He never wants to be the story, yet Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz understands he is still selling the product. And because of that personal touch, the Blackhawks are relevant again.
Wirtz is happy to talk to the media as easily as he will take a prospective sponsor to dinner. Before the Blackhawks set out to play Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Nashville Predators, Wirtz stopped by the NBC Chicago studios for a little Q & A:
Q: "Last year you were happy to be back in the playoffs, this year the Blackhawks are one of the favorites, is it fair to put that kind of pressure on this team so quick?"
Wirtz: "I was just in Las Vegas for a business convention and the Hawks and Washington Capitals are favored to win, I think 6:1 odds... They're not unreasonable expectations, there is certainly something we have as a good a chance as anyone. I'd rather be a favorite than be the underdog and say you have no chance. You can win races that way, but I'd rather be in the front than in the back."
Q: Your biggest players are on 5 year contracts, is that the business plan that you want to see a Cup back in Chicago?
Wirtz: We want to win the Stanley Cup. I'm not going to promise when but we want to do it sometime before I retire. It would be great to do it in a five year period, I'm not sure when. You see Carolina won four years ago and they didn't make the playoffs this year. We don't want to be a flash in the pan."
Q: Does the United Center atmosphere feel different now?
Wirtz: "It does, we want to foster an atmosphere that everyone through the turn style is having a really good time... it's a fun environment we're lucky to have two teams in the playoffs and that's good. The Blackhawks can't do any better by the Bulls doing any worse or vice versa, we share the building with them they're our co-tenants and we want the whole place to be a magical place that everyone enjoys themselves."
Q: What have you learned in your job the past year?
Wirtz: When the Hawks were going through the down turn, you have to trust the coaching staff, trust the organization and what you really saw was no one point fingers, everyone worked a little harder, the players all worked together. You sit back and let it happen and not worry about the short term stuff."
Q: Will you be growing a playoff beard, a "Q" mustache, or a "Kaner mullet"?
Wirtz: "I promise you its not going to be the mullet, the mustache I don't think so if I let the beard grow a day it drives me nuts. I think I'll act the way I do every day and hope for the best."
Q: You've always stayed out of the locker room, if there is a champagne celebration will you be in there?
Wirtz: "That's the only time I would go in the locker room. If we win the big enchilada, I promise you I'll be in there."