CHICAGO | Just to assure his department heads haven’t established independent duchies in the office, Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz confirmed he has the final say if ticket holders see a cost hike.
“Every time we have a price increase we take it very seriously,” Wirtz said at the Hawks Convention on Friday “(Ticket director) Chris Werner looks at every seat, every location, every row and every section, and (we) don’t treat them all the same. We don’t arbitrarily say we want to have a 2 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent increase. We look at it very, very carefully.
“It does,” he said of the Hawk’s buck stopping at his desk. “I kid about it to Chris Werner. He signs the letter (to ticket holders), but ultimately it’s my responsibility.”
If the Hawks add future Stanley Cups to their summertime awards haul, it will be Wirtz’s responsibility, too. Although he has delegated day-to-day management of the team to president John McDonough, and in turn general manager Stan Bowman and executive vice president Jay Blunk, Wirtz must use his ownership power and wallet to prevent management from going off course.
“You can make sure we don’t allow our emotions to control our better judgments,” Wirtz said. “It’s one of the few businesses you can read about every day. Everyone has an opinion, but it doesn’t make it right.
“I can make sure the system we have in place that we follow and don’t get off-track. I can do that and give them support – obviously financial support and support to do the right stuff.”
Wirtz cannot spend any amount he pleases due to the NHL’s hard salary cap. That’s why his organization has charted a course to inject new blood – and thus payroll control -- every season.
“It’s player development,” he said. “We’ll say it before and we’ll say it again. To be good consistently every year, you have to bring in younger players all the time that want to take those jobs.
“We have five or six or seven (younger) players knocking on the door. Probably, on 15 of the 30 teams, they’d have been playing last year.
“It’s really spending the money wisely. You don’t have to spend it on players, you spend it on developing players. One thing is to say it, another thing is to do it."
Wirtz liked the way coach Joel Quenneville, now signed through 2017, handled the roster, particularly in the lockout-shortened season.
“He has a good feel for the players,” Wrtz said of his coach. “But he doesn’t have to be buddy-buddy with them. This year showed he knew they were going to come in shape. He gave time off. They were productive on the ice. He has fast workouts for that half-hour, 40 minutes. And school them accordingly, but doesn’t over-coach them.”
Wirtz won’t rest on the laurels of the Hawks’ increased popularity after two titles. Even though he has no more tickets to peddle at a sold-out United Center, he realizes his staff still has work to do in solidifying the Hawks’ hold in the market.
“It’s building the fan base,” he said. “It’s entertaining our fans. Our job is from the moment they leave their car to the moment they get back into it, we give them good entertainment. It just happens to be sports entertainment.
“Our players have been very, very good in doing the connection. They had a long season and (most) volunteered to come into (to Hawks Convention) on a short summer schedule.”