Jul 25, 2023 - News

Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz dies at 70

Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz holds up a Stanley Cup in 2010.

Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz celebrates with the Stanley Cup in 2010. Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz died suddenly Tuesday at the age of 70.

The big picture: The influential Chicago businessman is credited with turning around one of the worst franchises in professional sports.

Context: Wirtz took over the Blackhawks after his father, Bill Wirtz, passed away in 2007. Rocky's tenure marked a reversal from his father's reputation for penny-pinching, which included refusing to televise 'Hawks home games to force fans to go to the stadium to watch.

  • When Rocky took over, he quickly invested in the team's front office and turned the Blackhawks into Stanley Cup winners. They won in 2010, 2013 and 2015 under his ownership.

Between the lines: Wirtz's tenure wasn't without controversy. In 2021, former player Kyle Beach accused the Hawks of covering up his alleged sexual assault at the hands of an assistant coach.

Zoom out: The Wirtz family has had an ownership stake in the Blackhawks since 1950. Rocky's grandfather Arthur Wirtz took over as majority owner in 1966. Rocky also served as the chairman of the Wirtz Corporation, which also ran insurance, banking, realty and beverage distribution businesses.

  • He served on several boards, including at the Field Museum, Northwestern University (his alma mater) and the United Center. Rocky has given to several charitable organizations over the years.

What they're saying: "Our dad was a passionate businessman committed to making Chicago a great place to live, work and visit, but his true love was for his family and close friends," his son Danny Wirtz said in a statement. "Rocky will be remembered by those that knew him for his sharp wit, enduring loyalty and his humility."

  • "Rocky's focus on connecting with the club's fans and improving the team's performance on the ice rekindled Chicago fans' love affair with their hockey team and built a modern dynasty," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
  • "We never had a disagreement or argument during all our many years together," Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "I'm personally devastated. His passing came far too soon as he had so very much to live for."
  • "My heart is with the Wirtz family, his colleagues and the entire Blackhawks organization during this difficult time," Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement. "This is a sad day, and a tremendous loss for our city."

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