Some 1,600 miles away from home, Danny Wirtz watches as the Chicago Blackhawks go through practice. As self-described hockey geek, he's savoring every second inside the NHL's Edmonton bubble.
"It is absolutely a surreal experience, it’s an exciting experience, and like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life," Wirtz said. "It has a little element of a college campus, camp, a hockey tournament all in one, and meanwhile I’m trying to learn the organization."
As a fourth-generation leader with the Hawks, the organization is embedded in Wirtz's DNA, and that deep connection to the team is fueling him as he tackles the role of interim president during such a unique time.
"While it’s challenging and at times difficult, it’s also really exhilarating," said Wirtz. "I really relish the opportunity to represent our family and really steward this organization through this moment, and hopefully build for the future, as well."
Since replacing John McDonough in late April, Wirtz says he's spent a lot of time getting his arms around the Hawks financial situation, which he admits has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
"This is still a business, and it always has been, and because of that, you have to make some really tough choices," Wirtz explained. "Hopefully, we can find some new, innovative ways to enhance our business model, find new ways to generate revenue as an organization, and there’s a lot of value that, still, I think is untapped within the Blackhawks that we can explore. So I remain optimistic."
Wirtz may eventually drop the interim tag and become the Hawks permanent president, but he says right now, nobody's ready to make that decision. One decision that has been made, though?
Despite inconsistency on the ice, the team's head coach, Jeremy Colliton, and its general manager, Stan Bowman, aren't going anywhere.
"I’m very confident that Jeremy’s work with this team, and Stan’s work with the overall hockey operation system needs to continue to keep moving and generate that success that we expect," Wirtz said.
The 43 year-old leaves all the hockey decision making to Bowman, but says he likes the Hawks combination of emerging young players and accomplished veterans. He's hopeful an unexpected playoff run is on the way for the organization he loves and now runs.
"For me, it’s just pure pride and deep responsibility on behalf of the family – and a tremendous amount of excitement," said Wirtz. "I love this sport, I love the Blackhawks, it’s in my blood, it’s in our family’s blood, so this is a tremendous opportunity."