Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blackhawks Owner Bill Wirtz Dies

In the wee hours of the morning I had one of those can't sleep moments so I decided to flip open the laptop and then check my email and other things. In my email I found this story that I suppose many are waking up to especially as they go to work today. From Channel 2...
Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz, one of the most controversial figures and Chicago sports who was notorious for driving a hard bargain, died early Wednesday morning at the age of 77.

Wirtz died at Evanston Hospital after battling cancer.

The family, led by Arthur Wirtz, purchased the Chicago Blackhawks in 1954. In 1966, William Wirtz became team president.

Wirtz was chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Hockey League for 18 years and helped negotiate the merger of the NHL and the World Hockey Association in the late 1970's.

Wirtz was also awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in 1978.

He became almost legendary for his frugality and refusal to allow Blackhawks home games to be shown on television.

Together with Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Wirtz helped back the construction of the United Center, which replaced the Chicago Stadium, the long-time home for Blackhawks. The Chicago Stadium was demolished in 1995 after plans to keep it open as a secondary facility fell through.

But since moving to the United Center, the Blackhawks have made just four playoff appearances -- only two since 1997. The Blackhawks haven't played in the Stanley Cup finals in 15 years. As a result, the Blackhawks -- one of the six original NHL teams -- averaged about 12,700 fans per game in an arena that seats 20,500.
I hate to say it but there have to be Blackhawks fans celebrating the man's demise and there have to be hopes that the team's fortunes will change after so many years of disappointment. I can sympathize with Wirtz's need to keep an eye on the money and be frugal but the fact is no organization can survive if you let good people go because you don't want to spend any money on them. If you're not willing to invest in your team (in this instance but it can be applied to any other business) then it isn't going to be that successful.

May the man rest in peace but may the Blackhawks be a different team in the future. Who knows some of the players who were let go perhaps we should find a way to get them back. If the White Sox can win a world series, the Cubs get close to a pennant and twice this decade at that, and the Bears can go to the Super Bowl we certainly know that the Blackhawks will have to come close to another playoff appearance in the near futures. And yeah I know I set the ball very low here.

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