Rocky Wirtz is not fit to own the Blackhawks


Blackhawks' owner Rocky Wirtz thinks his team covering up sexual assault is none of your damn business.

Blackhawks’ owner Rocky Wirtz thinks his team covering up sexual assault is none of your damn business.
Image: Getty Images

I didn’t think the definition of “transparency” was so hard to understand.

I’m afraid to say that I thought the Chicago Blackhawks story was over because what was clear was that the owner of the team, Rocky Wirtz, also thought it was over. And no one, especially me, wants to be anywhere near the same category as Rocky Wirtz right now. The Hawks won’t be rid of the Kyle Beach story for long. Unfortunately, no one explained that to Rocky, who basically turned into the “Old Man Yells At Cloud” meme before everyone’s eyes. Twice.

And these are not difficult questions to answer. You don’t even have to give definitive answers here. Any allusion to structural changes currently underway, new positions created, different avenues, as long as it’s based on a tone of understanding. It doesn’t even have to be an actual understanding although that would be nice, just the tone of it so we can all fool ourselves into thinking the organization cares more than just the headlines. You’ve seen all of this in dozens of places.

You just couldn’t get this more wrong. And I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, especially as someone who’s been following this organization closely for over a decade now. They were the ones who didn’t hire a PR agency in the immediate aftermath of the Beach lawsuit report, prompting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to confront the press without reading the report or having any idea what to say.

Throughout this saga, the idea that Wirtz didn’t know what was happening always seemed plausible to me. Rocky has never been a hands-on owner and has other family businesses to attend to. He put one person in charge, John McDonough (who has his own problems, but that’s for another time), and basically left it to him when Wirtz would have liked to. Given how eager the Hawks, i.e. McDonough, to hide everything that happened to Beach while immersed in the glow of a Stanley Cup run they had nothing to do with, it wasn’t exactly a big jump that McD would take. also keep it away from his boss. That was McDonough’s job, after all. Keep things going, keep the turnstiles turning, keep the glowing press writing, and leave Writz out of it until it was time to interview or tell him how much money he was making now.

But after tonight, that all seems a bit long-winded, and that’s being as kind as I can be to the point of being almost insulting. It’s completely insane, unbelievable, that the head of an organization who got into this swamp because someone said, “We’ll take care of it from here,” and then choked it, then tell everyone it’s none of our business how they’re going to handle something like this in the future. “It’s our business” is how you got here in the first place, Rockwell.

When Wayne Gretzkywho, ever since he showed up in Edmonton, has rarely, if ever, had anything memorable to say, ripping you off on national TV, you screwed up royally.

Even Wirtz’s attempts to apologize were pathetic, and hardly a fool. A prepared statement and a few forwarded emails to the two journalists of Wirtz’s corporate boss, Jamie Faulkner. It’s a nothing.

The Hawks have had a prolonged backlash since the fall. There have been season ticket holders who have turned in their cards for good. There are fans who have renounced the team forever. There are fans who are taking a break and re-evaluating what the Hawks will mean for them in the future.

And Rocky burned that right to the ground, during the rare event that was supposed to give all fans a clear view of how things are going to change in every way. In a town hall specially designed to give a glimpse of a plan and give hope as to where the Hawks will go from here, Writz drove it straight into the ditch.

The solution for the NHL is now clear. Rocky Wirtz is not fit to run a franchise in their class. Simply. Before tonight, Wirtz was the dilapidated owner of an organization that covered up a sexual assault by one of their coaches of one of their players. That should have been almost untenable anyway, but Wirtz had the shroud of disconnection as a hands-off owner.

He doesn’t now. Now he’s the owner who can’t tell you how they’re going to protect someone in the organization and fuck you for asking. Why would anyone want to play here? Is this the guy who signs your checks? Why would anyone want to support this? The team must be taken from him.

And this is where our practice of simply calling teams “franchises” or “business interests” is either wrong, or confessing defeat. They are more than that, or they should be. They’re public trusts, or that’s the idea. I’ve had issues with Hawks fans for the past few years, even though I’ve been all my life. And the devotion of fans is used to document a wide variety of crimes and atrocities committed by players and staff alike (yes I’m looking at you, Patrick Kane) as their wallets are milked for everything.

But it’s also the fans who make it all. It’s what makes it special, what makes the trips to the United Center unforgettable, and it’s they who create the feeling of being part of something that is the biggest and most important part of fandom. That you are there with others. We might be fooled by ticket prices and parking lots and arenas our taxes pay for and whatever. But years later, we still share the memories of the bar or chat with our family after dinner. That’s where fandom lives. The teams should also live there. Owners should really be nothing more than stewards, running the club that we fans define.

While Wirtz was only too happy to enjoy the credit for “saving” the Hawks after taking over from his late father, he completely demolished it last night. There’s nothing left. Previously, fans had to reconcile their memories and passion for a team that did those horrible things to Kyle Beach. And then the owner told them they were assholes because they were still thinking about it. What are we part of now?

It shouldn’t be Wirtz’ team anymore, so maybe there’s still hope it can be ours again.

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