William Rockwell "Rocky" Wirtz (born October 5, 1952) is the principal owner and chairman of the NHL
's Chicago Blackhawks
. He is also president of the Blackhawks' parent company, the Wirtz Corporation
, a diversified conglomerate headquartered in Chicago
Wirtz oversees Wirtz Corporation's commercial and residential real estate companies, wine and spirits distributor, formerly Wirtz Beverage Group, now Breakthru Beverage Group, an insurance company and banks in Illinois
. Wirtz is also half-owner of the Blackhawks' home arena, the United Center
, along with Chicago Bulls
owner Jerry Reinsdorf
. He and Reinsdorf are co-chairmen of the arena's Executive Committee.
Wirtz graduated from North Shore Country Day School
in Winnetka, Illinois
In 1975, he graduated from Northwestern University
with a degree in Communications.
Breakthru Beverage Group
Wirtz’ grandfather Arthur Wirtz
bought the family’s first liquor distributorship in 1945. Wirtz grew up in the liquor business and assumed control of Wirtz Beverage Group in 2007. In recognition of his many contributions to and leadership in the beverage industry, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America honored Wirtz with a Lifetime Leadership Award in 2014. In 2014, Wirtz Beverage expanded outside the U.S. announcing it was taking over as the exclusive Canadian distributor for Diageo beer, wine and spirits brands. The company was the first nationally established beverage alcohol broker in Canada.
In 2015, Wirtz merged the $2.5 billion alcohol-distribution business with Charmer Sunbelt Group to create Breakthru Beverage Group.
Today, Breakthru is one of North America’s leading distributors of wine, spirits and beer brands with more than $6 billion in annual revenue and operations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Wirtz currently serves as co-chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group. His son Danny Wirtz plays a large role in the Breakthru’s executive leadership as Vice Chairman, also serving on the company’s Board of Directors and Operating Committee.
Ownership of the Blackhawks
Wirtz inherited the Blackhawks upon the death of his father, Bill Wirtz
, in 2007, becoming only the fifth principal owner in the franchise's 81-year history.
Almost immediately after becoming the new owner, Wirtz altered many of his father's policies, which many fans saw as anachronistic. According to a source within the Hawks organization, Wirtz "believes in spending money to make money," in marked contrast to his father's frugal management style.
Wirtz stated in an 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 reassigned him to Blackhawks liaison on NHL affairs.
(Savard would be fired as head coach just four games into the 2008–09 season and replaced by Joel Quenneville
On October 22, 2007, Wirtz announced the team negotiated with Comcast SportsNet Chicago (now known as NBC Sports Chicago
, of which he is part-owner) to televise home games. This was another break from his father's management style, where games were previously unavailable on television unless they were nationally televised. That season, they began to show seven home games, with Wirtz citing pre-existing agreements Comcast had with other programming as a reason why the remaining 2007–08 home schedule could not air locally. Wirtz hired former Chicago Cubs
team president John McDonough, to become the new President of the team. Many believed that McDonough's presence, along with the young talent on the roster, would improve the team's marketing ability and reverse a long drought in popularity. This became evident when the team ranked 1st in the NHL for attendance in 2008–09 while making it to the Western Conference Finals. The team also hosted the Detroit Red Wings
in the 2009 NHL Winter Classic
at Wrigley Field
Former star players Bobby Hull
and Stan Mikita
, who were not on good terms with the elder Wirtz, returned to the team in the role of "ambassadors". A big step showing this reconciliation was when the Blackhawks celebrated Hull and Mikita together at the United Center on Friday, March 7, 2008.
While most of Wirtz's changes were met with positive results, one decision was met with skepticism was his decision to lessen the use of the United Center's organ in favor of more prerecorded current music to attract new, younger fans. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as the team's new goal song, "Chelsea Dagger
," became a song other teams loved to hate.
The Blackhawks didn't take long to turn around under the younger Wirtz' stewardship. After missing the playoffs for six straight seasons (and seven of the last eight), the team enjoyed a resurgence in 2009. Having built the team around a core of Patrick Kane
, Jonathan Toews
, Duncan Keith
, and Brent Seabrook
, the Blackhawks recorded their first 100-point season in 16 years. They defeated the Calgary Flames
and the Vancouver Canucks
in the first two rounds before bowing out to the defending Stanley Cup
champion Red Wings in the Western Conference Final.
In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs
, the Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators
, Vancouver Canucks
and San Jose Sharks
to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1992
. They faced the Philadelphia Flyers
in the Stanley Cup Final and won the Stanley Cup in six games on June 9, 2010. This was the first Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks since 1961, thus ending the second longest Stanley Cup drought in the history of the NHL.
In the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
, the Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild
, Detroit Red Wings
, and 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings
to reach the Finals. There they defeated the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins
in six games, giving the Blackhawks a second championship in four seasons. This marked the first game between Western and Eastern Conference teams all season due to the 2012–13 NHL lockout
-shortened season. This also marked the first time since 1979
for an all Original Six
Cup Final. Shortly after this championship, Wirtz and John McDonough, president and CEO of the Blackhawks, took out a full-page ad in the ''Boston Globe
'' thanking the city of Boston for respect and sportsmanship during the Cup Finals and praising their recovery from the Boston Marathon bombing
[ Last accessed June 28, 2013.]
In the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs
, the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, and Anaheim Ducks
to reach the Finals. There, they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning
in six games, giving the Blackhawks a third championship in six seasons. It also allowed them to win the Cup on home ice for the first time since 1961.
Wirtz is a supporter of Donald Trump and has donated extensively to his campaign.
Awards and honors
*Three-time Stanley Cup
Champion (as owner of the Chicago Blackhawks)
*2014 Wine and Spirits of America Lifetime Achievement Award
*2010 Chicago Innovation Awards
External linksRocky Wirtz biography
on the Blackhawks' official siteRocky Wirtz profile
in ''Chicago'' magazine
Category:Chicago Blackhawks executives
Category:National Hockey League executives
Category:National Hockey League owners
Category:North Shore Country Day School alumni
Category:Northwestern University alumni
Category:Sportspeople from Chicago
Category:Stanley Cup champions