But over the winter, the Chicago sports fan’s focus is on these two franchises, and even though they have both won six championships, they currently couldn’t be more different.
The Blackhawks are not only one of the best run franchises in the NHL, but in all of sports. The Bulls on the other hand, not so much. There are two fundamental differences between the two teams. One is philosophy, and the other is having the right people in the right jobs.
Despite being perennially strapped by the salary cap, the Blackhawks manage to put a team on the ice every year that is not only competitive, but are legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.
The Bulls on the other hand, don’t seem to know which end is up in the aftermath of the injury to Derrick Rose in the 2012 playoffs that unraveled what had looked like a promising future.
But things were not always so rosy for the Blackhawks. Although they had had some great teams in the 1960s and 1970s with stars like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito, and through the 1980s and early 1990s with Denis Savard, Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick, a Stanley Cup title eluded them.
Under the ownership of William “Dollar Bill” Wirtz and his acolyte general manager Bob “Pulley” Pulford, the Blackhawks had a narrow minded philosophy. They allowed the greatest Blackhawk of all time, the “Golden Jet” Bobby Hull to walk away over a few dollars.
Wirtz fired Coach Billy Reay on Christmas Eve, slipping a pink slip under the door of Reay’s office. Wirtz refused to televise home games because he thought it would hurt attendance; leading to an entire generation of Chicagoans growing up with no exposure to hockey.
When they needed goal scorers, the Hawks would acquire a defenseman. In short, Wirtz and Pulford had no clue about how to build a championship team and I don’t think they really cared if they won one. And it began to show on the ice.
From the 1997-98 season to the 2007-08 season, the Blackhawks made the playoffs exactly once in that ten year stretch. And this is in a league where sixteen of the thirty teams make the playoffs each year.
The Hawks were so irrelevant in Chicago that when Chicago sports talk radio station WSCR went on the air twenty-five years ago, the hosts weren’t even allowed to talk about Chicago hockey.
All that changed when Bill Wirtz passed away just before the 2007-08 season and his son Rocky Wirtz took over. Rocky Wirtz immediately hired John McDonough away from the Cubs and made him the team President and CEO. And he also put the home games back on television.
The Blackhawks began to market themselves to the Chicago public. And that first season, Denis Savard, who had been named as interim coach at mid-season in 2006-07 when Trent Yawney was fired, got the team back to within one game of the .500 mark.
But despite the fact that the team had improved under Savard, this new Hawks management team didn’t think he was the guy who could take the team to the title.
Incredibly, Joel Quennville was available, and the Blackhawks had identified him as the man they wanted, so they weren’t afraid to pull the trigger; four games into the 2008-09 season, Savard was fired and Quennville was named the new head coach. Skill trumped loyalty.
And then finally in 2009, the last piece of the front office team was put in place when Stan Bowman, son of brilliant NHL coach and front office executive Scotty Bowman joined the front office team, replacing Dale Tallon as Senior Vice President and General Manager.
(Tallon was fired for some of the contracts he handed out to players that caused salary cap issues, but in his defense, he did draft Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and signed Marian Hossa so some of the credit for the Hawks subsequent success has to go to his way.)
But with his management team in place, Wirtz the younger got out of the way and let his people do their jobs; the result was three Stanley Cup championships in six years.
Contrast this approach with that of the Bulls and you get an idea what’s wrong with Chicago’s roundball team.
Granted, the Bulls won six NBA championships in eight years after Jerry Reinsdorf acquired a majority interest in the team and installed his hand-picked flunky Jerry Krause as General Manager, but the Bulls had Michael Jordan.
And Michael Jordan was the greatest player to ever play the game. But it was Rod Thorn, who left the Bulls for a position with the league office, who drafted Jordan, not Krause.
There is no question that Jerry Reinsdorf is a stand up guy, and is loyal to his people to a fault. And White Sox fans know better than anyone that Reinsdorf doesn’t even like the word ‘rebuilding’.
Up until this year, (and more on this next month) the White Sox were always trying to remain competitive on the fly by plugging a couple veterans into their holes in an attempt to win now. And it worked once, in 2005.
This same type of philosophy has been the driving force behind the Bulls. Vice-President of Basketball Operations John Paxson and General Manager Gar Foreman refuse to use the word ‘rebuild’.
Under Coach Tom Thibodeau, it looked like the Bulls were on the verge of something good. But after the injury to Rose, there apparently was friction between Thibodeau and the front office with the result being that Thibodeau was shown the door.
So GarPax, as they have come to be known, hired a coach with no NBA head coaching experience in Fred Hoiberg, and put a positive spin on the hire; Hoiberg had the ability to grow into his position.
What?? It became apparent quickly that Hoiberg did not have the players respect. And by the end of the season, Bulls were like an airplane in a tailspin.
And after the season, it was clear that changes had to be made. Derrick Rose seemingly had lost interest in playing basketball altogether and was traded to the New York Knicks.
And Joakim Noah was not re-signed and he also departed for New York. GarPax always talk about accountability, but no member of the Bulls management of the Bulls was held accountable.
Fred Hoiberg kept his job. And GarPax kept theirs. And rather than talk about a rebuilding process GarPax prefer to use the words re-tooling or re-shaping the roster. But is there really a plan?
So this year, instead of a rebuild, the Bulls go out and sign aging Dwayne Wade, and troubled Rajon Rondo. A band aid approach, no doubt. But no surprise on a team owned by Jerry Reinsdorf. GarPax may be good soldiers and toe the company line, but do they really have a plan?
Given the nature of the trade deadline moves this year, there is no plan. Because no one is held accountable. With the Blackhawks, the goal is get the best people possible and win. With the Bulls, loyalty trumps skill. There is no plan.

Chris Lannin can be e-mailed at clans07@gmail.com.