The Blackhawks continued their resurgence into existence in Chicago with a 6-1 spelunking of the Phoenix Coyotes Friday night, leaving coach Wayne Gretzky checking his watch and looking for all the world like he realized he forgot to lock the AmEx Black away before the road trip. Dustin Byfuglien (pronounced "AWE-sum") scored three goals before the ice was even scuffed in front of Nikolai Khabibulin's net.
Byfuglien, a defenseman, is so obscure that most sports sites don't have a head shot for the 2003 eighth round pick.
It's another mile post on the road to recovery for a franchise teetering on the edge of insignificance for nearly fifteen years, thanks to an ancient sports business approach provided by an ancient legacy hire, William Wirtz. Scion of the real estate mogul Arthur Wirtz, he took over the family business and made it wildly more profitable than ever before in every arena it entered (liquor distributorship, real estate, banking, insurance) except the NHL.
"Dollar Bill" Wirtz never seemed to apply basic notions of investment he insisted upon in his other business dealings to the Blackhawks, instead running the business underground by hiding home games from television and divesting almost all investment in players and marketing. Wirtz carried these old school mantras about sports business (damned players make too much, television is robbing us of ticket money, candle power was lighting the games just fine, and the players learned to skate around the wax, etc.) to his grave.
This left most Chicagoans believing the only hockey team in town was the AHL Chicago Wolves. The Wolves packaged themselves well, priced tickets reasonably, and put a quality product on the ice. They weren't brilliant, by any means; they just looked like it next to their NHL counterpart.
Since the passing of Bill Wirtz a few months ago, Rocky Wirtz took over the team from its caretaker (and his younger brother), Peter Wirtz. Existing hires from Pop's time were promoted out of danger; Peter's hires were undoubtedly put on notice at the same time.