Proud Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota alumni John McDonough ’75, Eric Lear ’08 and Adam Gill ’08 presented the Stanley Cup to the SMUMN and Winona communities on Sept. 10. Under McDonough’s leadership, the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup three times in the past six seasons — and McDonough has chosen to share the trophy with Saint Mary’s University once again.
“My dream started at Saint Mary’s,” McDonough told students during his presentation on leadership in Figliulo Hall. He described his early years at Saint Mary’s as a “poor student and poor athlete” until one of his professors, a Christian Brother, changed his life by saying, “John, you have a narrow skill set.” This professor listed some of McDonough’s qualities: a good voice, the ability to project, fearlessness, and said, “I think I can work with you.”
My dream started at Saint Mary’s. —John McDonough
McDonough began to believe that his dream of working for a major league sports team might be possible. After graduation, he sent letters to every major league team of every sport and made each one unique by talking about their season, their manager, and their players. When he started receiving rejection letters, he was exhilarated because he knew his message was getting out there and that people were taking the time to respond.
“That rejection letter was the best way to start my career,” said McDonough.
“Saint Mary’s never leaves you. It’s with you every single day,” said McDonough at his leadership presentation.
Photo by Allison Christensen
Today, when McDonough hires for the Blackhawks team, he looks for people with work ethic, drive, humility, and the ability to understand the big picture: that everything is not all about yourself. He revolutionized the Blackhawks franchise with collaboration from the entire staff, both hockey and business, not with individualism. McDonough also likes hiring young people because they are newer to the work force and, therefore, have more “organic ideas.”
McDonough also stressed to students the importance of making relationships and connections. Stay humble, instead of becoming immersed in your success. If you are having a conversation with someone and they only want to talk about you and your achievements, say what McDonough believes to be the five most important words in business: “Please tell me about you.” Have a conversation with that person and “you will both walk away richer,” said McDonough.
Saint Mary’s never leaves you. It’s with you every single day. —John McDonough
Sports Information Director Donny Nadeau testified to McDonough’s eagerness to interact with the people who look up to him and admire his success.
“Look back to the last time he was here with the Cup and the interaction he had with the students and with the youth: the way the Cup was set up you would get your picture taken with the Cup and then you would go through this line to leave the RAC. John would stand at the end of that line and people would come up to him and shake his hand. They would see his championship ring and he’d take it off and let them put it on and he’d take pictures with them. Just that interaction with them and that true sincerity. . . yeah, I think he’s a role model that everybody should emulate,” said Nadeau.
For Adam Gill, making connections in the small campus atmosphere at Saint Mary’s was one of the factors that led to his success.
“Being able to interact with a lot of the students, the small class atmosphere, it kinda got me out of my comfort zone, talking, relating, and having connections. . . The teachers were always willing to give you time and help and that was always a big benefit for me.”
Adam Gill is now the video coach for the Rockford IceHogs.
Photo by Allison Christensen
Students and community members gathered in the Recreation and Athletic Complex (RAC) at 4:00 pm for a rally with McDonough, Lear, Gill, this year’s Sports Hall of Fame inductees, and, of course, Lord Stanley’s Cup. Following a speech by Brother William, professor Dean Beckman interviewed McDonough, who emphasized the amount of dedication it takes to make your dreams come true.
“What is the price you are willing to pay for success?” McDonough asked the crowd.
It’s a crazy job, the hours are insane, but I grew up in Chicago, I grew up a Blackhawks fan, I’ve had this dream forever. And to have it be achieved and also to win the Stanley Cup in my first season, it’s beyond any dream that I had.
Eric Lear’s career as a Blackhawks reporter requires extensive travelling and long hours. He describes it as a “pretty intense, crazy job.”
“I cover the team. I do TV-style stories for our website, so I cover home games, I cover the road games, I cover morning skate, practices and special events, Cup days, basically anything we want a story on for our website. . . It’s a crazy job, the hours are insane, but I grew up in Chicago, I grew up a Blackhawks fan, I’ve had this dream forever. And to have it be achieved and also to win the Stanley Cup in my first season, it’s beyond any dream that I had,” said Lear.
Eric Lear hoists the Stanley Cup at the rally.
Photo by Allison Christensen
McDonough’s dedication to and appreciation for Saint Mary’s University is evident in the fact that he has chosen to share the Stanley Cup with this community twice in three years.
“I’m so thankful for John, Adam and Eric to share their time because it’s a big commitment to make a trip with the Stanley Cup and they chose us and that’s amazing,” said Athletic Director Nikki Fennern.
Have big dreams, they might come true. —John McDonough
McDonough’s last words of advice to current students were, “Have big dreams, they might come true. Take some time to think about what the next step is after you graduate, but think about that during your sophomore, and junior, and senior year, as you’re kind of formulating what it is you want to do and narrow that down. After you get out of college, you’re not broad with what you want to do, you kinda narrow it down and be willing to pay the price and dreams can come true.”