Skip to main content

Quenneville was right man to lead Hawks to the Cup

by Dan Rosen
PHILADELPHIA -- The astute hockey people he hired to tell him things and teach him about the game kept telling Blackhawks President John McDonough that Joel Quenneville was the right guy for his young team.
McDonough, more of a businessman than a hockey man, still had to see for himself.
"I had a chance to spend a little time with him before we brought him on," the Blackhawks president told "I thought from Day One we had the right coach. You just got a sense that he is all about winning. He's a less-is-more, all-business guy. That's what we were looking for."
But Quenneville was looking to spend some time at home in Colorado watching hockey in 2008-09. It would have been a monumental change of pace for a guy who has given close to 30 years of his life to the NHL as a player, assistant and coach.
However, just four games into the '08-09 season, he was lured back in by the surging Hawks, a team full of promise that needed the perfect Sherpa to show them the way up the big hill to the Stanley Cup.
Denis Savard, a good guy and Chicago legend, just didn't have the necessary coaching chops to get the Blackhawks there, but with Quenneville's steady-as-she-goes approach, the Hawks made it to the top Wednesday in Philadelphia with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 that wrapped up the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years.
Quenneville got the Hawks to their parade Friday because he was the right guy for the right job at the right time. Now he says he feels lucky to be a part of the situation and he loves living in the Windy City. He won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
"I've been very fortunate to come here at the right time, receive a tremendous hockey team with great kids that like being around each other and that have a lot of skill and talent," Quenneville said. "They grew up together and have grown together over the last two years as a team. It's a fun team to coach. Every day we love coming in to work. I feel lucky."
Rocky Wirtz, the Blackhawks' chairman, said Quenneville was the ideal catch for this team because "we knew he was really good with young players." The Blackhawks have a plethora of them, including young stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
"Take nothing away from Denis Savard, but we needed someone with experience," Wirtz said. "We wanted to put him in a position where he could succeed. Denis Savard had not been in that position, and that's nothing more than a little experience goes a long way."
Quenneville won the Stanley Cup as an assistant coach with Colorado in 1996. He had 438 wins behind an NHL bench when he was hired on Oct. 16, 2008.
"Joel had been there already as an assistant coach with Colorado," said Wirtz, who was still marveling at the coaching job Quenneville did in the Hawks' Western Conference Finals sweep of San Jose. "So there was no reason to think he couldn't do it as a head coach."

"I thought from Day One we had the right coach. You just got a sense that he is all about winning. He's a less-is-more, all-business guy. That's what we were looking for."
-- Blackhawks president John McDonough

Toews and Kane developed a kinship with Savard, one that still lasts to this day. When he was fired and Quenneville hired, it sent shockwaves through the team.
"For me it was a wake-up call to the NHL," Hawks assistant coach Mike Haviland told Haviland was hired as one of Savard's assistants prior to the 2008-09 season, but he was retained and started working together with Quenneville.
"I saw the pace of practice go up (when Quenneville arrived)," Haviland said. "Guys all of a sudden went to a different level that they already had, but he got that out of them. Things were quicker and the habits kept building from there."
Quenneville doesn't want to be a friend, but he doesn't want to be an enemy either.
"He's tough to talk to because he puts on that demeanor and I'm sure you guys (the media) know that," said Troy Brouwer, who broke out with 22 goals in 2009-10. "But, when you need to talk to him he's there for you. You can't ask for a better coach."
John Madden, a two-time Cup winner with New Jersey, gained an appreciation for the way Quenneville let the Hawks' young players be themselves. He doesn't toy with them.
"He allowed them to play hockey and to have personalities on and off the ice," Madden told "He never judged anybody at all, only by their hockey ability, and he coached to win. He had things he wanted certain guys to do and he allowed them to compete and feel good about themselves all the time."
Haviland said Quenneville works well with the young players because he's not a yeller and a screamer.
"When things got tight along the way in two years he always had a good head about him," Haviland said. "He's not micromanaging the players. He's hard when he needs to be, but he's also a guy that they know can be lighthearted, too."
Quenneville doesn't push too hard either, according to defenseman Brent Seabrook. On most off days during the playoffs, he didn't even put the team on the ice. They had a meeting and were out the door.
"'He gives us lots of time off," Seabrook told "He understands we're young guys but we still need a lot of rest. He gave us lots of it. Practices were crisp. Everything was good. He was a great coach for us."
Madden, 37 years old, found Quenneville to be an easy communicator.
"The door is always open," he said. "I know a lot of coaches say the door is open, but sometimes when you go in there they do all the talking. He's a very good communicator about what his plans are and what his goals are. It was a great experience.
"I learned so much about the new game, so to speak, the after-lockout game. I feel like I'm a better player because of him."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.