As the Chicago Blues Hockey Club celebrates its 20th anniversary, the one constant for most of those years has been Bill McDonnell. Coach Bill came to the Blues from the Elmhurst Chiefs as a young head coach with his son Will in 2001-02, and for the next 15 years served as a head coach, assistant coach, board member, jersey coordinator and a number of other roles.
If anyone knows the history of the Chicago Blues Hockey Club, it would be Coach Bill. Or volunteer Bill. Or board member Bill. It all depended on the task that needed accomplishing.
Now it’s time for Bill to move onto the next chapter in his life, as he recently stepped down from the club he has called home for 15 seasons. But while he leaves with a bevy of memories, he also leaves a big hole behind.
“It has been my job over the years to motivate young hockey players to become better,” said Hockey Director Todd Finner. “Bill has motivated me to become a better person, to be thorough and to look at things in a broader sense. He always has a unique perspective on situations and just might be the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever met. He has had a positive influence on the lives of every player who had the opportunity to play for him and will be missed by the entire Chicago Blues community.”
As a board member, Bill served as a liaison to the network of hockey directors, negotiated ice rates, served as the club’s CSDHL representative and mentored fellow board members from his unique perspectives as a hockey coach, hockey parent and former club player at Miami of Ohio.
He coached an estimated 500 players in his years with the Blues, using his hockey acumen to instruct players in team tactics that were several years ahead of their age level. His teams were always noted for giving a finished performance, and he was aggressive in seeking out AAA competition for his teams to compete against.
His first drink from the AHAI Cup came in 2002-03, when he led the Pee Wee CSDHL team to a Blackhawk Cup state championship. His most decorated team came two seasons later when he took the same core group of 1990 players and won CSDHL, Blackhawk Cup and Central District titles and advanced to the Elite 8 at the 2005 USA Hockey Nationals at the Bantam Major level.
He grew up as a coach over the years, along with his three sons and former Blues Will, Connor and Jack, and many of the banners hanging in the Edge Ice Arena have Coach Bill’s handprints.
Now it’s time for Bill to spend more time with his wife Lisa, daughter Juliana and the three boys, perfecting his bow-hunting skills and tackling more of his legendary home improvement projects, including completing the patio that is only half finished.
“I’m not sure the Blues can ever thank Bill enough for his tireless and unselfish commitment to making the club one of the premier programs in the state,” said Hockey Director Jeff Jones. “He is an exemplar of what every hockey coach and board member should strive to be. While his skills on the ice started to diminish with time, his wit and calm demeanor off the ice always guided the club in the right direction. He will be missed.”
“I can't say enough about Bill's dedication to the Chicago Blues and youth hockey over the years!!
"I have had the pleasure of spending time with Coach Bill over the past 12 years. It all started on a cold December day in 2004 when my son Kyle made our Mite A2 team and Bill was the coach. Our friendship has grown over the years as Kyle has spent time on Bill's teams and I joined the Chicago Blues Board of Directors.
“Over the course of time I have witnessed Coach Bill's desire to develop youth hockey players to the best of their ability and to grow the Chicago Blues Hockey Club in a way that is best for the players and their families. Bill has always put players and the club first when any decisions needed to be made by committees or the board.
“During my tenure with the Chicago Blues Board I have always confided in Coach Bill for honest, sincere and non-biased opinions dealing with day-to-day operations. Coach Bill has always been there with his professional touch, sharing his expert opinions which I credit for our club’s success over the years. Whether it was coaching a child, attending a board meeting, meeting with hockey directors or attending a CSDHL meeting, Coach Bill never complained or wanted to take credit for the many hours he spent giving to hockey.
“As Bill skates off into another chapter of his life I know that he is a phone call away if needed and will continue to support the Chicago Blues organization. Bill . . . thanks for being a friend, a mentor and a great guy!”