Hawks’ Fan Convention to Feature New GM

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By Paul M. Banks

This weekend, the Blackhawks will host their second annual fan convention. And they’ll do so with a just newly minted General Manager in Stan Bowman. Around this time last year, they hosted the first annual convention in NHL History. Preceding the ’08 convention, I had an exclusive in Bowman’s office when he held the title of Assistant General Manager, Hockey Operations.

In my exclusive interview, Stan Bowman described this weekend’s convention thusly: “In hockey no team has ever done it before and just the reception we’ve gotten from it in that it sold out so quickly and lots of people wanting tickets and people wanting to come see it. It’s going to a good setup for everybody. It’s similar in style and format to the Cubs convention; obviously John McDonough is the one who pioneered the concept back in the early 80s, and it’s taken off to the point where it’s a big event and that’s where the hockey one is going too,” Bowman said.

His father Scotty Bowman is the all-time winningest head coach in NHL history. The Convention will be held at the Hilton Chicago (720 S. Michigan Ave) from Friday, July 17 to Sunday, July 19, with over 10,000 fans expected to attend.

The event, which is the first of its kind in the National Hockey League, will feature over 25 players and coaches from the current roster, more than 25 members of the Blackhawks Alumni along with team broadcasters and team executives. The weekend includes 20 Q&A panels with players and front office staff, several autograph and photo opportunities, an area dedicated to interactive games and over 60 vendors.
Other highlights of the weekend include:

•         The “Blackhawks Bash,” in the International Ballroom on Saturday from 7:00 to 10:00 P.M., which includes music, singing and dancing.

•         The “Locker Room Sale” in the Northeast Hall throughout the weekend, featuring live and silent auctions of Blackhawks memorabilia.

•         Five generations of Blackhawks captains, including Jonathan Toews, Stan Mikita, Denis Savard, Tony Amonte and Pierre Pilote compare eras and share stories in the Grand Ballroom on Saturday at 9:00 A.M.

•         Newly acquired forwards Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky will be introduced to the fans at a panel on Saturday in the Grand Ballroom at 10:15 A.M.

•         2009 NHL All-Stars Brian Campbell, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews discuss their time at the league’s mid-season classic this past January in the International Ballroom on Saturday at 11:30 A.M.

•         Play-By-Play Announcer Pat Foley shares his experiences from 27 years of broadcasting in the Grand Ballroom on Saturday at 12:45 P.M.

•        Newly appointed Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman and his father Scotty discuss the family “business” in the Continental Ballroom on Sunday at 9:00 A.M.

Conspiracy Runs Deep as Blackhawks Fire GM

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By: David Kay

Dale Tallon blamed the United States mail system.  Since the Blackhawks can’t fire the post office, they instead have reportedly given Tallon the boot as general manager.

In a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, Tallon was quoted as saying he “can take the heat” for the mistake he made by not notifying the Hawks’ restricted free agents that the team would be offering them qualifying offers before the league deadline.  Instead, eight players including key contributors like defenseman Cam Barker and right winger Kris Versteeg did not receive the offers, and the Hawks had to rush in re-signing them before they were possibly ruled unrestricted free agents, meaning other teams would have been able to sign them.

chicago-blackhawksThat boneheaded goof forced Chicago to re-sign Barker and Versteeg to three year, $9.25 million deals, paying them market value rather than saving some cap space and bringing them back for the minimal restricted free agent amount.  The organization suffered major embarrassment due to this error and now Tallon is truly feeling the heat.

Barker and Versteeg’s contracts combined with the recent, massive 12-year, $62.8 million deal the Blackhawks gave Marian Hossa earlier this off-season, now limits what Chicago can do with their young talent like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith when it’s time to re-sign them to long-term deals.  It also reduces any flexibility the Hawks have in making a trade deadline-type acquisition during the season.

While the Blackhawks have struck gold in recent years through the draft, Tallon has been criticized for some costly mistakes involving free agency.  He grossly overpaid for defenseman Brian Campbell last off-season and also signed goalie Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5 million deal when Chicago already had Nikolai Khabibulin on the books for around seven-million dollars last season.  (Although the Huet signing doesn’t look terrible now that Khabi signed with Edmonton earlier this month.)

But let the conspiracy theory begin… Was Tallon really fired because of these blunders or does the reason run deeper?

bowman_1Tallon was a Bill Wirtz guy, hired as GM in 2005 after previously serving as the team’s assistant GM and director of player personnel.  It is being reported that current assistant general manager Stan Bowman, the son of legendary NHL head coach Scotty Bowman, will replace Tallon.  With that being said, it is not crazy to think that this move was made coming off the heels of Tallon’s mess-up as a way to give more control to Bowman, a John McDonough/Rocky Wirtz guy, without admitting that they just wanted to hand the keys over to their guy, Bowman.

Am I just stirring the pot?  Maybe, but don’t forget the Hawks fired head coach Dennis Savard just four games into the 2008-2009 season, the day after the team just picked up a win.  Plus, Bill Wirtz’s body was barely cold when his son decided to put all Hawks’ home games on TV in Chicago, something his father stubbornly refused to do when he was in charge of the team.

I am sure the younger Wirtz and McDonough will site Tallon’s free agency gaffes with the latest restricted free agents fiasco as the straw that broke Tallon’s back.  Can you really believe that when the team Tallon put together just ended a revived season of Chicago hockey in the Western Conference Finals?  With the sticky salary cap situation the Blackhawks will face in the up-coming seasons, maybe you can… or maybe you’re convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone in assassinating JFK.  Conspiracists, spin your web…

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