Bowman will continue his duties as Hawks general manager but will need to “lean now on other people…internally” with his time temporarily divided.
In 1980, when Stan Bowman was six years old, he watched as the United States Olympic men’s hockey team stunned the Soviet Union in what became known as the “Miracle on Ice.”
“I was sitting on my grandma’s lap watching the Olympics unfold,” he said Wednesday.” At the time, I loved hockey, I was excited, I was watching, [but] I thought it was just another game or another tournament. I really didn’t appreciate the backdrop and the significance of that victory.”
Forty-one years later, Bowman — the Blackhawks general manager since 2009 — retains that specific memory.
And one year from now, having been named GM of the U.S. men’s hockey team on Wednesday, he’ll hope to guide the team to its first gold medal since that 1980 miracle.
He’ll be assisted by current Wild GM Bill Guerin, a three-time Olympian as a player. Together, Bowman and Guerin will select the team’s coach, flesh out its roster and oversee the group throughout the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.
“I’m humbled and honored for this role,” Bowman said. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Bowman will remain the Hawks’ acting GM while doubling as the Olympic team GM. He did the same in 2016, when he served as assistant GM of Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.
But his time will be spread more thin than it already is, leaving more work for others in the Hawks’ front office, during the coming offseason and 2021-22 NHL season.
“[There’s] no question it’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “I’m going to lean now on other people…internally here at the Blackhawks. We have a very capable staff and I’m going to rely on their input going forward.”
Hawks CEO Danny Wirtz issued a statement Wednesday to “congratulate Stan on this exciting opportunity and look forward to having him serve in both capacities.” Bowman thanked the Wirtz family for being “totally behind” his venture.
Bowman’s selection as Olympic team GM is dependent on NHL player participation, however. Brian Burke and David Poile filled this role in 2010 and 2014, respectively, but USA Hockey didn’t select an NHL-affiliated GM in 2018.
USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said he’ll turn to “plan B” for the GM role if the NHL ends up not participating again in 2022, but all indications are that it will participate.
“We’re hopeful and remain optimistic,” Kelleher said. “We haven’t made a final determination yet. We know there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Delaying negotiations between the NHL, NHL Players Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee is the presence of the rescheduled Summer Olympics coming up in July and August in Tokyo, which is understandably preoccupying the IOC, Kelleher said.
But given the expectation of NHL involvement, Bowman said his coaching search will specifically look at coaches with NHL experience, although that “still is a wide candidate pool.”
Then he’ll turn his focus to players, with the final roster expected to be announced around Jan. 1, 2022. He’ll almost certainly select one man from the Hawks: Patrick Kane is considered a slam-dunk choice, while Alex DeBrincat and even Connor Murphy could also be in the mix.
The pool of player talent Bowman will choose from is arguably the largest and best any U.S. GM has ever enjoyed, which will make his job harder but — in the end — potentially more rewarding.
He traces it all back to that moment in 1980 that he watched from his grandmother’s lap.
“Over time, I’ve come to see the context of that team in 1980 and what it really meant for hockey development across the United States,” he said. “Here we are,  years later, and we’ve seen the tremendous growth of our sport. That’s something that really is exciting for me to see and be part of.”