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The Untold Story of The Chicago Blackhawks' Wirtz Family

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Breakaway reveals the untold story of the Wirtz Family, offering an insider's view of a family empire held tightly throughout one generation while suffering a loss of control through the next, documenting in gripping detail how that empire came together—fell apart—and came together again.
 

 
 The family in their Winnetka home (clockwise from the top of the stairs): Rocky, Gail, Peter, Bill, Joan, Alison, and Karey

The family in their Winnetka home (clockwise from the top of the stairs): Rocky, Gail, Peter, Bill, Joan, Alison, and Karey

 
 
 
 
 
 
 Seventeen-year-old Rocky and actor Hugh O’Brian (a close friend of Joan “Jo” and Bill Wirtz) stand on either side of Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, who holds an award presented to him by O’Brian.

Seventeen-year-old Rocky and actor Hugh O’Brian (a close friend of Joan “Jo” and Bill Wirtz) stand on either side of Blackhawks legend Bobby Hull, who holds an award presented to him by O’Brian.

 
 

When Rocky Wirtz took over the Wirtz Corporation in 2007, including management of the Chicago Blackhawks, the fiercely beloved hockey team had fallen into a humiliating nadir. As chronic losers playing to a deserted stadium, they were worse than bad–they were irrelevant.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Rocky’s success in turning around not only the Chicago Blackhawks, but also the family’s holdings in banking, real estate, wine, beer and liquor distribution was a dramatic shift but not without controversy. Behind the scenes, it would trigger a father, son and brother-against-sibling drama of Shakespearean proportions.
 

 
 Arthur, NHL president Clarence Campbell, and Jimmy Norris with the 1961 Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks championship run. It would be forty-nine years before the Blackhawks won another cup.

Arthur, NHL president Clarence Campbell, and Jimmy Norris with the 1961 Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks championship run. It would be forty-nine years before the Blackhawks won another cup.

 
 
 
 Arthur, chomping a hamburger, in the stands at the Chicago Stadium with partner Jimmy Norris.

Arthur, chomping a hamburger, in the stands at the Chicago Stadium with partner Jimmy Norris.

 

About the Author

Bryan Smith is a senior writer at Chicago magazine and a contributing editor for Men’s Health. He is a two-time winner and six-time finalist for the National City and Regional Magazine Association Writer of the Year award. His work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing, The Best American Newspaper Writing, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.