The Chicago Blackhawks have spent much of their 2008-09 season reinvigorating the public's perception of the franchise. It helps that the Hawks are a sudden Stanley Cup contender (though it's clear they remain a notch below the Red Wings and the Sharks, kings of the West), but a main reason for the push has been former Cubs marketing president John McDonough's hiring at the United Center. The Blackhawks have a credible marketing operation now. They actually want you to watch their team on television. Sad, but for much of the Bill Wirtz era, that wasn't the case.
So while John McDonough has had the occasional ambitious project -- the Winter Classic, for one -- most of his early efforts have been focused on getting Blackhawks marketing into the 21st Century. They've branded the stadium better, given the team a slogan, created Jumbotron videos to rile home fans before games. Simple stuff. But now McDonough wants to get more ambitious. He wants the NHL All-Star game back in Chicago, perhaps as soon as 2012, and that's not all. He's also fighting for the NHL Draft to come to Chicago, which would be less of a marketing boon than the All-Star Game but could still draw international hockey fans eager to see where their favorite Junior and professional players are going to go in the draft (to mention nothing of the regular NHL fan's eyes).
McDonough's third plan: Open the 2009-10 NHL season in Prague. That doesn't have much to do with Chicago, but it sounds cool anyway, right?
In any case, landing the All-Star Game would be a huge win for McDonough and his marketing team, and a huge win for Chicago hockey fans -- the ones who can afford an ASG ticket, anyway. Better start saving now, we guess.