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At last, the long national nightmare is over.
No, the pandemic is still running rampant, and the personal and economic devastation still remain to be dealt with, but after about 8 months of searching in total secrecy, the Hawks finally have their executive structure ironed out, and it’s basically what everyone speculated in the immediate aftermath of John McDonough’s ouster.
According to a press release from the team earlier today, as well as an exclusive interview granted to the Sun-Times’ Ben Pope, Stan Bowman has been promoted to President of Hockey Operations along with his General Manager responsibilities, with Rocky Wirtz’s son Danny remaining on as CEO of the organ-i-zation, but with the business responsibilities now siloed off and entrusted to Jaime Faulkner, who has an extensive resume in dealing with sports related business in her time with E15, a company she founded and was acquired by Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, who have extensive partnerships in arenas across the country including the United Center, and are the parent group of places like Spiaggia, Jake Melnick’s, and of course, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse.
Based on the interview with Pope, it seems as though Danny Boy at least correctly recognized his limitations in this aspect of the Wirtz family’s multiple business ventures, and correctly decided to delegate the responsibilities into two areas that shouldn’t have much to do with one another. Based on Faulkner’s career to this point, there doesn’t seem to be much worry about her meddling much on the hockey side of things like it was often suspected that McDonough had done. Her background is strictly in business development as well as being somewhat of an outsider to what’s been an insular franchise before McDonough’s born-on-third arrival. It’s worth noting that Faulkner’s husband Colin is a Marketing & Sales VP for the Cubs, so of course there is brand synergy in their household given their current occupations, but neither seems to have delusions of grandeur with regard to crossing over to the sporting side. Faulkner also becomes the second woman in the NHL to be named President of a team, joining Kim Pegula of the Sabres.
It should be worth noting that Faulkner is coming into this role during a period where the calls to address the team name and logo have never been louder, and as many of the other offending pro franchises such as Washington and Cleveland have at least announced plans to abandon their Native name and iconography. It was a Wirtz family decision to publicly double-down on the name and toss a few placating initiatives and platitudes out to the masses with regard to donations, education, etc to Native causes, but this issue isn’t going away, and it will likely never be known how Faulkner would have handled that had she been hired only a few months ago. But calls like these are ultimately up to Rocky, and he’s made his stance pretty clear. And given the blowback from the logo issue, it’s easy to suspect the Wirtz family of cynicism when it comes to this hire along with last month’s hiring of Kendall Coyne-Schofield in player development if they (incorrectly) think that hiring a prominent woman on the hockey side and a woman for a prominent position on the business side lowers the temperature just a little bit. This is of course, to take nothing away from either Faulkner or Coyne-Schofield’s qualifications – they are both clearly immensely qualified, and their appointments are long overdue. But it’s fully reasonable to question the business practices of an ownership family that backwardly believed until 12 years ago that NOT airing games on TV would be better for the bottom line. Just because Marian Hossa actually had a debilitating auto-immune skin disorder that caused him to need to effectively retire doesn’t mean that a critical eye couldn’t be turned at its timing. But make no mistake, this is a very positive thing.
All of this leaves Stan to his own devices on the hockey side of things, which isn’t necessarily the best thing based on the last 5 years and counting. But this is first real opportunity at having a direct and unobstructed line to his boss in Danny, as there were many rumblings over the spring and summer that McDonough’s right hand man Al MacIsaac may have had some differing hockey thoughts from Bowman, and steered McDonough in his direction. If nothing else now, Stan will sink or swim fully on his own merits as Danny appears to be going completely hands off, which is a bafflingly odd thing to say about the 4th longest currently tenured GM who has three Cups to his name and will certainly end up in the Hall of Fame, but these are strange times everywhere.