Soon after their respective seasons were put on hold within 15 hours of each other last week, Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz and Bulls Chairman/Alternate NBA Governor Jerry Reinsdorf knew they had to look after their own.
Wirtz called in to the "Roe Conn Show" on WGN Radio Monday afternoon to detail the duo's decision to pay day-of-game United Center employees for the remainder of the originally scheduled seasons.
"Jerry is a class act. He called on Saturday around 12:30 in the afternoon and said 'Let's figure it out,'" Wirtz said. "We had talked back and forth with 10 people on the phone (about) what are we going to do and this and that. He called and said 'You and I can make this deal' I said, 'Yeah, I agree.'"
A little more than three hours later, the teams jointly announced the plan to look after the United Center "family" - a cost of approximately $3.5 million to cover the seven games remaining on each's schedule.
"When Jerry said 'Let's do this,' I agreed a thousand percent," Wirtz told the show. "He said 'You and I aren't going to miss a paycheck," and I said 'I know, but these 1,200 employees can't miss a paycheck and we've got to do something for them.'"
"These United Center employees, with all due respect, make Jerry and I look really good," he continued. "We can't do what's on the court or on the ice, but we can make everyone's fan experience a good one ... and we can't do it without these team members."
For now, both leagues are hopefully targeting a May return to action with the goal of completing regular season schedules. Despite questions surrounding exactly how that can be accomplished without playing deep into the summer months, Wirtz was adamant he believes that the NHL's year is not yet over.
"Anything can happen. We can have some games where we don't have any fans in the stands and maybe we have some for the playoffs - and it's so fluid you don't know - but I just have a feeling that if we can break that curve with the infection rate.. I'm an optimist.
"The National Hockey League's been around over 100 years. We've had world wars. We had a year where we were out of business because we had a lockout. We are going to be around and we're going to be here in some form or fashion (this season). I just think we're going to have the (rest of the) season, I really feel it."