Chicago Blackhawks Exemplify Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM with 0 comments

photo of Tiffany & Co. storefront with Chicago Blackhawks jerseyGo Blackhawks! That, and many other cheers have been rippling through the Chicagoland area the past few months, as the NHL Blackhawks played hard to the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. As a one-time pro-hockey fan, I was swept up in the momentum and was there cheering along with everyone else. You know everyone was caught up in the Blackhawks when venerable institutions like Tiffany & Co. even sported the red and black on their storefronts, as pictured!

The ascent of the team is not just one for the sports chronicles, but for the business storytelling as well. Just a few years ago, nobody would have thought the team would even sellout a game, let alone win it all. Attendance was low, games were not on TV, the team owner was known for many years as “Dollar” Bill Wirtz, and their record reflected all of this.

Then Mr. Writz died, and his son, Rocky, inherited the hockey club. It seemed like it was within days of his death that his offspring was trying to get games on local television, and a handful of games were broadcast for all to see, something his father never believed in. One-by-one changes were taking place – among them a new team president and signing young players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The team adopted a mantra of “One Goal” – the play on words meaning everything they did was to win the Stanley Cup. And low and behold, as I write this it is now traveling back from LA with members of the team after an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Over the course of the last few years I have followed both sides of the team. In numerous interviews Rocky Wirtz talked about changing the culture of the organization, focusing on the fans and selling and marketing the team. What I heard was almost deja vu to me, sounding much like the transformation of the New England Patriots in the 90’s. Within a few years after Robert Kraft bought the team, they were in the Super Bowl, albeit a losing effort to the Packers. But the whole organization pressed on, both on and off the field. Today 3 Super Bowl banners hang within Gillette Stadium, which replaced the outdated-from-day-one Foxboro Stadium. And though I didn’t follow the story as closely with the Boston Celtics, they are now playing for their second NBA title since new ownership took over the team in the last decade.

Even though you are a pro sports team, just because you are there does not mean people will be interested. This is what happened with me, as I lost interest in the Boston Bruins over the years because of detached ownership and what seemed to be more attention to managing the bottom line than to winning. Granted, the Bruins have done well over the last few years, probably due to the son of the out-of-town owner of the team actually being in Boston. Where I wish them well, my heart and allegiance have transferred to another of the Original Six hockey teams.

The rise of the Blackhawks is inspiring on a lot of fronts, including business. It says there is hope for all of us if the commitment is there. Granted, according to Rocky Wirtz the team is currently losing money, but the long-term affects of this championship season have yet to play out. A look at the growing Patriot Place, which now surrounds Gillette Stadium, is a testament to that. With what looks like a solid organization, there’s no reason they cannot achieve their “One Goal” next season too.

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