As a team that entered the NHL during the Original Six era, the Blackhawks are one of the most historic and recognizable franchises in the world of sports. Although the team has seen its share of tough times over the years, one thing that has remained positive over the past 25 years is the work done by the Blackhawk Alumni Association; a non-profit group that was formed in 1987 by retired Blackhawk players who wanted to help the city and the people in it by giving something back to them and the sport of hockey.
After meeting and forming the Blackhawk Alumni Association, the group developed a threefold mission statement for their non-profit Alumni Association. The three goals for the Association are to provide a scholarship fund for the “most deserving” high school hockey player in Illinois; become involved in community affairs and charitable causes; and protect and take care of their fellow alumni with a players helping players mindset.
Former Chicago Blackhawk winger and Stan Mikita’s road roommate Cliff Koroll has been the President of the Blackhawk Alumni Association since the passing of longtime friend and founding member Keith Magnuson in 2003. Entering and exiting the NHL together, the two were practically inseparable.
”I’m very proud of how we have established our Blackhawk Alumni,” stated Koroll. “We wanted to select a focal point in the community in which to support when we first started and to us that was education, so we started giving the scholarships to high school hockey players in the state of Illinois,” he continued. “It’s been 25 years since we started doing this and we’ve given out 82 scholarships for a total of $1 million in education.”
Although the Blackhawk Alumni Association does a lot of the charity work on their own, they help out other charities in Illinois that need the help. Before the Association was established, the team would help out with whatever community events were going on in the city. They learned a lot about giving back to the community while playing for the Blackhawks in the NHL and they ended up taking their knowledge and experiences and transformed them into something much more powerful and inspiring for the city of Chicago and Illinois as a whole.
“A lot of times we went to the hospitals to visit kids; helped with fundraisers for various charities in the area; helped the Special Olympics; helped out with church groups, basically anything we were able to do to help the community, we were a part of,” recounted the Canora, Saskatchewan native.
“The one thing that was passed on from era to era was to give back. I remember Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita took Keith Magnuson and I aside during our rookie year and said ‘Hey, you’re coming with us, we’re going to this church down the street to sign some autographs and raise some money,’ so we weren’t going to say to no to those guys, you just couldn’t,” elucidated Koroll. “I’m happy that stuff like that has been passed on from generation to generation in the hockey world and it continues to do so.”
One of the biggest charities that Koroll and the Blackhawk Alumni Association help out is the Ronald McDonald House Charities. For many years they have been supporting the charity and just recently sponsored a family room in the new house that is being built downtown Chicago. Aside from that, Koroll recently did a hockey tournament in Edmonton where they raised $40,000 for the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton.
“We donate about $100,000 to $125,000 to various charities each year, including our scholarship program,” mentioned Koroll. “I’m not sure if we’re going to get bigger worldwide but we are hoping to be able to increase the amount of the scholarships for these kids.”
Each year the Blackhawk Alumni Association honours three high school hockey players from Illinois with a scholarship. With nearly 75-100 applications coming in each year, the committee selects their three “most deserving” students based on need, their grades and their community involvement.
The city of Chicago, as well as former and current Blackhawk players, has been very supportive of the Blackhawk Alumni Association over the years. Aside from the support they’ve been getting locally over the years, teams all across the league have recognized what they’ve been doing and how successful they’ve been with it and have started to seek guidance from Cliff and the Blackhawk Alumni Association.
“I’ve received calls from about six or seven NHL teams seeking information and support to find out how we run our Alumni Association so they can do the same for theirs,” indicated Koroll. “I think the word has gotten around for the good things that we do for our Alumni and I’m very proud of that,” he added.
“I was just recently out in LA because Luc Robitaille wanted to improve what they were doing with the LA Kings and their Alumni so I went out there and spent some time with the people at the LA Kings, just to share what we do with our Alumni.“
Cliff Koroll understands that with other teams seeking their guidance to follow in the path of success, that it truly is a compliment to have so many people recognize the good that they do on a daily and yearly basis for both the Alumni and the residents of Illinois. With today’s technology being so advanced with all the social media sites, there’s no telling how popular and well-known the Blackhawk Alumni Association can become, especially as more and more generations of Blackhawk players start to join in on the good cause.
For more information on the Blackhawk Alumni Association, visit http://www.blackhawkalumni.com/