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Friday, September 22, 2023

Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz dies at age 70

Rocky Wirtz, who won three Stanley Cup titles as owner of the Chicago Blackhawks and presided over the team during one of the NHL’s biggest scandals, has died. He was 70.

The Blackhawks said in a release that Wirtz died on Tuesday, calling it a “sudden passing.” But no further details were provided.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a release that the league was “deeply saddened” by Wirtz’s death.

“Devoted to family and the Chicago Blackhawks, Rocky was a native son of Chicago and an accomplished businessman,” Bettman said. “Rocky took over control of the Blackhawks in 2007 and almost immediately restored the passion and following of this storied, Original Six franchise.”

Rocky Wirtz was 2 years old when his grandfather, Arthur Wirtz, purchased the Blackhawks in 1954. Rocky Wirtz took over the team after his father, William, died in September 2007.

William Wirtz was nicknamed “Dollar Bill” for his frugality when it came to acquiring the services of the game’s best players. And the team struggled while playing in front of small crowds in its early years at the United Center, making only one playoff appearance from 1998-2008.

Everything changed when Rocky Wirtz became the team chairman. He helped re-establish the franchise’s connection to some of its best players from the past. He put the team’s games back on local TV, and fans returned to the United Center during a lengthy sellout streak that ended in 2021.

With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane leading the way, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The team also made it to the 2014 Western Conference Final, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in an epic seven-game series.

With the Blackhawks’ success on and off the ice, Wirtz became a beloved figure in his native Chicago. He also was lauded by the league for his leadership.

But Wirtz’s tenure as owner was forever tarnished when an outside law firm found that the organization badly mishandled allegations by a player who said he was sexually assaulted by an assistant coach during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title.


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