The Chicago Blackhawks released president and CEO John McDonough, the team announced on Monday.
McDonough was hired by the Blackhawks in 2007 and was seen as a major architect of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Before that, the team hadn’t won a Cup since 1961.
McDonough came to the Blackhawks after spending 24 years with the Chicago Cubs, including as the team president.
“Thirteen years ago, I recruited John to the Blackhawks because of his leadership, direction and vision,” Blackhawks owner Rocky 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.”
Rocky Wirtz’s son Daniel, who currently serves as VP of the Blackhawks, will be the interim president. In a statement, the Blackhawks said that ownership is “committed to ensuring strong executive leadership” and will immediately begin a search for a new president.
The Blackhawks missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and have not made it past the first round since they won the Cup in 2015. The team fired Joel Quenneville, the coach of all three Cup wins, in 2018, and there has been speculation that general manager Stan Bowman could also be on the hot seat. Last month, Rocky Wirtz told the Athletic that he anticipated that coach Jeremy Colliton, Bowman and McDonough would all return for the 2020-21 season.
McDonough oversaw a lot of the business operations, including partnerships, marketing and the fan experience. McDonough was instrumental in getting all 82 of the team’s scheduled games on television — something that did not exist in the previous regime — and also created the popular Blackhawks Convention, which happens every summer. Within two years of McDonough’s hiring, the Blackhawks jumped from 118th to 21st in ESPN The Magazine’s Ultimate Standings.
Since McDonough’s arrival, the Blackhawks routinely rank first in NHL attendance. At the time of the NHL’s coronavirus pause, Chicago was on a record run of 531 home-game sellouts.
Under McDonough’s leadership the team also brought back Hall of Famers Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita as team ambassadors.
In a statement, Rocky Wirtz said he used the NHL’s pause as “an opportunity to reassess the team’s future and to set a renewed positive direction for the organization.”
“While we can reassure our fans there will be hockey again, no one knows what that will look like,” Wirtz said. “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.”
In an appearance on the ESPN on Ice podcast in October 2018, Rocky Wirtz complimented McDonough’s leadership, despite the team missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
“Many times, the public doesn’t know what is going on,” Wirtz said in 2018. “Probably what you read or hear, it’s probably about 10 percent of what’s going on. I have great faith in the organization. [Team president] John McDonough is a terrific executive in both hockey and the business side. The good thing is, they’re working together. That’s the big thing. There’s not a ‘we’ and ‘they’ kind of approach. You win together and you lose together. But when you win together, it’s a lot more fun. I think they’re going to continue to reinvent themselves. This is not the worst thing that happens. I think it’s good because you take a step back and realize how long that summer is, and nobody wants to do that.”