CHICAGO – Rocky Wirtz, the owner and chairman of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks who oversaw the team’s three Stanley Cup titles during the 2010s, died Tuesday, the team announced. He was 70.
Wirtz’s death was announced in a statement from his son, Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz.
“Our hearts are very heavy today,” Danny Wirtz said. ‘”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. He was a loving father, a devoted husband to Marilyn, a brother, a nephew, an uncle and a doting grandfather to his six remarkable grandchildren. His passing leaves a huge hole in the hearts of many and we will miss him terribly.”
Wirtz was the fifth principal owner in franchise history and has led the team since inheriting the franchise after the death of his father, Bill Wirtz, in 2007, WMAQ-TV reported. His grandfather, Arthur Wirtz, bought a share of the team in 1950 and gained majority ownership in 1966, according to the television station.
Rocky Wirtz inherited a team that had lost $191 million over 10 years, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“I couldn’t understand it,” Rocky Wirtz told Chicago Magazine in 2008. “If I could ask (my father) one question, I’d ask him, Why? He was a superb businessman, and other stuff wasn’t this way.
“We had to be decisive, We had to be quick. And we had to do things that were dramatic.”
Wirtz lured John McDonough away from the Chicago Cubs to become the team’s president and CEO, according to the Tribune. The pair immediately reversed Bill Wirtz’s policy and allowed Blackhawks home games to be broadcast on local television, while McDonough secured radio broadcasting rights, the newspaper reported.
In a statement, the Blackhawks said that Wirtz’s “commitments and investment delivered the team’s historic Stanley Cup championship victories in 2010, 2013 and 2015, brought Blackhawks games back to local television and packed the United Center for a lengthy sellout streak that lasted over 13 years.”
Wirtz was half-owner of the United Center alongside Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Wirtz’s final years were marred by fallout from the Jenner and Block report, WGN-TV reported.
The report, released in October 2021, criticized the team’s handling of sexual assault allegations made by former player Kyle Beach against then-video coach Brad Aldrich during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, according to the newspaper.
During a February 2022 town hall, Wirtz lashed out at a question directed at Danny Wirtz about the scandal, the Tribune reported.
“I’m going to answer the question, not him,” Rocky Wirtz said. “I think the report speaks for itself. The people that were involved are no longer here. We’re not looking back at 2010, we’re looking forward and we’re not going to talk about 2010.”
Wirtz and the Blackhawks resolved their lawsuit with Beach in December 2022 through a confidential settlement, ESPN reported.