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Wally Hayward: The Next John McDonough?

Matt TruebloodSenior Analyst INovember 28, 2009

CHICAGO - JULY 22: John McDonough, President of the Chicago Blackhawks, talks with reporters at the NHL Winter Classic 2009 press conference on July  22, 2008 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images for NHL)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Success follows John McDonough wherever he goes.

McDonough, the current president of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, previously spent a quarter of a century as a rising executive with the Cubs. During that space of time, McDonough's revolutionary ideas changed the entire face of the Cubs' franchise.

From 1983 to 2007, the North Siders had nine winning seasons, as many as they had previously compiled since 1940. They attained the post-season five times, as many as they had made since 1919. 

More importantly (for the purposes of this discussion), the Cubs' public image and financial well-being saw tremendous improvement under McDonough, who worked on the business side of the franchise and so could only indirectly impact the product on the field.

The annual Cubs Convention, now a fixture of fanatical Cubs culture, began in 1985 under McDonough's direction, and at his suggestion. Aside from raising millions of dollars for charity, the yearly festival multiplied the intensity and passion of Chicago's fans, virtually overnight.

McDonough's slow but steady implementation of additional revenue streams in and around Wrigley Field, as well as away from it, helped the Cubs spend money like the big-market club they are, despite a ballpark that restrains the organization's profitability.

As a hockey executive, McDonough has displayed the same savvy, turning the Blackhawks into contenders overnight by returning the team to local television; opening an annual event in the vein of the Cubs Convention; and luring the NHL to his old stomping grounds at Clark and Addison for the most well-publicized and most brilliant public relations spectacle in the history of Chicago hockey (if not Chicago sports generally). 

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Deprived of McDonough's sage marketing wisdom, however, and facing private funding based on in-house profit for the first time since the stewardship of the Wrigley family, Chicago recently made a rather unheralded hire to fill the tall order. His name is Wally Hayward.

Hayward, 41, has much to do. He will have to find the ideal means through which to maximize the benefit of impending Wrigley renovations, which the Rickettses say will include the construction of the long-awaited "Triangle Building."

He will have to quickly develop a rapport with GM Jim Hendry and team President Crane Kenney, much like McDonough did.

He will also have to prepare a new philosophy for marketing the club, which wasted the second half of the decade on a single-minded, short-sighted focus upon the tantalizing hope that the Cubs would break their century-long drought of World Series titles. 

If the team is to create increased revenue streams, which could in the near future translate to larger budgets and more financial flexibility, it will need to construct for fans a new prism through which to view the Cubs. 

Unequivocally, the immediacy and intensity of the pressure exerted on Cubs players during the past decade has detracted from those players' ability to perform at crucial junctures.

While the fans have directly delivered that pressure to the on-field personnel, however, Cubs marketing strategies and organizational attitudes have initiated it.

All major public relations measures undertaken by the organization during the last (especially) two years have been explicitly aimed at the urgency of winning it all, and winning it now.

While understandable, these attitudes undercut the team's ability to live up to expectations, and so unsettle players that clubhouse friction (Milton Bradley, Kent Mercker, Sammy Sosa, Corey Patterson and Felix Pie have each fallen victim to it) becomes common and highly toxic.

Hayward will strive to increase the team's bottom line, knowing that (since the Ricketts family have made clear their intent to reinvest profits from the team each season) doing so will position the Cubs to end the drought.

If wise, though, he will avoid Dallas Green's (and on some occasions, even the great John McDonough's) insistence on short-sighted marketing and constant pressure to win.

Under that kind of intelligent guidance, the Cubs could be well on their way to sustaining their current run of success, and expanding upon it, in years to come.

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