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McDonough says Blackhawks will be ready to repeat

by Shawn P. Roarke
TORONTO -- Don't worry about a Stanley Cup hangover in Chicago.

That was the message Blackhawks President John McDonough delivered after serving as a panelist during Thursday's afternoon session at the Molson World Hockey Summit.

"I don't think anybody within our franchise is going to get a herniated disc from taking bows," McDonough said. "There is no Stanley Cup-itis going on in Chicago within the Blackhawks organization."

While the Windy City might still be whooping over the city's first hockey championship in 49 years, the organization that delivered that historic moment is looking forward instead of resting on its most recent -- and very shiny -- laurels.

"I have heard from the NHL that they are going to allow us to play this season, so it would be a good idea for us to be prepared," McDonough said.

McDonough was asked by Summit organizers to give a speech on the topic of growing the game, particularly when it comes to youth hockey.

McDonough opened his presentation with a riveting video montage that showed all the things his franchise has done in the past three years, including playing in both the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and in Europe for NHL Premiere, bringing back famous alumni in prominent roles and changing the hockey culture in Chicago. He said the video was meant to show that change happens faster than expected if there is a proper plan in place.

"The reason we showed that video -- and I haven't seen that video very often myself -- was really to put all of this into context that this has happened in a relatively short period of time; less than three years," McDonough said. "Two years ago, we went to the Western Conference Finals, the next year we won the Stanley Cup.

"We've had to make some difficult decisions within our organization. It's been a pretty tough road. A lot of people will say, 'Wow, that was seamless. That happened very, very fast.' It was very difficult and, in some ways, painful."

But the payoff was greater than even McDonough could have imagined.

When Patrick Kane scored a bad-angle goal in overtime of Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers to deliver the Stanley Cup to the Blackhawks, McDonough had achieved his stated goal of bringing a title to Chicago.

The city's response has blown McDonough away.

"It's been fun," he said. "We had a parade and there were 2 million people there and we'd always heard in Chicago that there were only 16,000 hockey fans."

But there was still so much for McDonough to learn about what it means to claim hockey's Holy Grail.

"The one thing that I have found that has absolutely blown me away is I have never seen anything like the power of the Stanley Cup," McDonough said. "The Stanley Cup is the ultimate rock star. You see the players going to their respective cities and going back home and that is very meaningful, but the ultimate star is that Stanley Cup. "

McDonough experienced it firsthand during his day with the Cup. He took the Stanley Cup to his 98-year-old father and brought it to visit his mom's grave. He brought it to his childhood home and a parade in his new hometown. He brought it home and shared it with friends and family.

Yet, wherever he went, there were literally hundreds of people -- many complete strangers -- clamoring for some facetime with sport's most famous and most accessible trophy.

"It's traveled all over the world," he said. "It's been all through Chicago and it's been one of the greatest celebrations in the history of the city, one of the largest parades. We have some more time to go, but that has been the most surprising thing -- the impact, the charisma of the Stanley Cup.

"Everywhere you went, there were thousands of people," McDonough said. "This hadn't happened in 49 years, and I think from a fan standpoint, to many Blackhawk fans it kind of caught them off guard that this happened so fast. We were very pleased with summer, but we are ready to go."

He admits it has been a summer of change. Salary-cap issues have seen staples of that Cup-winning team move on. Dustin Byfuglien is now in Atlanta. Kris Versteeg is now in Toronto. Goalie Antti Niemi is an unrestricted free agent and won't be back. His backup, Cristobal Huet, will apparently play in Switzerland. Yet McDonough believes his team is ready to defend its championship as Chicago looks to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since Detroit did it in 1997-98.

"We're not going to take anything for granted," McDonough said. "You know, we made a lot of changes during the offseason. Change has really defined the Blackhawks over the last three years; it's the fabric of our culture right now.

"Now it is on to the next chapter. We have to turn that page, close that book, put it on the shelf and try to do it again."

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