Cohesive Roots in the Chicago Blackhawks

My journey down to Wrigley Field holding a mock Stanley Cup on the night of the 2015 Blackhawks victory.

Lia Stoffle, February 28, 2017

As a Chicago native, hockey has always been a huge part of my life. I had an uncle who worked in the Blackhawk’s locker room, my dad worked on Stan Mikita’s house, I met Chris Chelios briefly and we reminisced about my uncle, and even the little one I provide childcare for plays on a travel hockey team. Now, those names may not mean much to those who are not interested in hockey, or are not from Chicago, but if you google them you’ll see what I’m talking about. The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, which has made living near Wrigleyville, the sports center of Chicago, incredibly exciting. I will never forget being out at my favorite local dive with my boyfriend, surrounded by friends. We were all screaming at the televisions, our hearts racing as we watched the final seconds of the game. The clock ran out of time, and champagne showered over us. We had all paid out our tabs before the end of the game, and subsequently ran down to Wrigley Field to fill the intersection of Clark and Addison. It is probably my single favorite memory of living in the city so far.

So, what has made my beloved team so lucky? What elements have set apart the Blackhawks from other teams in the NHL? How did the dynasty come to be? Naturally, there is some luck in drafting. The Blackhawks have made wonderful rookie choices with players like Hartman, Hinostroza, and Panarin (better known as Breadman) (Peters, 2015). The strategic drafting, however, is not the only aspect leading to the Blackhawk’s overall success. Regardless of the trades and cuts NHL teams go through each year, the Blackhawks are a cohesive team, and “teams high in cohesion perform better than do teams low in cohesion” (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012, p. 120).

Team cohesion is linked to the satisfaction and performance of individual players, as well as the performance and confidence of the team as a whole (Schneider et al., 2012). If we work backwards then, the Blackhawks most certainly have confidence, their stellar performance since 2010 is marked by 3 Stanley Cup wins with a spot in every single play-off series, and player satisfaction seems intact as their devotion shines through during interviews, therefore indicating cohesion within the team. There are three main antecedents to creating a cohesive sports team with positive “individual and team outcomes,” including leadership, roles, and personality (Schneider et al., 2012, pp. 118-119).

  1. Coach Q’s Leadership Style. Oh, Coach Quenneville, how your scowls and fiery

    Coach Joel Quenneville Photo Credit:

    glares on the bench invigorate us all. If you didn’t know any better and watched Coach Q, you would think he is the single scariest and meanest coach in the NHL. His superficially callous demeanor would lead anyone to think he displays autocratic leadership styles; he is the boss, and it is his way or the highway (Schneider et al., 2012). Surprisingly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, and the successfully cohesive Blackhawks can attest to that. Quenneville is known to take time to help “develop the individual” players while simultaneously empowering the team by emphasizing that “everyone is involved in the victory” (, 2015). Additionally, with respect to player concerns, he employs an open-door policy where players can directly communicate with him. This suggests that Coach Q coaches in a more democratic manner, where the input of the players is considered in team decision making (Schneider et al., 2012). Not surprisingly given their stats, this type of leaderships has been found to be positively related with “higher levels of task cohesion,” where task cohesion focuses on the “goals and objectives” of the team, and is the type of cohesion that is “more important” in relation to performance.  (Schneider et al., 2012, pp. 119, 117, 121).

  2. The Clear Roles of Each Player. Starting with the captain of the team, Jonathan Toews, it is clear that Jonathan understands what his role entails, that he has accepted that role and made it his own, and his performance in that role exceeds expectations (Schneider et al., 2012). Considering the affective nature of cohesion, it is important to have a captain like Toews in the driver’s seat. The Chicago Tribune wrote an article in which the title says it best, “Jonathan Toews wears a ‘C’ for captain but it could be an ‘L’ for leader.” The article mentions a number of quotes from other players, and lists several other examples of how well Toews handles his position. He continues to show positive affectivity on and off the ice, which permeates throughout the team. Looking at the rest of the team, we can see how their roles are divided based on defense or offense, and which line they are assigned to. In the beginning of this season, the defense was solid, as was the goaltending, however the offense faced some more difficulties (Likas, 2016). The Blackhawks lost some key offensive players, namely Shaw, Ladd, and Teravainen, while Desjardins was out due to an injury. This left Panik, Hossa, Motte, Kruger, Hartman and Schmaltz to their own devices. Granted, there was a bit of a slow start, likely based on the development of the group based on the changes, however it seems as though the Blackhawks’ offense quickly progressed into the performing stage of development, where they could perform at an efficient rate (Nelson, 2017).
  3. Complementary Personalities. Finally, there is no question that the personalities of the Blackhawks on and off the ice play a role in their team cohesion. During games, Kane is known for his amazing puck handling, and when congestion hits, he is the player to keep the puck possession with the Blackhawks. Before Shaw was traded, he was almost like the trouble maker of the team. He spent a good amount of time fighting, agitating the other team, and subsequently in the penalty box. This is entirely different than the demeanor of Kane or Toews. They typically stay out of the scuffles on the ice. These are just a few examples of the complementary individual tendencies of the Blackhawks players. It has been shown that this type of “interpersonal compatibility” can lead to “greater task cohesion” and aid in conflict management (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 118). Regarding conflict management, consider what might happen if there were a conflict between the players, and they were all like Shaw. There would be a team-wide brawl in the locker room.

It will be interesting moving forward to see what happens to the Blackhawks as the years move on. They are still a strong team, and therefore will likely have less options when it comes to the next draft, and may need to trade players because of the salary cap. As a diehard fan, I know I will be there, and I look forward to my come-back-kid team continuing to impress.


Kuc, Chris. June 3, 2015. Jonathan Toews wears a ‘C’ for captain but it could be an ‘L’ for leader. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from

Likas, Colin. October 18, 2016. Chicago Blackhawks’ Role Players Providing Positive Results Early. Retrieved from

May 20, 2015. Coach Joel Quenneville’s Secret to Success. The Coaches Site. Retrieved from

Nelson, A. (2017). Lesson 7. Applied Social Psychology: Organizational Life AND Teams course commentary. Presented on the PSYCH 424 Course Content Site Lecture at The Pennsylvania State University). Retrieved from

Peters, Chris. November 20, 2015. NHL rookie Power Rankings: Blackhawk’s Artemi Panarin tops list. CBS Sports. Retrieved From:

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

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