The Blackhawks will begin their search for a new president after releasing John McDonough from the role Monday.
McDonough, who spent 24 years with the Cubs and did not have front-office experience in hockey, handled business operations for the Blackhawks. Will Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz keep the new president exclusively on the business side, over both business and hockey operations or solely on the hockey side?
Here are five in-house executive candidates Wirtz could look to.
Wirtz’s son Danny is serving as the interim president during the team’s search. The 43-year-old is also the current vice president of the team and alternate governor to the NHL. He also became a chairman for Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America in April.
His other current titles are listed below:
Co-founder at Banner Collective (production company)
Partner at Varyer (advertising agency)
Vice-chairman at Breakthru Beverage Group
Danny being promoted into the full-time position seems unlikely given his already heavy workload, but the Blackhawks are a family business as some say. The other United Center tenant has a father-son duo as chairman and president with Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf.
For what it is worth: Danny follows a few hockey analytics people and resources on Twitter.
Blunk is the team’s executive vice president since 2008, joining the Blackhawks after 22 years with the Cubs and McDonough. According to his bio on the Blackhawks’ website, Blunk collaborated in the #WhatsYourGoal campaign and developed the Emmy Award-winning Blackhawks TV. He also responsible for strategy and development in sponsorship, ticketing, finance, marketing and community relations.
Blunk oversaw the development of the Blackhawks Training Camp Festival and played a key role in the team’s Hispanic marketing initiatives with Univision Chicago for the team’s Spanish-language radio broadcast.
It seems unlikely Blunk will remain in the organization due to his close relation with McDonough, but he certainly does have the experience to run the team’s business operations if he does.
MacIsaac is in his fourth season as senior vice president of hockey operations and 19th overall. His responsibilities are with the business and hockey sides as he bridges the gap between the two departments. MacIsaac’s nearly two-decade tenure with the Blackhawks started when then-general manager Mike Smith made MacIsaac the GM of Chicago’s new AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. Even with GM changes in Chicago and McDonough coming into the organization and making changes, MacIsaac stayed.
MacIsaac has worked closely with Bowman throughout the years, which can be viewed as a positive or negative depending on how one chooses to look at it. The same is true for his relationship with McDonough. If promoted MacIsaac would give the Blackhawks experience in both the business and hockey realms.
Put the pitchforks down.
Bowman has worked his way from special assistant to the GM (2000-04) to director of hockey operations (2005-07) to assistant GM (2007-09) before being named GM in 2009. It wasn’t until 2008 that his father, Scotty Bowman, joined the organization as senior advisor of hockey operations. The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cup championships with Stan as GM, but a move up to president would make room for a new GM and keep continuity in the organization.
Hassen like MacIsaac has been with the Blackhawks prior to McDonough’s arrival. Hassen is in his fourth season as the VP of marketing and 15th overall. According to his bio on the Blackhawks website, Hassen “assists in all aspects of the team’s marketing, fan and brand development and player relations, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation. He conducts research and manages projects to push the Blackhawks brand into the mainstream and develop the team’s overall fan base.”
If promoted Hassen would likely focus on business operations and let hockey operations department do their thing.
Who do you think is the best in-house executive option to be president?
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Danny Wirtz, interim president
Jay Blunk, executive vice president
Al MacIsaac, senior vice president of hockey operations
Stan Bowman, senior vice president/general manager
Pete Hassen, vice president of marketing