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Michael Nagrant | Photo: Anthony Tahlier | October 30, 2013
Most people know that Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman built the teams that battled for the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cups, but not as many know that he also had two semi-private battles with cancer. Bowman contracted Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) in 2007 and, after the disease went into remission, it reappeared in 2008.
Bowman was able to fight the cancer and is currently cancer-free with help from Chicago-based Imerman Angels, a nonprofit that matches mentors who fought and survived cancer with people who are currently fighting the disease. Bowman was recently named to the board of directors for the nonprofit. We caught up with him before the current 2014 NHL season opener to talk about charity and see what we can expect from the Blackhawks this year.
How did you hook up with Imerman Angels?
Justin Duberman—he’s a player’s agent—he mentioned that I might want to get in touch with Jonny Imerman. He [Imerman] is a special kind of guy. He’s one of those people who catches your attention with his enthusiasm for life. The whole benefit of the organization is that they put you in touch with people that lived the same thing you’re living and have come out the other side. … If you can see someone came through the treatment, that they’re all right, it gives you hope. This organization shows you cancer isn’t insurmountable.
Marc Bergevin [who was then a scout with Hawks] said in an interview that when you were going through your battle, you just kept working, that if people didn’t really pay attention, they wouldn’t even know you were sick. How did you keep working during what was obviously a very stressful time?
[My kids] were 3 and 5 years old. Kids that age don’t really process things like this. They know their dad’s sick. I think the important thing is to do what you’ve always done, which is go to work. There were a couple days a month following my treatments when I wouldn’t come in, but I was lucky I was healthy enough to come in the office.
You’ve got a lot of long-term contracts with players. You’ve won two Cups. How do you keep the team hungry and motivated?
The younger players help. They’re really hungry. … And the guys we’ve locked up, they’re really competitive. It’s not about the money for them. When they get a long-term contract, they still want to win every year.
Is it easier or harder to win the second Stanley Cup?
You have a greater appreciation for how hard it is to win the second time around—2010 was a magical time, but after we won in 2010, we [still] had really good teams and didn’t get past the first round.
You grew up in a hockey family, but you also studied accounting and finance at Notre Dame. You worked as a consultant. Do you do things differently as a general manager because you didn’t play for 20 years?
I think so. You know my dad [the legendary Scotty Bowman] asked a lot of questions and never assumed he knew more than anyone else. He would get ideas from the electrician that would come over. … As a consultant, you go into an organization, and you listen to people. … You really have to understand what’s going on instead of assuming what’s going on.
The Livestrong organization gave Imerman Angels $10,000 in 2012. You’re a sports guy who had cancer. I’m guessing you thought about what happened with Lance [before you joined the board]?
Lance inspired a lot of people, and at the end of the day, that’s really all that should matter. I understand what people say and that the questions will arise. But there are millions of people around the country who were inspired by his story… to fight on and do good for cancer and cancer research. I don’t think you should toss all that aside because of the reality.… You have to try to look at all the positives that came out of it. … One thing I learned in my cancer is try not to get caught up in the details and minutiae of daily life.