Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz Passes Away

Rocky Wirtz passes away

It is with deep sadness that we share the sudden passing of W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz. Rocky, 70, passed away Wednesday at NorthShore Evanston Hospital following a brief illness. He was surrounded by his wife Marilyn and his children Danny, Hillary, Kendall, and Elizabeth. 

W. Rockwell (Rocky) Wirtz served as Chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks and President of Wirtz Corporation, where his role extended to a vast array of businesses from sports and entertainment to beverage distribution, real estate, and banking. 

Rocky was just 2 years old when his grandfather, Arthur Wirtz, purchased the Chicago Blackhawks in 1954, growing up within the storied walls of the Chicago Stadium. As Chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks, Rocky was an active member of the National Hockey League’s Executive and Audit/Finance Committees, and he proudly oversaw the team’s historic Stanley Cup championship victories in 2010, 2013, and 2015. 

Rocky led the family’s beverage business since 1980, and his strategic vision, commitment to investment, and time-honored focus on running a value-driven business helped the company expand throughout the U.S. In 2016, Rocky drove efforts to form a partnership with The Charmer Sunbelt Group, creating Breakthru Beverage Group, where he served as Co-Chairman. 

Recognizing his many contributions to the beverage industry, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America honored Rocky with a Lifetime Leadership Award in 2014. Wirtz Realty developed properties in Illinois for decades, and the company owns and manages over 20 commercial and residential properties along Chicago’s lakefront and throughout its suburbs. 

Rocky also oversaw Wirtz family banking interests in Chicago and Florida, as well their entertainment holdings, including the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Chicago Bulls. Rocky was Co-Chairman of both the United Center Joint Venture and the Executive Committee of the United Center. 


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocky and his partners transformed the building into a relief hub to support regional response efforts. The United Center has welcomed more than 65 million visitors since opening, hosts more than 200 events annually, and is slated to play host to the 2024 Democratic National Convention. 

Above all else, Rocky was most proud to lead his family’s commitment to numerous civic and charitable organizations. His dedication to the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation and its mission to create a healthier, smarter, more secure world for families in and around Chicago was unwavering. The foundation has donated millions of dollars to organizations focused on youth development, education, housing, and health and wellness. 

Rocky is survived by his wife Marilyn, and children Danny (Anne) Wirtz, Hillary Wirtz (Erin Quaglia), Kendall (Brendan) Murphy, and Elizabeth Queen (Joe Barley). Rocky was also the proud grandfather of six grandchildren. Rocky will be remembered by those that knew him for his sharp wit, enduring loyalty and his humility. He treated everyone he met with kindness and respect whether it was a fan at the United Center, a visiting dignitary, or one of the thousands of employees with whom he worked. 

Services have not yet been planned. 


“On behalf of the Distilled Spirits Council,, and our member companies, we are very saddened to hear of the loss of industry icon Rocky Wirtz. Rocky was a force in the spirits industry who was truly passionate about his business and his commitment to responsibility. Through his competitive spirit, business acumen, and strong leadership, Rocky helped to build many iconic spirits brands over the years and played an important role in the spirits industry’s success. We share our deep condolences with Danny and his entire family.  Rocky will be missed by all, but his larger-than- life legacy and significant contributions to the industry will never be forgotten,” Chris Swonger, President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council and, said. 

“Rocky Wirtz was a giant of this industry, and his sudden loss has been felt deeply by those who knew and worked with him over the years. While the company he built and loved is in excellent hands, everyone in the wine and spirits industry, from suppliers to retailers to his wholesaler colleagues, are in mourning tonight,” Francis Creighton, WSWA President and CEO, said. 

“Rocky was an inspiring leader and mentor to me from the moment I arrived at Breakthru. Throughout our time together, I sought his advice often and was always amazed at his insights and acumen. Even more importantly, I marveled at the respect he always showed everyone he came in contact with – he was a decent, values-driven, and family-led man as well as a titan of industry. I am honored to have known him and am a better leader and person for it,” Tom Bené, President and CEO of Breakthru Beverage, said.

“Rocky was much more than a colleague – he was a valued and cherished friend. He had the remarkable ability to light up a room with his smile, his laugh, and his wit. Whether as competitors or partners, I always had the utmost respect for Rocky and admired the grace and integrity in which he conducted himself. His loss will be felt throughout our business and I will miss my friend dearly,” Charlie Merinoff, Co-Chairman of Breakthru Beverage, said. 

“Our hearts are very heavy today,” said son Danny Wirtz. “Our dad was a passionate businessman committed to making Chicago a great place to live, work, and visit, but his true love was for his family and close friends. He was a loving father, a devoted husband to Marilyn, a brother, a nephew, an uncle, and a doting grandfather to his six remarkable grandchildren. His passing leaves a huge hole in the hearts of many and we will miss him terribly.” 


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