Rocky Wirtz, who took over as chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007 and presided over three Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure, passed away suddenly on Tuesday at age 70.
Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times first reported the news of Wirtz’s passing on Tuesday evening. According to a statement from the Wirtz Corporation (which owns the Blackhawks), Wirtz died while surrounded by family members at NorthShore Evanston Hospital after a brief illness.
“Our hearts are very heavy today,” Blackhawks chief executive officer Danny Wirtz said in a statement on Tuesday. “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 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.”
The Wirtz family has owned the Blackhawks organization since 1954. Rocky Wirtz was the third member of the Wirtz family to preside over the team, following his father, Bill, and his grandfather, Arthur.
The Blackhawks snapped a 49-year championship drought in 2010, three years after Rocky Wirtz took over the team, and subsequently won again in 2013 and 2015.
The later years of Wirtz’s tenure were overshadowed by a major scandal in which former Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach alleged he was sexually assaulted by former video coach Brad Aldrich and that the team failed to adequately address the situation. The NHL fined the Blackhawks organization $2 million as a consequence.
In the months before Wirtz’s death, the Blackhawks won the 2023 draft lottery and selected top prospect Connor Bedard with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement on Tuesday which read, in part: “On a personal level, Rocky was a dear friend whose counsel I consistently sought. He was a highly respected member of the Executive Committee of the League’s Board of Governors whose wisdom and camaraderie were valued by his fellow owners.”