Sept. 20, 2013
Notre Dame, Ind. –
By Josh Dempsey
When talking about the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, Stan Bowman’s name might not bring about the same “Oooh’s and Ahhh’s” that names like Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews might, but Bowman’s contributions to the `Hawks’ success the past few seasons have been just as influential as any player on the ice.
For those who may not be familiar with his face or name, Stan Bowman is the general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks and is also a 1995 University of Notre Dame graduate. And for those of you unfamiliar with the position of general manager, this essentially means, in short, that Bowman handles all player movements, including trades, contract signings, moving players within the while also overseeing most of the team’s business operations. Picture him as the fulcrum point – balancing the hockey side of things with the business aspect of it all. He’s a busy man; we’ll put it like that.
Bowman is not like most general managers in the National Hockey League, and it is not just because he’s won two Stanley Cups. Rather, it is because he is the youngest general manager to do it–ever. Bowman’s first Stanley Cup came when he was 36-years old, as he became the youngest general manager in the NHL to win a Stanley Cup in 2010. Three years later, and four days before his 40th birthday this past June, he and the Blackhawks added another title. It takes a lifetime for some people to accomplish tasks of such magnitude, but Bowman is just getting started.
After winning his first Stanley Cup, Bowman was named to Crain’s Chicago Business “40 under 40” Class of 2010. The prestigious announcement is given out to 40 business executives under the age of 40 in the city of Chicago each year and recognizes the tremendous accomplishments of the individuals chosen. Had he not turned 40 four days after winning his second Stanley Cup, it is likely his face would have appeared on the list again, and at a higher rank than before.
But Bowman did not appear on the scene out of nowhere, or by a stroke of luck. His passion for the game began very early in life. You see, Stan’s father, Scotty Bowman, is one of the most celebrated coaches in NHL history, having the most wins as a head coach while being associated with 13 Stanley Cup winning teams, among his many accolades.
Stan Bowman grew up and attended school in Buffalo, N.Y., during his father’s tenure as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. He went to Canisius High School, a Catholic, all-boys school located in the heart of the city of Buffalo. The effect of a Catholic school education cultivated his interest in the University of Notre Dame, but his desire to attend the University started much earlier than that.
Bowman recalls his first visit to campus at the age of 12 years old.
“I came out here when I was 12 with a neighbor of mine whose brother was a student here,” explains the Blackhawks’ general manager. “We were here for a football game, and even at a young age, I realized the special feel Notre Dame had, and I remembered that feeling six years later when it came time to apply to colleges.”
Speaking on his time here, Bowman, a former Keenan Hall Knight, says, “I look back on those years now as the formative years when you really transform from a kid into a man. You come out of high school with a lot of great skills, but not necessarily set on what you want to do for a career. College is where I learned a lot about life; I was on my own, meeting new people, forming new friends. For me, it was probably four of the best years of my life.”
A large aspect of the Notre Dame experience is the way in which learning is not just reserved for the classroom, or limited to whatever major one happens to be; the learning style is holistic, and aims to teach valuable lessons for careers, and also for life.
Bowman elaborates, “I was a finance major with a minor in computer applications, but the one class I remember most was a philosophy class taken in my junior year taught by Tom Morris. He really made philosophy fun for us. I found it interesting because it’s a class that gets you thinking about more than your day-to-day experiences and it teaches you to see things through a different lens. I actually went on to take a few more courses in philosophy for that reason.”
“The exposure to the different classes, (philosophy, theology etc.); those are the ones that make you think a little bit more. It’s a funny thing, though; the classes I took towards my major were very applicable, but they weren’t as memorable as, say, some of the discussions I had in literature or sociology classes.” Although finding liberal arts classes extremely useful to his education by providing new ways of looking at problems, Bowman stuck with his finance degree in hopes of finding work in that field.
“I didn’t come out of Notre Dame and immediately start working for the Blackhawks,” says Bowman. “I went and worked for about four or five years in the business world, so those technical skills that I learned here were very relevant to my career immediately following graduation.”
But not finding the fulfillment he was looking for in the accounting and finance world, Bowman turned his eyes and interests elsewhere.
“It wasn’t what I was truly passionate about, and I thought about what I could do for a career that would really interest me and invoke that passion in me. Hockey was the thing that did it for me, so I started to look into it,” says Bowman. “I sent out some letters to hockey organizations while I was still living in Chicago. Luckily, the Blackhawks were making some changes in their organization and they decided to take a chance on me.” This was not the first time that Bowman had thought about pursuing a career in hockey.
“I remember a conversation I had with my mom right after I’d finished my freshman year here at Notre Dame. At the time, my dad was the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who had just defeated the Blackhawks, ironically enough, to win the Stanley Cup,” recalls Bowman.
“I was at the game, and I remember the next day, while driving back home, my mom asked about my first year and what I thought I might want to do, major and career-wise. I remember saying that I’d really love to work in hockey, and it would be really cool to work with dad.”
Bowman rose through the ranks, initially working on budgets and developing programs to track player movement and evaluation. From there, he moved up to become the top assistant to then Blackhawks’ general manager Dale Tallon.
In 2007, his dream of working alongside his father was realized. The elder Bowman joined the Blackhawks’ organization as the new senior advisor for hockey operations.
In 2009, Stan was promoted to general manager by Blackhawks’ president John McDonough and the rest is history.
After four successful seasons that include two Stanley Cup championships, it’s apparent that the Blackhawks made the right choice when they “took a chance” on Stan Bowman.