William Rockwell "Rocky" Wirtz (Born October 5, 1952) is the owner of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. Wirtz managed the Judge & Dolph, Ltd. liquor distributorship until October 2007. He assumed control of the franchise shortly after the death of his father, Bill Wirtz; and his brother, Peter Wirtz, decided to maintain Bismarck Enterprises in lieu of owning the team.
Ownership of the Blackhawks
Almost immediately after becoming the new owner, Rocky Wirtz began altering his facial hair. Soon after, he started changing some longstanding policies implemented by his father, which many fans saw as archaic. According to a source within the Hawks organization, Rocky Wirtz "believes in spending money to make money," in marked contrast to his father. Wirtz stated in a brief interview that he would keep Dale Tallon as Blackhawks general manager and Denis Savard as head coach. He also affirmed at the time that Bob Pulford would remain as the team's senior vice president, but later re-assigned him to Blackhawks liaison on NHL affairs. (Savard would be fired as head coach just four games into the 2008-09 season).
On October 22, 2007, Rocky announced that the team was in negotiations with Comcast SportsNet Chicago (of which he is part-owner) to begin televising home games. That season, they began to show a select amount of home games, with Wirtz citing pre-existing agreements Comcast had with other programming as a reason why not all of the remaining 2007-08 home schedule could be shown. Wirtz also hired John McDonough, formerly with the Chicago Cubs to become the new President of the team. Many believe that McDonough's presence, along with the young talent on the Blackhawks team, will improve the team's marketing ability and reverse what has been a long drought in popularity. This is evident in the fact that the Blackhawks were tops in the NHL for attendance in 2008-09 while making it to the Western Conference Finals.
Former players Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were not on good terms with Bill Wirtz, have worked with the team in the role of "ambassadors," another sign that Rocky Wirtz has been able to undo the damage to the franchise many attributed to his father. A big step showing that this damage had been coming undone came when the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated Hull and Mikita in a joint celebration at the United Center on Friday, March 7, 2008. Met with more mixed reaction was Wirtz's decision to lessen the use of the United Center's organ in favor of more prerecorded current music to attract new, younger fans.
- Rocky Wirtz biography on the Blackhawks' official site
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