26 September 2007

Bill Wirtz, 1929 - 2007

When most news arrives, it is instantly good or bad. Some news, though, causes a flood of mixed feelings, even some feelings that shouldn’t really be had. The news of the passing this morning of Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz caused mixed emotions for many ardent Blackhawks fans.

My family was no exception. It has been a family tradition to not like Mr. Wirtz, going back to my grandfather who never forgave him for not keeping Bobby Hull. He swore that he’d never go to a game again until the “old man” was dead. My grandfather died long ago.

I attended my first Blackhawks game when I was in high school, when the ‘Hawks still played in the Stadium. I thought, once, about not going back to the rink until “the old man died,” too. But I never did see a hockey game with my grandfather or with my father, both men who loved the Blackhawks. Thankfully, I have seen a hockey game with my mom and my sister and her family. And we all love the Blackhawks, though we’ve never cared for the team’s ownership.

Bill Wirtz was such a divisive figure that many openly mused about his death and how they might celebrate. What great possibilities might befall the beleaguered Blackhawks if the “old man” were no longer in charge? Might we watch Blackhawks home games on television in Chicago? Might we keep players after they become great? Might someone drive a hard bargain other than Wirtz? Might the Blackhawks win a Cup, something they haven’t done since 1961?

But this morning, as I read the news on the official Blackhawks message board, most of the posts were from fans who, while they simply detested Mr. Wirtz, realized that his death meant a serious, grievous loss to some, to his family. And for the most part, the level of dislike for him (and dislike for anything tends to be amplified online) was pulled back, and folks expressed condolences for his family. As well we shall.

So a goodbye to Mr. Wirtz is in order. I didn’t know the man, and what I knew about him I didn’t really like. But that’s no reason to wish him or his ill. I hope that there are brighter days ahead for my favorite hockey team. I hope that the Wirtz family is able to find comfort during this difficult time. And I hope that Mr. Wirtz is resting peacefully. It’s something we each deserve when our time here is closed.

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