Esposito for $25,000 from Montreal in 1970.

Ivan was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1974 and served as Team USA's GM in 1976 before stepping down in 1977 to remain with the Blackhawks as a Vice President. Also, he acted as chairman of the U.S. organizing commitee for the 1980 Olympic team that won a gold medal at Lake Placid—known as the Miracle on Ice!

As GM, Ivan made all the key moves, laying the foundation for the Blackhawks to become a dominant force in the NHL, a tradition which Stan Bowman and his staff are carrying on today. He passed away on June 24, 1999 at the age of 88.

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