Famed Blackhawks owner Wirtz honored at funeral

Updated: October 1, 2007, 6:30 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- William Wirtz was as well known as the Blackhawks, and the famed owner was remembered as one of the towering figures in Chicago's sports history.

"He was a giant among men," said boxing promoter Don King, who knew Wirtz from fights at old Chicago Stadium. "He represented the liveliness of the city."

Hundreds of mourners from the world of hockey and sports gathered Monday for funeral services for Wirtz, 77, who died Wednesday of cancer.

Befitting Wirtz's place in Chicago's sports landscape, those in attendance included Blackhawks greats such as Stan Mikita and Chris Chelios, as well as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch.

"I came here as a young boy, to Chicago, and to be fathered and grandfathered by Mr. Wirtz was a privilege," said Darryl Sutter, a former Blackhawks player and coach and one of several former players who recalled Wirtz's role as a father figure.

Wirtz, long known for his tightfisted negotiations with big-name players, earning him the nickname "Dollar Bill," and his refusal to televise Blackhawks home games, was remembered for his generosity, devotion to his family and sense of humor.

Dale Tallon, general manager of the Blackhawks, recalled fond memories of Wirtz's fun-loving attitude. One year, during a Christmas party at the United Center, Santa failed to show up on time. When Tallon's daughter asked Wirtz where Santa was, Wirtz told her, "Santa just got pulled over on Madison for speeding."

Wirtz is survived by his wife Alice, five children and seven grandchildren.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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