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William W. "Bill" Wirtz

BIRTHPLACE: Chicago, Ill.

BORN: October 5, 1929

DIED: September 26, 2007

TEAMS/ASSOCIATIONS: Chicago Blackhawks



When the Wirtz family purchased the Chicago Blackhawks in 1954, they became a part of the team with a unique American heritage in professional hockey. The 1938 edition of the club won the Stanley Cup and produced six members of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame: Mike Karakas, Cully Dahlstrom, Doc Romnes, Virgil Johnson, Vic Heyliger, and Coach Bill Stewart.

Bill assumed that proud tradition when he became team president in 1967, taking over this active role from his father Arthur, who went on to become Chairman of the Board. He had taken an active part in hockey and the Blackhawks since his graduation from Brown University in 1950. As president, Bill found himself more and more involved in the daily operations of the game. But Bill’s interest in the game goes far beyond the natural concerns for his own team. As Chairman of the National Hockey League Board of Governors, he spent many long hours dealing with hockey problems on the league level. As Chairman, he dealt with such matters as player negotiations, expansion, and the myriad of problems that developed on the international hockey front.

His fellow owners elected him to nine terms as Chairman over an 18-year period. He also worked tirelessly on the operation of their home ice at Chicago Stadium — improving the facility over his tenure with such additions as air conditioning, new seating, comfort facilities, and expanded parking.

Bill later served as a member of the 1980 and 1984 United States Olympic Ice Hockey Committees. He was also very proud when the Blackhawks signed Ed Olczyk, a 1984 Olympic team member and Chicago native, to a professional contract — making him their first selection in the 1984 entry draft.

Along with his father and brother, Michael, Bill was also very active in harness racing both as a breeder and in the racing end of the sport. One of their greatest breeding accomplishments was the development of Governor Skipper, which was named pacer of the year in 1977.

Wirtz was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1976 and was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey.