Julie Kavanaugh knows what it feels like to be a true champion in the world of professional sports.
Long before Kavanaugh was chief of staff administration for Braidy Industries in Ashland, Kavanaugh worked as senior executive assistant to the general manager of hockey operations for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. She was with the Blackhawks when they won the Stanley Cup championship in 2010. It was a job that earned her many memories, moments of witnessing sports history and, yes, even a personalized, diamond-adorned Stanley Cup ring with her name on it.
“The highlight for me was when we won the Stanley Cup,” Kavanaugh said. “It is a great honor. A lot of blood sweat and tears you could say. It brings back a ton of memories.”
“Everyone from broadcasters, doctors, trainers, to interns (got a ring,)” Kavanaugh said. “It is special. The owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, Rocky Wirtz, that’s the way the organization is.”
Kavanaugh is originally from Polo, Illinois. After college she worked for a variety of companies and ended up taking a job as an office manager for the minor league Rockford IceHogs team. Around this time the Blackhawks were exploring their American Hockey League/minor league connections to the Rockford area. Through these interactions the Blackhawks executives regularly worked with Kavanaugh and they got to know her, recognizing she was very professional, organized, and took care of business in an extremely professional manner.
“One day I’m standing at a bank in Rockford to get per diem for the IceHogs players to go on a road trip,” Kavanaugh recalled. “My phone rings, it is a 312 area code, and I will never forget that day. It was the general manager Dale Tallon (of the Blackhawks) and he said, ‘Hey Julie this usually happens to players. How would you like a call up to the National Hockey League and work as my assistant?’…So I got called up.”
What followed was a whirlwind five years of hard work for a professional hockey team. She started in 2008 working in the United Center in Chicago.
“You walked up the stairs, to the left, the Chicago Bulls and to the right, the Chicago Blackhawks,” she said.
Kavanaugh’s job duties?
“Everything player related as far as contracts, implementation of bonuses, immigration, travel special events, all the scouts, all the credentials, NHL All star games,” Kavanaugh said. “We had a lot of elite players going to the All Star games. NHL draft held every year. I was the point of contact for everything related to that. Special events, moms’ trips, dad trips, private charters.”
Kavanaugh and her husband got to witness hockey history when the Blackhawks won the championship in 2010 — the first time the organization had done so since the 1960s. The Kavanaughs actually got to go on the ice at the time.
“I also got the opportunity, very fortunate, to arrange our Stanley Cup visit to the White House so we were at the White House with the Stanley Cup,” she recalled.
The ring Kavanaugh has is simply glorious, magnificent and spectacular all at once.
“The ring itself has a superstition,” she said. “The top of the cup is facing towards me and there is the superstition that if you turn the cup upside down when you are wearing it the luck runs out so you always want to keep the cup towards you. The ring itself has my name on the side of it with 404 diamonds, rubies, emeralds, gold diamonds, and the years the blackhawks won (the championship).”
The job was incredible, she said, and also all consuming. She was at one point traveling everywhere with a portable fax machine to handle all the paperwork involved. She looks back on her time with the Blackhawks with great fondness. She maintains many friendships with players and personnel from the team to this day.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful experience,” she said.