Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rocky Wirtz- He Didn't Step Over a Buck to Pick up a Penny

The Beverly Theater at 95th & Ashland had, what I believe, might have been the first 'pay-to-iew' operation in America.

In about 1968, Bill Wirtz set up infancy simulcast technologies that allowed the Blackhawk Home games to be broadcast on the movie screen of the old air-conditioned and regal Beverly Theatre. That must have been one of the first Big Screen Viewing operations as well.

Not only that, they sold beer.

My Dad and his brothers Bart, Sy and Donnie worked at the Beverly as engineers, sharing the hours to augment their regular jobs.

Local news and sports journalists Bill Gleason and Dave Condon were frequent attendees, as both could walk to Beverly from their homes.

Bill Wirtz was an interesting and nice man, as far as I could tell. He became known as Dollar Bill among Chicago sports know-it-alls. Like George Halas and Charlie Comiskey, Bill Wirtz was tar-brushed with the stain of being a cheap-skate. They were working-class guys who wanted to bring sport to working men and women at a reasonable price. They were like our fathers - the guys who told us what could and could not spend.

Rocky Wirtz and I are the same age - we are baby-boomers. Our Dad's told us that we did not understand the value of a buck. Dad's worry.

I went to Loyola (twice) on my own dime, became a teacher, bought homes, raised kids,and somehow made a living, because I guess I did get the message.

Rocky Wirtz, I am sure does not still have his 1st Communion money. When his Dad passed away, Rocky made the Blackhawks his own.

He paid for Patrick Kane*. That must have resurrected his Dad and given him a massive post-mortem and resurrection coronary and sent him back to the turf.

Last night, the lessons of value paid off. Rocky Wirtz brought the Stanley Cup back City of Chicago. His Dad helped give Chicago one in 1961. Bill Wirtz paid for Bobby Hull, I guess was not as much of a cheapskate after all. Rocky Wirtz reconnected Bobby Hall and Stan Mikita with the tough and heroic kids who are cold steel on ice.

Thank you, Rocky. You learned the value of buck and refused to step over a buck to pick up a penny.

Rocky Wirtz:

On October 22, 2007, Rocky announced that the team was in negotiations with Comcast SportsNet Chicago (of which he is part-owner) to begin televising home games. That season, they began to show a select amount of home games, with Wirtz citing pre-existing agreements Comcast had with other programming as a reason why not all of the remaining 2007-08 home schedule could be shown. Wirtz also hired John McDonough, formerly with the Chicago Cubs to become the new President of the team.[5] Many believe that McDonough's presence, along with the young talent on the Blackhawks team, will improve the team's marketing ability and reverse what has been a long drought in popularity. This is evident in the fact that the Blackhawks were tops in the NHL for attendance in 2008-09 [6] while making it to the Western Conference Finals.

Former players Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were not on good terms with Bill Wirtz, have worked with the team in the role of "ambassadors," [7] another sign that Rocky Wirtz has been able to undo the damage to the franchise many attributed to his father. A big step showing that this damage had been coming undone came when the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated Hull and Mikita in a joint celebration at the United Center on Friday, March 7, 2008. Met with more mixed reaction was Wirtz's 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 goal song "Chelsea Dagger" became a song other teams loved to hate.[8]

The changes made by Rocky Wirtz and the improvement of the team have been remarkable. After missing the playoffs for six straight seasons, the Blackhawks finally broke through in 2009. With a young and inexperienced team, few predicted the Hawks to go very far but they defeated the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks in the first two rounds before bowing out to the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Detroit Red Wings, in the Western Conference Final. In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks have defeated the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1992. They went head to head with the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL final and won the Stanley Cup.

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