Hall of Fame broadcaster and long time Chicago Blackhawks television announcer Pat Foley summed up what many of the speakers throughout the morning said about late chairman and owner Rocky Wirtz.
“Always welcoming, always affable,” Foley said. “He was a fun-loving guy–he was very much a giver.”
Stories told by former players, and those within the organization were aplenty as a public memorial at the United Center recalled moments with Wirtz. Of the many things said, what stood out most for the collection of speakers was his presence and charity.
“Stoic, powerful, and confident,” said Blackhawks television commentator and emcee Darren Pang.
"Not all owners are cheered by those who pay the price of admission. It is different here." Today we celebrate Rocky's legacy ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Cl2VVjvJJm
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) August 9, 2023
Common Thread When Speaking of Rocky Wirtz
Several of the speakers struggled with words, which included Pang, Hall of Famers Chris Chelios, and Marian Hossa. But it was the compassion and care of others that they recalled fondly and often what caused them to take a moment to catch themselves. It showed the ties they had to Wirtz, and the care he showed while alive for them.
Chelios recounted a story of when his daughter Cailey was about to leave for college, it was Rocky who wanted to offer advice and help.
“It was Rocky who met with her and inspired her to live her dream,” Chelios said, before taking a moment to compose himself. “And because of Rocky, now Caley is part of that family–living her dream.”
Hossa was thankful for Wirtz’s “gentelman’s agreement” that after trading his contract to Arizona, that he would come back and retire a Blackhawk. Former defenseman Brent Seabrook recalled the kindness he showed his family in the midst of celebrating the Stanley Cup title in 2010. He recounts how they walked up to Wirtz and his family amidst the party following the parade for staff and players of the team.
“And my mom said to them [the Wirtzes] ‘This is the best birthday I’ve ever had,'” Seabrook said. “Rocky said to my mom ‘Oh it’s your birthday?’ Ten minutes later, I turned around and there was a birthday cake from Rocky and everyone was singing happy birthday to my mom.
On a day where Rocky should have been celebrating his accomplishments as the leader of the team, he instead put the spotlight on my mom. He brought my family, into this wonderful family, we’re all here to honor today. My mom talked about that birthday all the time.”
Perhaps Seabrook summed up best what many had said before through their stories and memories.
“It was a privilege to be a Blackhawk–and that started with Rocky.”