It is with deep sorrow that the Chicago Blackhawks announce that team President, Mr. William W. Wirtz, 77, passed away early Wednesday morning at Evanston Hospital after a recent battle with cancer.
Mr. Wirtz is survived by his wife, Alice, five children, Rocky, Gail, Karey, Peter and Alyson, and seven grandchildren.
Along with being the President of the Chicago Blackhawks, Mr. Wirtz was the Chairman of Wirtz Beverage Group, President of Wirtz Corporation and Wirtz Realty, Director of First Security Trust and Savings Bank, and Chairman of the South Miami Bank Corporation. Mr. Wirtz also served as a Director of U.S. Bank Corporation and Alberto Cluver.
A 1950 graduate of Brown University, Mr. Wirtz took his place alongside his father Arthur and brother Michael when the family purchased the Chicago Blackhawks in 1954. In 1966, Mr. Wirtz was named President of the Chicago Blackhawks, a title he maintained for 41 years.
Mr. Wirtz served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Hockey League for 18 years and was responsible for negotiating the merger between the NHL and the World Hockey Association in the late 1970’s as well the expansion of the league. Known as a man of his word, Mr. Wirtz was also a member of the National Hockey League’s Executive Committee.
No one did more for hockey on both the professional and amateur levels than Mr. Wirtz. He served on both the 1980 and 1984 Winter Olympic Committees. The 1980 U.S. Olympic Team captured the Gold Medal at Lake Placid. For his efforts on both the professional and amateur levels, Mr. Wirtz was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976, was the recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1978 and was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.
Under the guidance of Mr. Wirtz, Chicago Blackhawk Charities was established in 1993. Since that time, Blackhawk Charities has donated over $7.5 million to worthy causes in the Chicagoland area such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Cathedral Shelter, Miseracordia Homes, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Blackhawk Alumni Association, and the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois (AHAI). Mr. Wirtz also donated both the Chicago Stadium and the United Center to host the Blackhawk Cup, the annual High School Boys and Girls State Championship Game, over the past 20 years.
Mr. Wirtz was also the driving force behind building the United Center which opened in 1994. This was not an easy decision for a man who literally grew up in the old Chicago Stadium. As difficult a decision as this was, Mr. Wirtz recognized the necessity for change. Together with Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, he succeeded in constructing the United Center, a state-of-art arena and one of the finest buildings in the country.
Mr. Wirtz was most proud of the fact that the United Center was financed with private funds and without taxpayer dollars. Mr. Wirtz was most proud of developing the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Sports Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. This program was near and dear to his heart as it was named after his mother, Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz. Along with continuing to fund this program, Mr. Wirtz was a model humanitarian and many of the good deeds he did for people and organizations throughout the community went unnoticed by design.
Visitation for Mr. William W. Wirtz will be on Sunday, September 30th from 2:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd. at Old Orchard Road, Skokie, IL.
Funeral service: Monday, October 1st, at 10:00 a.m. at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 East Chestnut Street, at Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL. 60611.
Interment Ivanhoe Cemetery in Ivanhoe, IL.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Chicago Blackhawk Charities, 1901 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL. 60612 or Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Foundation, Inc. 805 15th Street NW, Suite 430, Washington, D.C. 20005.