Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz dies at 70

Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz died Tuesday due to illness. He was 70.

Wirtz had served as principal owner and head of both the hockey franchise and the Wirtz Corp. — which includes the family’s liquor distribution company, Breakthru Beverage Group — since the death of his father, Bill, in 2007.

Wirtz was surrounded Tuesday by his wife, Marilyn, and his four children — Danny, Hillary, Kendall and Elizabeth — at NorthShore Evanston Hospital when he passed away after a brief battle with the illness, the Wirtz Corp. said in a statement.

“Our hearts are very heavy today,” Hawks 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.” 

Under Wirtz’s watch, the Hawks’ brand, revenue and fan base grew enormously, starting with Wirtz’s decision to reverse his father’s policy and begin televising home games shortly after assuming control.

Wirtz’s investment into the on-ice roster and off-ice marketing jumpstarted the most successful era in team history, highlighted by three Stanley Cups.

“Rocky’s focus on connecting with the club’s fans and improving the team’s performance on the ice rekindled Chicago fans’ love affair with their hockey team and built a modern dynasty,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

Wirtz’s last public appearance came at Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson’s introductory press conference in March 2022, shortly after he came under fire for comments about the Hawks’ sexual assault scandal during a February 2022 town hall discussion.

On May 8 of this year, however, Rocky celebrated the Hawks’ draft lottery win with a glass of wine at dinner, demonstrating his continued involvement — albeit in a less public role — in the organization. Tuesday’s news of his death came suddenly and unexpectedly.

Danny Wirtz has served as the Hawks’ CEO since 2020 and as Breakthru’s president and vice chairman since 2016 and could be in line to ultimately take leadership of one or both of those entities.

This story will be updated.

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