Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz broke his silence Monday morning on 670 The Score’s “Mully & Haugh Show” and did an interview for the first time since firing John McDonough as team president and CEO on April 27.
The interview centered around the future plans for the team’s president role, which is currently occupied by Wirtz’s son, Danny Wirtz, in an interim capacity. Here are four things we learned from the elder Wirtz’s interview.
Danny Wirtz only interim president
When McDonough was fired and Danny was named the interim president many believed it was only a matter of time before Danny would have the interim tag removed. While Rocky has fully empowered Danny as the interim president, it’s only temporary.
“I don’t see him permanently being in that position,” Rocky said. “Only because he’s involved in all the other (family) businesses, and I would hate to see him not contribute to other business and just be with the Hawks.”
Rocky said a decision on the new president will happen once the Blackhawks get through the playoffs, and “then we can start worrying about it.”
The Blackhawks trail the Golden Knights 3-1 in their best-of-seven first-round series. Game 5 is at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Why Wirtz fired McDonough
Wirtz said when the NHL was paused March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic he started to work from home and reflected on where the Blackhawks stood from an organizational standpoint. There’s change happening and Wirtz wants the Blackhawks in front it.
“We have to embrace change,” Wirtz said. “Change is happening so quickly around us. And the question I asked was, ‘is our organization set up to do that?’ And I just thought it was time to get in a different direction.”
Why Danny Wirtz was named interim president
Rocky has seen Danny grow and develop in his own business ventures and in the family businesses as well. Rocky referred to Danny being 43 as the “perfect age” and his business experience, including with the Blackhawks, as an ideal fit to set up values for the organization moving forward.
“You might not have seen him, but he’s been there, he’s been at the United Center, in the community aspect,” Rocky said of Danny’s work with the team. “So he’s worked with the Hawks, but you haven’t seen him front and center. So I thought it would be good to put him in there in the interim role and put him in charge. Let’s give him the support he needs. Let’s get him out and around that organization, set up a set of values of what we want for this next president and then let him head up the search.
“And I think that that’s the thing — you want to put people in position to succeed and not to micro-manage them. So he’s firmly in that cockpit. I give him all the support, and I’m looking forward to working closely with him in the future.
“I have complete trust in him.”
Rocky added Danny also wants people to do their job and if they’re not changes will be made.
“He’s a good listener, but he’s really good at empowering his people and believes in bottom up not top down management,” Rocky said of Danny’s leadership style. “He will empower those individuals that head up different parts of the organization and you’ll also see if they’re not doing their job you’ll see he’ll find people who will do their job.
Stan Bowman, Jeremy Colliton not completely locked in
In July, Danny did a round of interviews and said he’s “extremely confident” in general manager Stan Bowman, who has been with the organization for 20 years in various hockey operations roles and won three Stanley Cup championships (2010, 2013, 2015). Danny also confirmed Bowman has a “multi-year contract.”
It sounds like Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton might not be safe if the new president wants to make a change.
“That’s all to be determined, how you want to set up the organization, what it’s going to like, what kind of person you’re going to put in that position,” Rocky said. “But I promise you one thing, whoever the next person is, it’s not just going to be a hockey retread.
“Danny is keeping the train on the tracks, and I think the next person we bring in is going to have to follow these same kind of values that have been developed and see how she or he fits into that position.”
In May, Second City Hockey detailed 20 possible candidates for the president job and broke them down into four groups: in-house executives, outside of organization, former players and outside of hockey. Rocky appears to be going outside of the organization and possibly outside of hockey again to fill the president role. He also is open to hiring a woman for the role, which based on our lists would include Stathletes co-founder Meghan Chayka and the Packers’ vice president of marketing/fan engagement Gabrielle Valdez Dow.