What did the Blackhawks want to be? Like the Yankees? The Patriots? And how could they get there?
"We decided that for once we'd have the hockey people talking to the business people," he said. "I know it sounds simple. But when I grew up around the game, that didn't happen. On the liquor side of our business, we had operations talking to the sales people. I spent my whole business career that way. So it was just natural to apply it to hockey."
Wirtz said he wanted to bring sound judgment to decisions, to take the emotion out of the hockey discussions so as not to second-guess.
But this week Wirtz put emotion back into it. He chartered a plane and flew 188 people from Chicago to see Game 6 in Boston. The players' wives, their girlfriends, parents, grandparents. He paid for it out of his own pocket.
If you saw the game on television, you saw many of those families on the ice afterward. Maybe you thought about your own family and Blackhawks hockey and special times with those you love. I did.
"I spent these years setting up a system where I wouldn't let emotion get in the way of judgment for this hockey team," he said. "And then they scored the tying goal and the winner and I realized we're going to win the fricking cup again, my eyes started welling up. Tears were coming down. I guess I allowed myself to feel it then. The reality of it is the complete opposite of sorrow. It was euphoria."
That night, he was in Boston's TD Garden and I was at home on the phone with my Uncle Bill up in Ontario. We spent a half-hour breaking down the key plays of the game.
"You know something?" said Uncle Bill. "You haven't talked hockey with me for years."
I told Wirtz about that. He sat back, closed his eyes for a bit, then smiled.
"Say hi to your uncle from the Blackhawks," he said.