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What shapes John McDonough’s legacy with Blackhawks

From getting games broadcasted on TV to the Blackhawks Convention, McDonough brought Chicago into the modern era.

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Chicago Blackhawks Victory Parade And Rally Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Blackhawks will have a new president after firing John McDonough from the job Monday after 13 seasons. McDonough, who oversaw the business operations, entered the organization at a perfect time with the arrival of stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and helped build the Blackhawks brand to be one of the best in the NHL.

Here are six things that shape McDonough’s legacy with the Blackhawks:

Broadcasting games

If Blackhawks games wanted to see the team play at the United Center they had to go to the arena because games weren’t televised. For real. When Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz met with McDonough about joining the organization, McDonough told Wirtz “we have to put all home games on television,” according to Mark Lazerus’ “If These Walls Could Talkbook. McDonough used his connections with the Cubs to work with WGN to broadcast games which then turned into Comcast SportsNet [now named NBC Sports Chicago] and WGN partnering to air all 82 regular-season games.

Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita return as Blackhawks ambassadors

McDonough did a lot to raise the Blackhawks’ reputation around the NHL. One of his first steps to do this was improving relationships with former players, most notably Hull and Mikita. In 2007, the 1961 Stanley Cup championship duo were named Blackhawks ambassadors and in October 2011 they were immortalized with bronze statues outside the United Center. Former stars Tony Esposito, Denis Savard and others would later re-join the organization as Blackhawks ambassadors as well.

‘One Goal’ campaign

In conjunction with Ogilvy and Mather in September 2008, the Blackhawks developed their “One Goal” marketing campaign. The slogan sought to capture the spirit of the Blackhawks and its players as they strive to capture the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks achieved the goal three times during McDonough’s tenure. The slogan became so strong it was known and even mocked by fans around the League when the Blackhawks fell short of their goal.

Home game sellout streak

Not many Blackhawks fans attended games during the franchise’s lean years in the early 2000s, but more modern marketing efforts and a new core of players helped bring fans to the United Center. On March 30, 2008, the Blackhawks sold out the building for a 5-4 win against the Blue Jackets and have never looked back with a record 531 consecutive sellouts. McDonough added to the fan experience by bringing in Jim Cornelison to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” and making The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger” the team’s official goal song.

Blackhawks Convention

The NHL calendar is pretty simple: the season runs from October to April, the playoffs go until June then the draft happens and teams host their annual prospect camps. But what about July? How does a NHL team stay relevant during the summer? A fan convention. McDonough developed the concept with the Cubs and brought it over to the Blackhawks with team’s first one July 18, 2008, when the team named a then-20-year-old Toews captain.

Outdoor games

McDonough helped bring outdoor hockey to Chicago on Jan. 1, 2009, at Wrigley Field. Even though the Blackhawks lost 6-4 to the Red Wings the event signified Chicago was ready for the national spotlight. It would be five years until the Blackhawks played in another outdoor game — 5-1 win against the Penguins at Soldier Field in the 2014 Stadium Series — but then the Blackhawks became a fixture in outdoor games by playing in three straight from 2014 to 2017 then again in 2019. The Blackhawks also hosted the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center.