Rocky Wirtz

Eddie Olczyk, Pat Foley recall and commemorate Rocky Wirtz's legacy

The broadcasting duo joined NBC Sports Chicago's "Remembering Rocky" show on Tuesday

NBC Universal, Inc.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks lost a franchise icon -- chairman and principal owner, Rocky Wirtz.

Wirtz died on Tuesday, the family announced. He was 70.

Following the city's coveted baseball matchup -- the Crosstown Classic series -- between the White Sox and Cubs, NBC Sports Chicago hosted a show, "Remembering Rocky."

With it, Blackhawks legends Eddie Olczyk and Pat Foley joined to share their fondest memories of Wirtz.

Backstory: in 2007, the duo became television commentators for the Hawks together. Wirtz was the catalyst for Blackhawks television, helping create a partnership with Comcast Sportsnet (now NBC Sports Chicago) to televise the Hawks games locally for the first time in franchise history.

One of his first orders of business was putting Foley back in the broadcast chair he maintained from 1981 before he was fired in 2006.

"When he reached out to me, I was thrilled," Foley, the Hall of Fame broadcaster, said of Wirtz. "I was quite sure after having been fired a couple of years previously, that I would certainly never be back at the United Center. Once they let me go, I never stepped foot back in there again.

"When he brought me back, everything had been forgotten . . . He couldn't have been more welcoming, more generous to Pat Foley and the Foley family. Everything changed for the better. I got back to a chair I'd never thought I'd sit in again and got another 15 years out of it. It was awesome."

Olczyk recalled Wirtz's support during his battle with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2017.

"Rocky, when I got sick 5+ years ago, was one of the first phone calls that I got," Olczyk said. "And Rocky pretty much said 'Whatever you need, whoever you need to see, you just call me and we'll get it done. He checked up on me often.

"If you got a chance to know him, you were better off for it."

Olczyk not only played for the Blackhawks under Rocky's father, Bill, but spent 16 years as the Blackhawks color commentator for NBC Sports Chicago. Olczyk and Foley's time in the Blackhawks' broadcast booth wouldn't have been possible without Wirtz.

The television deal was just the tip of the iceberg of Wirtz's makeover for the Blackhawks, who then were one of the most frowned-upon franchises in professional sports. He was a terrific businessman and mind for the organization

Upon drafting Patrick Kane in 2007, Wirtz hired the right people -- Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville -- to take the team to the next level. Under Wirtz's leadership, the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The Blackhawks made the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons from 2008-17.

Some say Wirtz revitalized the organization; Foley says he saved it.

"You could say he revitalized the franchise, but I would make the case that he saved it," Foley said. "Honestly, I think the Blackhawks had fallen so far off the map. Remember, before he took over, they were voted the worst franchise in professional sports, not just the NHL. They were at the bottom of the barrel.

"He got them relevant again. Not long after he took over the Hawks ticket was the hottest in town. And Rocky Wirtz made that happen. He saved the franchise, in my opinion."

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