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From Newton Cardinal to Chicago Blackhawk

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 11:34 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 5, 2013 11:46 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Submitted Photo)
Adam Kempenaar, a 1993 Newton High School graduate, holds the Stanley Cup on Monday, June 24, in Boston after the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2. Kempenaar is the senior director of new media and creative services for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Last Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in Boston, beating the Boston Bruins, 3-2, in game six of the finals. With little more than a minute left in regulation, the Blackhawks miraculously came from behind to seal their Stanley Cup victory. As players and fans celebrated the great accomplishment, another team member still had work to do. 

Adam Kempenaar, a 1993 graduate of Newton Senior High School, has been a Blackhawk for 11 seasons, although you won’t find a jersey with his name on it at the United Center. He started with the Blackhawks in 2002 and is currently the senior director of new media and creative services. He’s responsible for content across the club’s digital, social and publishing platforms — Blackhawks Magazine, stories and video on the website, the official Blackhawks mobile apps, as well as overseeing the team’s presence on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

Kempenaar received his first bachelor’s degree in English from Grinnell College and continued his education at the University of Iowa, where he received a bachelor’s degree in film studies and a master’s degree in journalism. Kempenaar has worked hard to ensure any project or career endeavor is a success. Prior to his start at the Blackhawks, he was a film instructor at the University of Chicago’s Graham School and is currently a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Growing up in Central Iowa and living in Newton provided many great memories for Kempenaar. He recalled times “just hanging out” with friends, playing bass and guitar, participating in a variety of groups and productions, and working at the Capitol II movie theater. He also met his wife, Sarah (Mangrich) Kempenaar, in high school.

“I’ll always remember Newton fondly for that.”

After reminiscing about his experience at NHS, Kempenaar found the teachers inspiring and the education essential to his current work. 

“Ron Prahl was an influential teacher. He introduced me to ‘Citizen Kane,’ Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ and many other great plays, books and movies. I really learned how to write in his classes, and that skill is the single biggest reason I’m doing what I do now.”

On Monday, June 24, 20 years after his high school graduation, Adam Kempenaar and his wife witnessed the memorable Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup win in Boston. 

“I’ll be honest, things seemed pretty bleak after Boston scored to take a 2-1 lead late in the third period, but all year long this team has found a way.” 

Indeed, the Blackhawks did find a way, scoring two goals in an unprecedented 17 seconds, something unheard of in hockey and certainly during the Stanley Cup finals. 

“It was arguably the most improbable, dramatic finish to a Stanley Cup-clinching game ever, and I’m proud to have been there to witness it,” Kempenaar said.

“The last week has been unbelievable, and kind of a blur. The celebration that ensued on the ice and in the locker room over the next few hours is something I’ll never forget.”  

“Some people play or work in professional sports their whole careers and never get to experience a championship. I’ve been fortunate now to be part of two championships in four seasons, and I don’t want to ever take that for granted.”

The team plane flew everyone back to Chicago that night, they went to a few parties and Kempenaar arrived home about 6:30 a.m.; however, it was immediately back to work the next day. 

“We had to start looking ahead to the championship parade on Friday, thinking about how we were going to cover it from a video standpoint for the website, and possibly a movie documenting the whole season.” 

Kempenaar and his family rode in the Stanley Cup parade, which he described as seeing “an endless sea of people.” 

That night he went on stage with the Stanley Cup at the Rush concert, shot some photos for the Chicago Blackhawks Instagram and Twitter accounts, and then left for New York City the next day to cover the NHL Entry Draft.

Kempenaar, his wife, and their four children make it back to Newton for Thanksgiving and Christmas and a handful of times every year to visit their parents and his sister, Alexis. The kids enjoy spending as much time as possible with their grandparents and cousins. They make stops at places like PJ’s Deli or Taco John’s for lunch. 

“Taco John’s is always a popular stop; Chicago only has Taco Bell,” he said. 

As a sports fan, Kempenaar admits to being a fan of all the Chicago teams, and “like any good Iowan, I root for the Hawkeyes.” He’s also a follower of international football, thanks to his brother-in-law who is Nike’s global football footwear director. Kempenaar is looking forward to the World Cup and following the Dutch team next summer. 

He’s sincere about his appreciation for his job and his pride in the Blackhawks organization. 

“Hockey players are the most accessible, humble athletes I’ve ever been around, and the access they and the coaching staff allow us to have is the biggest reason why we can offer so much great content to our fans. I’m incredibly lucky to be part of a first-class organization that doesn’t take any shortcuts and is always striving for excellence,” Kempenaar said. “I can’t ask to be treated any better.”

Staff writer Kate Malott may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 422, or at kmalott@newtondailynews.com.

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