Rocky Wirtz, the chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks, has passed away after a brief illness, the team officially confirmed on Tuesday evening. He was 70.
"Our hearts are very heavy today,” Rocky's son and Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz said in a statement. "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, who was also the owner of the Wirtz Corp, which included Breakthru Beverage Group, took over as the owner in 2007 after his father Bill passed away. Rocky was the fifth principal owner in franchise history; his grandfather Arthur purchased a stake of the Blackhawks in 1950 and acquired majority ownership in 1966.
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Wirtz immediately revitalized hockey in Chicago, which started by televising home games and spending money, whether it was inside the organization or for the on-ice product. Shortly after he took over, the Blackhawks' popularity exploded, they became a staple in outdoor games, and put together a dynastic run in the salary cap era by winning three Stanley Cups in six years.
Wirtz hasn't made a public appearance since March 2022 when Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson was introduced as the permanent general manager. The appearance came a month after Wirtz made headlines for his comments about the Kyle Beach sexual-assault scandal.
During Wirtz's tenure as the chairman, the Blackhawks made the postseason 10 times, won 17 rounds, reached five Conference Finals and won three Stanley Cups.
Wirtz leaves behind his wife Marilyn, and children Danny (Anne) Wirtz, Hillary Wirtz (Erin Quaglia), Kendall (Brendan) Murphy, and Elizabeth Queen (Joe Barley), and six grandchildren.
Kevin Cross, the President/General Manager of NBC Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago/Telemundo Chicago released a statement on behalf of the network on the death of Rocky Wirtz.
"Our entire network is deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Wirtz. When Rocky took over the Blackhawks after his father Bill passed away in 2007, Rocky had a vision of not only bringing multiple Stanley Cup Championships to the City of Chicago, but to also bring the sport of hockey to the forefront of popular culture in our city. He was successful on both fronts.
"In addition, Rocky was able to bring home game telecasts into the homes of hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans, which only helped catapult the team to greater heights of awareness and fanbase growth. On behalf of everyone at NBCUniversal Local Chicago, we send out our deepest sympathies to the Wirtz family."