The new owner of the Blackhawks is expected to have a significant impact

Published October 3, 2023 at 10:18 PM

In the wake of Rocky Wirtz's passing, Danny Wirtz has assumed leadership of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The NHL Board of Governors is basically a who's who of billionaires in the organization, and Wirtz has become acquainted with them. Wirtz has never sat at the popular kids' table, as he has never been in charge of the organization alone.

«I'm a byproduct of '80s and '90s hockey,» Wirtz said. «And now I'm sitting around with Brendan Shanahan, Cam Neely, Luc Robitaille. I mean, I've got their hockey cards in my head and now I'm meeting them at the coffee break, getting a donut. That's kind of surreal. But now they're peers, they're fellow executives. And they're all so kind and welcoming.»

The Chicago Blackhawks will be under his leadership in 2023-2024. The influence Rocky wielded was something people like Gary Bettman respected, as when Rocky called Bettman would pick up. However, Danny is still figuring out how to fit in among the NHL ruling class.

«I don't know the dynamic well enough to know yet,» he said. «But what's served me well is using influence over authority as a way to get things done. And I think when you can influence people and you can build trust with people, pretty soon your ideas find their way. It may not be because I was the loudest person in the room, but the next thing you know, maybe somebody who does have a loud voice is parroting my ideas. So there are ways to get there without having to necessarily pound your first or make a big scene.»

He is still starstruck by Brendan Shanahan, whom he affectionately calls "Shanny" as he figures out where he belongs.

Meanwhile, he has been observing the differing goals of various owners. Others have singular goals and focus on the bottom line, technology, or the quality of the product.

«There are people who see the world similarly, who have the same interests,» Wirtz said. «Those are the people that I look forward to learning from and partnering with, to kind of create important advocacy for the things we think can grow.»

With the help of Executive Vice President Kim Davis, Wirtz has his own pet project, which is diversifying the NHL fanbase. Ted Leonis, who owns the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics, has also helped Wirtz's vision along the way.

«That's going to be a new area for me to explore,» he said. «Our family's always been invested in seeing the sport grow. Obviously, you mentioned Bill and Rocky both playing leadership roles. I might get there eventually. But my style is probably to listen a little bit for a few years before I start to jump in the middle of it. But make no mistake, I will absolutely voice where I think things need to go. The league is sitting on a tremendous opportunity to grow — and I want to be a part of it.»

He is only 46 years old, and he takes over an original six franchise. Will his old money help him bring the league into the 21st century? As the owner of one of the league's most important franchises, he possesses tremendous influence, if he chooses to use it.

As Seen On: theathletic.com
October 3   |   134 answers
The new owner of the Blackhawks is expected to have a significant impact

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