CHICAGO — Since the announcement of his death on Tuesday, tributes from around Chicago and the country have poured in for the late owner of the Blackhawks.
A number of people have shared their condolences to the family of Rocky Wirtz, who died at the age of 70 on Tuesday after a brief illness. He was the fifth principal owner of the Blackhawks and had been in that position since 2007, taking over after the death of his father Bill.
Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson had this statement following Wirtz’s death on Tuesday.
“Rocky Wirtz was a champion in every sense of the word — in family, in business, in sports ownership, and most important, in life. From his stalwart leadership of the Wirtz Corporation and multitude of corporate ventures, to the Blackhawks’ miracle run of three Stanley Cup champions in six seasons, he exemplified class and excellence at every turn.
As successful as he was as a chairman and owner, however, he was an even greater man, giving a United Center security officer or parking attendant the same amount of respect he would offer a fellow magnate or CEO. That is who Rocky Wirtz was, and he will be dearly missed.
My heart is with the Wirtz family, his colleagues and the entire Blackhawks organization during this difficult time. This is a sad day, and a tremendous loss for our city.”
Naturally, a number of tributes came from fellow owners in Chicago, including the person he shared ownership of the United Center: Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
“This is just shocking news, and I am personally devastated. Rocky truly was a great man. We were far more than partners at the United Center. We were very close; he was a dear friend and our trust, our bond, was unbreakable. We never had a disagreement or argument during all of our many years together.
“Everyone liked Rocky. He was smart, passionate, generous, personable and friendly. He cared deeply about the Blackhawks, the people who worked for the team and at the United Center, Blackhawks fans and the city of Chicago. He was so very proud of the Stanley Cup Championships and what those trophies meant to the organization, the city and the fans.
“He was deservedly proud, as well, when it came to his countless civic and charitable endeavors and the positive impact they made on so many. This is a loss for us all. My condolences go out to Marilyn, his children and grandchildren, and the entire Wirtz family.
“His passing came far too soon as he had so very much to live for.”
Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts also shared in condolences after the passing of Wirtz on Tuesday night.
“On behalf of the Chicago Cubs, our thoughts and prayers are with the Wirtz family during this difficult time. After taking over as owner of the Blackhawks in 2007, Rocky turned the organization into a premier franchise, winning three Stanley Cups and creating wonderful memories for hockey fans both in Chicago and all over the world. He was also an integral part of NBC Sports Chicago and proved to be a great partner in helping to bring Chicago sports fans coverage of the Cubs, as well as the Blackhawks, White Sox and Bulls. Rocky was a remarkable visionary and will be remembered for making a profound impact in the Chicago sports community. On a personal level, I will always remember Rocky as a friend.”
Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey had this statement on behalf of the franchise to both the Wirtz family and the Blackhawks.
“On behalf of the McCaskey family and the entire Bears Family, we would like to share our sincere condolences on the passing of Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz. Under his leadership, Rocky set the bar for excellence extremely high in Chicago with three Stanley Cup championships in recent years and, more importantly, was a gentleman, a family man and a friend to so many. He was also very giving of countless resources to the community in and around Chicagoland. Our prayers go out to the Wirtz family and the Blackhawks franchise.”
Chicago Fire FC sent out their condolences to the organization and family on social media Tuesday night.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who worked with Wirtz for nearly two decades, had this statement after his death.
“The National Hockey League family is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of W. Rockwell ‘Rocky’ Wirtz.
“Devoted to family and the Chicago Blackhawks, Rocky was a native son of Chicago and an accomplished businessman. Rocky took over control of the Blackhawks in 2007 and almost immediately restored the passion and following of this storied, Original Six franchise.
“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 – the Blackhawks won Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
“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.
“The NHL sends its sincere condolences to Rocky’s wife, Marilyn; his children, Danny, Kendall and Hillary; Marilyn’s daughter, Elizabeth; and their six grandchildren. He will be missed terribly.”