The Blackhawks ended their season with capacity attendance and record merchandise sales, television ratings and sponsorship revenues, and the Stanley Cup.
But financially the team was a loser.
Exactly how much money was lost is something team executives will not discuss.
One consequence: Season ticket prices will increase by an average of 20 percent this fall, which is projected to rocket them from the second-cheapest in the National Hockey League three seasons ago to among the 10 most expensive, according to the team. And fans should expect "more modest" increases in the future, team owner Rocky Wirtz said.
Wirtz first revealed that the team was not profitable in private. "It's going to take four (or) five years before we can actually get back in the black," Wirtz said at an April 19 forum at the Economic Club of Chicago, according to a transcript. "And right now we're still supporting the Blackhawks with our other Wirtz organizations."
In a follow-up interview this week, Wirtz said that the Blackhawks ran out of cash several times last season. Each time, he received a memo, known as an internal capital call, in which the team requested money from Wirtz Corp., the Blackhawks' parent company, to cover operating expenses. And at the end of the season, Wirtz said he double-checked that the playoffs did not cover those losses; the franchise remained in the red, the team's accountant told him.
"We have multiple businesses and obviously we want every one to stand on its own," Wirtz said. "And what you don't want to do is manage one business from the profit of the other one."
But Wirtz pledged he would never revert to the penny-pinching ways of his father.
"We're going to do everything we can to win," team President John McDonough said.
"We want this to be a destination for free agents. We want this to be a place where players want to play," he said. "We're going to charter our players (to away games) and we're going to stay in hotels that are going to be synonymous with a first-class operation. When Rocky and I first met, we talked about this commitment."
The team now typically lodges at the Four Seasons. Even last season's interns will receive championship rings.
The Blackhawks and its parent company, anchored by a lucrative liquor distributorship, are privately owned, so the Chicago Tribune cannot access their financial data. However, the last time a member of Wirtz's family discussed specifics, the numbers were not flattering.
Rocky's father, Bill Wirtz, ran the team from 1966 until his death in 2007. Earlier in 2007, Bill Wirtz told the Toronto Star that he had lost $191 million on the team in the last 10 years, including $31 million in the 2006-07 season.
Rocky Wirtz said he knew the franchise "wasn't doing well because I could see (Wirtz Corp.'s) consolidated tax return." But in October 2007, on his second day in charge, he learned through an internal capital call that the team was short $6 million to $7 million for that month's payroll.
"I was naive enough to think that if we filled the building up that we would be able to turn around economically the franchise," Wirtz said.
Weeks later he said he learned the team had close to the lowest average ticket price in the NHL for the 2007-08 season and the second-lowest attendance rate the season before.
Wirtz puts the responsibility squarely on his family; ticket prices were allowed to dip too low. Last season, the Hawks' average season ticket price was the 21st-cheapest in the league, according to the team.
Since he has taken over the franchise, the turnaround on the ice has been nearly unparalleled in the history of professional sports.
It also has been expensive.