October 5, 1952 |
Chicago, IL, USA
|Alma mater||Northwestern University (1975)|
|Occupation||Principal Owner & Chairman of Chicago Blackhawks
President of Wirtz Corporation.
|Net worth||$500 million |
William Rockwell "Rocky" Wirtz (born October 5, 1952) is the principal owner and chairman of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. He is also president of the Blackhawks' parent company, Wirtz Corporation, a diversified conglomerate headquartered in Chicago.
Wirtz oversees Wirtz Corporation’s commercial and residential real estate companies, wine distributor Wirtz Beverage Group, an insurance company and banks in Illinois and Florida. Wirtz is also half-owner of the Blackhawks' home arena, the United Center, along with Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. He and Reinsdorf are co-chairmen of the arena's Executive Committee.
Wirtz managed the Judge & Dolph, Ltd. liquor distributorship until October 2007. Shortly after the death of his father, William W. Wirtz, Wirtz assumed control of the Blackhawks, as Wirtz's brother, Peter Wirtz, decided to maintain Bismarck Enterprises in lieu of running the team.
Ownership of the Blackhawks
Almost immediately after becoming the new owner, Wirtz began altering some longstanding policies implemented by his father, which many fans saw as anachronistic. According to a source within the Hawks organization, Wirtz "believes in spending money to make money," in marked contrast to his father's frugal management style.
Wirtz stated in a brief interview that he would keep Dale Tallon as Blackhawks general manager and Denis Savard as head coach. He also affirmed at the time that Bob Pulford would remain as the team's senior vice president, but later reassigned him to Blackhawks liaison on NHL affairs. (Savard would be fired as head coach just four games into the 2008-09 season and replaced by Joel Quenneville.)
On October 22, 2007, Wirtz announced that the team was in negotiations with Comcast SportsNet Chicago (of which he is part-owner) to begin televising home games. This was another break from Bill Wirtz's management of the Blackhawks, where games were previously unavailable on television unless they were nationally televised which only happened in the playoffs. That season, they began to show a select amount of home games, with Wirtz citing pre-existing agreements Comcast had with other programming as a reason why not all of the remaining 2007-08 home schedule could be shown. Wirtz also hired John McDonough, formerly with the Chicago Cubs to become the new President of the team. Many believed that McDonough's presence, along with the young talent on the Blackhawks team, would improve the team's marketing ability and reverse a long drought in popularity. This was evident in the fact that the Blackhawks were tops in the NHL for attendance in 2008-09  while making it to the Western Conference Finals.
Former star players Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were not on good terms with Bill Wirtz, have returned to the team in the role of "ambassadors,"  another sign that Wirtz has been able to undo the damage to the franchise many attributed to his father. A big step showing this reconciliation was when the Blackhawks celebrated Hull and Mikita together at the United Center on Friday, March 7, 2008. Met with more mixed reaction was Wirtz's decision to lessen the use of the United Center's organ in favor of more prerecorded current music to attract new, younger fans. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as the goal song "Chelsea Dagger" became a song other teams loved to hate.
The success of the Blackhawks with Wirtz at the helm has been remarkable. After missing the playoffs for six straight seasons (and seven of the last eight), the Blackhawks finally broke through in 2009. Having collected a stable of young and highly touted draft picks, the Blackhawks finally notched their first 100-point season in 16 years. They defeated the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks in the first two rounds before bowing out to the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Detroit Red Wings, in the Western Conference Final.
In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1992. They faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL final and won the Stanley Cup in six games on June 9, 2010. This was the first Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks since 1961, thus ending the second longest Stanley Cup drought in the history of the NHL.
In the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, and 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings to reach the Finals. There they defeated the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in six games, giving the Blackhawks a second championship in four seasons. This marked the first game between Western and Eastern Conference teams all season due to the 2012-13 NHL lockout-shortened season. This also marked the first time since 1979 for an all Original Six Cup Final. Shortly after this championship, Wirtz and John McDonough, president and CEO of the Blackhawks, took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe thanking the city of Boston for respect and sportsmanship during the Cup Finals and praising their recovery from the Boston Marathon bombings.
- "Rocky Wirtz Assumes Role As Hawks Chairman". Last accessed October 5, 2007.
- Sassone, Tim (October 5, 2007). "Culture shock hits Hawks". The Daily Herald. Last accessed October 6, 2007.
- "Blackhawks reassign senior VP Pulford". Canadian Press. October 11, 2007.
- "Blackhawks fire Savard, make Quenneville new coach". TSN.ca. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
- "John McDonough resigns as President of the Chicago Cubs". mlb.com.
- "Hull and Mikita revel in ambassador roles for revived Blackhawks franchise".[dead link]
- "Blackhawks score with catchy tune 'Chelsea Dagger'". Chicago Sun-Times. May 13, 2009.
- Pickell, Jack (June 28, 2013). "Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks take out full-page Globe ad to thank Bruins, City of Boston". Boston.com. Last accessed June 28, 2013.