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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Blackhawks Face Uncertain Future Following Owner’s Death

  • Late owner modernized franchise, but final chapter badly tarnished reputation
  • Original Six team to now be led by fourth-generation Wirtz
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz died at the age of 70, leaving a deeply complicated legacy — and big questions for the iconic Original Six NHL franchise. 

After taking the reins of the Blackhawks in 2007 from his late father, the infamous “Dollar” Bill Wirtz, Rocky significantly modernized the franchise and helped steer the team back to glory. 

In addition to getting the team’s games back on local TV and radio and leading a 13-year sellout streak at the United Center, he oversaw a dramatic on-ice revival for the Blackhawks, culminating in Stanley Cup titles in 2010, 2013, and 2015. 

But the final chapter of Wirtz’s ownership tenure badly tarnished his reputation, as the Blackhawks were found to have grossly mishandled prospect Kyle Beach’s allegations that he was assaulted by then-video coach Brad Aldrich. The NHL fined the team $2 million, and Wirtz compounded the damage by berating reporters asking about the issue at a 2022 town hall. 

Following the session, Wirtz largely retreated from public appearances.

Chicago At Crossroads

A fourth-generation Wirtz — Rocky’s son, Blackhawks CEO Danny — will now lead the team. After winning the rights to draft top-overall pick Connor Bedard, one of the NHL’s most popular teams hopes to repair its bond with fans after a spell in which it has missed the postseason five of the last six seasons.

“Our dad was a passionate businessman committed to making Chicago a great place to live, work, and visit,” Danny Wirtz said. “His passing leaves a huge hole in the hearts of many, and we will miss him terribly.” The team hasn’t released medical details regarding Wirtz’s death. 

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