As the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated their Stanley Cup victory over the Boston Bruins in a rally in Chicago today, I headed to the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street with thousands of my closest friends to catch a glimpse of the NHL champions during their victory parade.
Thinking about how much success the franchise has had over the past few years—two championships in four seasons after not winning one since 1961—made me realize how far the team has come. It also made me think about how organizations that commit to excellence, embrace their pasts and are humble in the process can accomplish pie-in-the-sky goals quickly if they bring in the right talent and give those people the opportunity to shine.
Back in 2006, I entered a contest and won a pair of tickets to a Blackhawks game. I was happy to win, but going to see the Hawks was no great treat then. I don’t even think the United Center was half-full for the game, and the mighty roar that you hear during the national anthem at Blackhawks games today was at best unenthused and disinterested. The franchise was clearly in disarray. A once proud Original Six team made the playoffs only one time in the 10 years prior to that year. On top of that, ownership at the time seemed out of touch.
Although every professional franchise I know of televises home games, the Hawks refused. When the owner, Bill Wirtz, died in 2007, there was a quote in his obituary in the Chicago Tribune that stated his philosophy on not televising the games: “When you think about the season reservation holder [first], you can never go wrong.”
With all due respect, he did go wrong. The team became an afterthought.
Shortly after Wirtz’s son, Rocky, took over, the team began televising home games. The team also brought back former star players who had been estranged from the team, like Bobby Hull, as ambassadors, and drafted stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
The team also hired John McDonough, formerly of the Chicago Cubs, as its president. And the Hawks went on a complete roster and image makeover, becoming a fan-friendly organization that does it with class. Perhaps it’s not the first time it has been done, but I’ve never heard of a team take out a full-page ad in the city of the opposing team, in this case Boston, thanking the other team and city. Now that’s gracious.
As the Hawks revel in their recent victory over the Bruins, I can’t help but think back to how far the team has come, and how they achieved their One Goal. If your business is stagnating, perhaps it’s time to change things up, too. Bring in the talent to do it, and give them the green light to be creative. You may not have people throw parades for you, but you and your organization might achieve your biggest goals, no matter how impossible they seem.