When one of Chicago's most eloquent sports executives tried putting his feelings into words, his voice cracked. His head shook. Like so many others in a hockey city, the moment overwhelmed him.
"It was surreal," McDonough said the next day. "It felt like we were in a movie. … Nothing is going to top that."
A lifelong Chicagoan, McDonough knew better than most the significance of winning the first championship on home ice since 1938. He wistfully recalled sneaking into a Niles bowling alley in 1971 to watch the Hawks lose 3-2 to the Canadiens in Game 7 of the Cup Final at old Chicago Stadium.
McDonough's mind also raced to near the end of the 2007-2008 Hawks season, months after he took over as team president following years in the Cubs organization, when a group of fans sitting near the rafters unfurled a banner. It read: "THE PRIDE IS BACK."
"We were off the radar for a long, long time," McDonough said.
Those were the memories that helped make this Cup special for McDonough and, on a larger scale, this was the type of emotion on display during the on-ice postgame party that differentiated the 2015 celebration from ones in 2010 and 2013. The first two felt more like business. This was personal.
"I think I'm more emotional tonight, having grown up here," McDonough said. "When Rocky (Wirtz) and I got together seven years ago we just wanted to get the franchise back on the right track and create a culture and build a bridge to the past … put something together that was consistent and restore the pride in being a Blackhawks fan."
They put together a team full of players as close as they are talented, a group bonded this season by tragedy that served as inspiration throughout the playoffs. Longtime assistant equipment manager Clint Reif, part of the organization for nine years, died last December at the age of 34. Two months later, former teammate Steve Montador passed away at 35. They are gone but never forgotten.
The Hawks, who wore the initials "CR" on their helmets, invited Reif's wife and four children onto the ice to celebrate. A buddy of Daniel Carcillo, one of Montador's best friends, wore Montador's sweater to Game 6.
"When you lose close friends like Clint Reif and Steve Montador, family members of the Blackhawks, these are special moments and those people are always with you," Jonathan Toews said.
Hockey is a sport about moving the puck and checking people into the boards, about power plays and penalty kills, faceoffs and stretch passes. But the game also comes down to the sheer will of the people involved, who remain human. That's what stood out most in the aftermath of this Cup title; the Hawks aren't hockey robots programmed to win, win and win some more. They are a team, from the front office through the fourth line, which overcame adversity this season by relying upon each other.
"We really love each other as brothers," Marian Hossa said. "I don't think other teams have that feeling that you'll do anything for anyone. I think that is something real different here."
Something really is. Somehow, a connection exists between caring and winning, sincerity and success.
That unique family feel made every baby a Hawks dad placed in the silver chalice all the more poignant, every hug between teammates and coaches and executives last a little longer. That made Patrick Kane posing for pictures with the Reifs cooler than any assist or goal he produced in the playoffs. That made Toews handing the Cup first to Kimmo Timonen seem more sincere than staged.
That made this a rare group in the rarest of seasons.