Five Minutes with Bill Wirtz

By pbadmin

Five Minutes with…. Bill Wirtz
by: Pat Griffin
04/17/2002

When I took on the challenge of writing the “Five Minutes
With” columns, never in my wildest dreams did I think I could score the top
man of the Chicago Blackhawks, owner William Wirtz. So here, in another
exclusive for blackhawkzone.com, I present my conversation with Chicago’s most
well known sports entrepreneur, five minutes with…..Bill Wirtz!

(I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing this conversation between two hockey fans,
but I simply found him fascinating and wanted to share.)

Charming.

I looked up the word “charming” in the dictionary Sunday evening and
found “to affect by or as if by a magic spell”. That is exactly how I felt
that afternoon when I had the distinguished pleasure of discussing the future of
the Chicago Blackhawks with Mr. William Wirtz after the game.

As the Blackhawks were handing out their jerseys to fans after defeating the
Blue Jackets to assure the fifth spot in the playoffs, I noticed Bill Wirtz
standing a few rows behind us. Frank had invited Amanda and I down to his
section to watch the postgame festivities and I just had to take this rare
opportunity and approach Mr. Wirtz. The conversation went something like this:

PG: Mr. Wirtz, can I ask you to take a photograph with my daughter?

BW: Certainly. I always have time for any Blackhawk fan, especially one this
beautiful. (He removes his glasses.)

Suddenly, an attractive woman that accompanied him said:

“No. This won’t do.”

I immediately thought, “here we go again”, but was pleasantly surprised
when she said, with a big smile: “We want YOU in the picture, too. I’ll take
it.” She did!

BW: How long have you been a fan, son?

PG: Thirty-three years and counting, sir.

BW: That’s wonderful. What do you think of having the opportunity to get
behind a REAL team again, my friend?

PG: It’s been a terrific season, sir. Brian Sutter has restored the pride
of the Indianhead. What a tremendous decision you made in bringing him here.

BW: Yes, he has. It made perfect sense. We couldn’t have another season
like last year. It hurt very badly. Did you say thirty-three years? You don’t
look thirty three years old! (He extends his firm hand.)

PG: Thank you. It’s been three years as a fan for my daughter. She lives
and breathes for your team like I did when I was her age.

BW: So do I. (He looked down patting Amanda on the head, gently, and shook
her hand with a big smile, as she beamed. He then he shook Patsy’s hand.)

I thanked him for his time, as I could see several security people wanting to
hurry him along. He was not done!

BW: How do you think we will do in the playoffs? We are playing St. Louis
now, for sure. Looks like Thursday and Saturday there and Monday and Wednesday
here. (Turned out to be Sunday and Tuesday, but he wasn’t aware at the time.)

PG: I think we match up very well with them, sir, but I believe it all comes
down to the goaltending. Neither team has much playoff goaltending experience.

BW: Interesting. You may be right. I think we are going to advance. We are
not done yet! We’re just getting started. (He shook my hand again.)

I wished him luck, but HE was not done yet, either! He wanted to keep
talking. I didn’t want to intrude on his time, but if he was willing…..

BW: Mr. Sutter has done a fantastic job, you agree?

PG: Yes sir, I do, but I’m troubled by the Tony Amonte matter for next
season. Is there any chance he will come back? I would hate to see all the
positives turned to negatives next year.

BW: What is your name again?

PG: Pat, sir.

BW: (He grabbed my hand a third time and looked down at the floor and paused,
very pensive, for a moment.) Pat, I don’t think he will be back. It hurts me
very deeply. Tony is a super kid and I love him as a person and a player. This
is the part of sports that bothers me. We can’t have them all, you know?
Zhamnov, Daze, Sullivan….they all cost a lot of money and are wrapped up for
awhile. (I swear…it looked like tears were forming in his eyes. He is clearly
bothered by this situation.) I wish he and I could just sit down with no one
else around and straighten this out.

PG: Can’t you meet half way? You know, Tony is the reason that Amanda is a
hockey fan. You can’t lose people like that and not replace them in a
successful organization.

BW: It’s possible, anything is possible, but I don’t see it. Wait until
you see what we have on the farm, though (his eyes widening). Young Ruutu could
be a star right now. He’ll be here next year. We have others, too. Lots of
young talent on the way. The young center….(he appeared to be searching a
bit.)

PG: Yakoubov?

BW: (Big smile.) Yes, Yakoubov and Vorobiev, too. You are gonna love these
kids. We have a kid in Spokane named Matt Keith. What a player!

PG: He looked impressive at the Prospects Camp this year.

BW: You saw that? I knew I knew you from somewhere. I remember you and your
daughter! You people are great fans. We need more like you.

(We made some serious eye contact. I knew he didn’t remember me and he knew
it too, but we both smiled, like we were on to one another. I respected the
overture, though.)

BW: The other night, one NHL general manager approached me and said, “Mr.
Wirtz, I just returned from a scouting trip and saw several of your young
players. I can guarantee you that the Blackhawks won’t be finishing in the
bottom half of the league for at least ten years.”

PG: Wow, that’s great to hear!

BW: Please give us a chance next year. You will be happy with the results.

PG: I wish you the best of luck in the playoffs. I think we can win this
series.

BW: Oh, we are not done yet! This coach is terrific. He doesn’t care about
going to dinner (big laugh), only about hockey. We got the right guy this time.

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,as well as read what fellow Blackhawk fans have to say!

PG: Yes, you did. I appreciate you sharing all of this with us.

BW: We need people like you and your daughter. (Winks at her.) Stick with us
and give us a chance. (Laughs) It’s tough managing millionaires!

Charming.