CHICAGO | After two Stanley Cup championships in four seasons, there will be no question who the boss of the Blackhawks will be going forward.
Only a year after his status seemed shaky after two first-round playoff exits, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville received a three-year contract extension Friday. His added time from chairman Rocky Wirtz and general manager Stan Bowman, tacked onto the final upcoming season of his original deal, will run through 2017.
The new deal ensures stability at the top as the Hawks try to craft a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
With the Cup itself sitting just three feet away in a packed press conference at the Hawks Convention, Bowman completed his off-season business after trades and contract signings followed up the championship clinching against the Boston Bruins.
Watching along a side wall were most of the Hawks players, led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Another witness was Hawks Hall of Fame goalie Tony Esposito.
“He’s had great success everywhere he’s been,” said Bowman. “He has a presence behind the bench. We’ve got a lot of faith that he’s going to get things done. I believe as an organization stability is important. When you have success, you certainly want to continue that. Our players certainly respond well.”
Hired in Oct. 2008, Quenneville now has a chance to approach the longevity of such all-time Chicago coaches as Mike Ditka (11 seasons) and Phil Jackson (nine seasons). He is the only Chicago coach besides Jackson to win multiple championships since Bears founder George Halas’ last NFL title in 1963.
“They’re great names and they had remarkable careers,” Quenneville said of that pantheon of coaches. “I’m flattered to be mentioned at the same time as those coaches. We haven’t been here that long. Certainly, we feel fortunate to be a part of it. We’d love to keep trying to do it again.”
After his father, Bill Wirtz, ran through coaches and general managers like water, Rocky Wirtz was pleased he’s got his franchise leader under contract long-term a year before the old deal ran out.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “Stan talked about it (as) something he wanted to do in the off-season. This was when everything has time to do it. We hopefully could do it for the (Hawks) Convention to announce it today.”
After praising Quenneville’s steady hand throughout a record-breaking regular season and wild Stanley Cup run, his players are happy for the continued familiarity of “Coach Q” interacting with his core group.
“That’s the big thing, we got that group of guys that have been here for the last two Cups and played for Joel for every game that he’s been a coach here in Chicago,” said Toews. “We like that consistency. We like his leadership and everything he brings to the table. That understanding between coaches and players has been there for a long time.”
Said center Andrew Shaw: “It’s huge. All the players respect him. He’s a great coach. Obviously he’s had a lot of success. I’m looking forward to playing for him for a few years.”