The Chicago Blackhawks
have come a long way in the past several seasons, and on Thursday’s NHL Hour With Gary Bettman, team president John McDonough was asked to explain their transformation.
"I attribute it to the fact we have a very good team," McDonough said. "We have strong hockey management, we have very good coaching."
After making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals a season ago, Chicago is fighting for the Presidents’ Trophy this season.
"It’s all about what happens on the ice, as I learned in my baseball years," said McDonough, who formerly served as president of the Chicago Cubs. "People want to see this team succeed, they’re excited about it. We can’t get caught up in all of this."
In addition to their improved play on the ice, the Blackhawks have also worked hard off it to thrust themselves back into the spotlight. Their annual fan convention is a big part of that effort.
"The concept is to market your product 12 months a year," McDonough said. "The idea was to try to break down the walls between the fans and the players and management and broadcasters, and try to get all of these people under one roof at one time so your great former players, your current roster, and really celebrate your allegiance to that team."
Speaking about the challenges of switching from running a baseball team to running a hockey club, McDonough complimented the quality of players in the League today.
"One of the things I continue to be amazed at is the caliber of the players, the fact that they really get the big picture. They’re appreciative, they’re grateful, they’re respectful, they’re bright, they participate."
president Ken King was also a guest of Bettman, who was in Calgary for Thursday’s game between the Flames and Blackhawks.
It was to be the 247th consecutive sellout at the Pengrowth Saddledome, a building the team had struggles in filling earlier in this decade. King said his management group made an effort to re-engage the community and said Calgary fans are realistic in their expectations.
"They have to believe that you can (challenge to win the Stanley Cup), that there’s a chance," King said. "They understand that one team wins it -- as you’ve said many times and as any pure hockey fan knows, it’s the most challenging, most difficult championship to win. You play 82 games to get the privilege to try and win another 16 of them.
"They have to believe you always have a chance, that you have an opportunity, or that you will die trying. They will reward effort. And, in fact, if your team isn’t there yet, they’ll reward the process. They understand it and they’ll reward the building process if they continue to see progress."
King said the biggest priorities for the Flames right now are getting a new arena and increasing TV revenues.
"I think in 3-5 years, we’ll achieve that," King said.