Blackhawks Fire John McDonough

McDonough had been the Blackhawks' president since 2007.

670 The Score Staff
April 27, 2020 - 4:28 pm
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(670 The Score) In an unexpected move, the Blackhawks fired longtime president and chief executive officer John McDonough, the team announced Monday afternoon.

The decision came after owner Rocky Wirtz had told the Athletic in March that there would be no front office changes ahead of the 2020-'21 season. The current NHL season has been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Wirtz cited the pause as an "opportunity to reassess the team’s future and to set a renewed positive direction for the organization," the Blackhawks said in a news release.

McDonough had been the Blackhawks' president since 2007, while his CEO title was added in 2011. Under his watch, the Blackhawks won Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The Blackhawks had faltered in recent seasons, including missing the playoffs in 2018 and 2019.

"Thirteen years ago, I recruited John to the Blackhawks because of his leadership, direction and vision," Wirtz said in a statement. "John brought all of that to the table and more. His contributions went well beyond leading the team to three Stanley Cup Championships. He rebuilt the front office and helped guide the organization toward a winning vision. As difficult as this is, we believe it was the right decision for the future of the organization and its fans.

"While we can reassure our fans there will be hockey again, no one knows what that will look like. What we do know is that it will take a new mindset to successfully transition the organization to win both on and off the ice."

Daniel Wirtz, Rocky's 43-year-old son, will serve as the Blackhawks' interim team president for now. His full-time title is vice president of the team and alternate governor to the NHL. 

"I cannot adequately express my family’s appreciation to John for his contributions to the turnaround of the Chicago Blackhawks organization," Danny Wirtz said in a statement. "I take this interim role with the utmost responsibility to the team and will focus on resetting the framework for the next generation of the Chicago Blackhawks. I look forward to working with Rocky to identify our next leader."

Externally, McDonough's exit was surprising on several levels. He played a leading role in the organization's revival with a winning culture on the ice and on the marketing front off the ice. He helped push for the promotion of future Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville to lead the Blackhawks in 2008, and they took off from there. They made the playoffs for nine straight seasons from 2009-'17 before their recent rut. Before the pandemic halted play, the Blackhawks were also on a record 531-game home sellout streak.

Most of the Blackhawks' on-ice problems in recent seasons could be traced to their championship core aging while carrying burdensome contracts and general manager Stan Bowman's inability to build a respectable defense.

In March, the Athletic asked Rocky Wirtz directly if McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton would be back next season.

"Oh yeah, absolutely," Wirtz responded. "There’s not going to be any changes in the front office."

That didn't turn out to be the case.