About Last Night...and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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About Last Night…and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

What was that?

It’s a question I’m still trying to figure out this morning after the display we saw from Blackhawks Owner and Chairman Rocky Wirtz at the team’s Town Hall event last night prior to the game against the Minnesota Wild. It was an event that could have been about the team moving forward and restoring faith in the organization’s direction. It was an event that did exactly the opposite.

•   If you have not seen it, here is the exchange between Rocky Wirtz and The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus after he directed a question to Danny Wirtz about what the team is doing to make sure what happened to Kyle Beach in 2010 can’t happen again. Following that is the exchange between Wirtz and Chicago Tribune’s Phil Thompson after he brings up the organization’s previous words about being transparent and open in the process moving forward.

•   Just absolutely insane levels of defensiveness and tone-deaf responses from Wirtz. To call what happened to Kyle Beach, the investigations and lawsuits against the team “Old Business” is disgusting and a slap in the face to Beach, the fanbase, and those affected by sexual assault in any capacity. It reeks of a rich man, who had to pay money when he didn’t want to, to someone he didn’t and doesn’t care about.

•   Following the outburst, Wirtz released a statement and “apology.”

•   He doesn’t even have the courtesy to apologize in his half-assed statement to Mark and Phil by name. Nor did he have the courtesy to reach out to either of them directly…

•   “In an email forwarded by Jaime Faulkner…” Un. Real.

•   To the credit of the Wirtz family who were in attendance of the event last night, for as bad as Rocky was, Danny appeared to be on damage control immediately after.

•   Mark Lazerus has been around the team long enough to know a lot about what Rocky has done for the team and the community. He’s seen a lot of different sides of Wirtz over the years. Last night was the worst of them. I implore you to read his work following the exchange between him and Wirtz last night.

•   For as much as we talk about “hockey culture” as a whole, Wirtz’ attitude of “We’re not going to talk about that anymore,” (with the “that” being the biggest scandal to hit the Blackhawks in their entire history) is now clearly the biggest issue with the culture of hockey the Blackhawks want to operate under. Basically, “I paid the settlement, now I shouldn’t have to hear about this any more.”

•   Following the event, the Blackhawks and Wild played on TNT. In the first intermission, the studio team of Liam McHugh, Anson Carter, Rick Tocchet, and Wayne Gretzky talked about the town hall fiasco. You can see the full segment here:

•   Good on them for holding Wirtz and the team culpable for the absolute BS that was the event and the outburst. When Wayne Gretzky is scolding your organization on national TV, you’ve got problems.

•   A point the TNT crew made about Wirtz and Lazerus having a history of being at odds with one another is probably misguided, though. But, the crew at The Athletic were some of the best and most thorough in reporting on the investigation and allegations against the team, so it’s likely that Wirtz knew who he was talking to and what he was doing with his reaction to Lazerus.

•   This has made the rounds of the hockey world, as it should have. This is going to be the focus of the Blackhawks now heading into the NHL All-Star break. Calls for Wirtz to step down or sell the team have already been made. Season-ticket holders have dropped their tickets following his actions and I’m not sure how many fans who were on the fence about the team in the first place were pushed over the edge by what Rocky had to say and not say last night. We’re back to square one with the team trying to make amends. I don’t know how they move forward from this, on top of what they were already trying to move froward from.

•   Other news that happened before the Wirtz outburst included some clarity on what happened with Pat Foley and his broadcast schedule this season:

•   Jaime Faulkner was one of the bright spots of the event. She and Danny Wirtz should have been the ones doing all of the talking last night. When it came to the team’s increased involvement in youth hockey, Faulkner mentioned working to change hockey culture starting at the youth levels. (Good luck with that now)

•   This was the opening of the event from Danny Wirtz. It’s not going to get any easier any time soon.

•   There was a game last night after all of this. Many of you didn’t stick around to watch it and I don’t blame you. You didn’t miss much.

•   Chicago was whumped by the Wild, 5-0. They have lost three games to Minnesota in the past two weeks by a combined score of 14-3. They have also lost seven of their last eight games now heading into the NHL All-Star break.

•   Marc-André Fleury was pulled from the game in the third period. He slammed his stick on the goalpost before heading off the ice, down the tunnel, slamming his stick more, and not returning to the bench before the end of the game. If there was ever a series of events that would lead to Fleury wanting out of Chicago, all of what happened last night should be it.

•   Fleury deserves so much better than what the Blackhawks can offer him on and off the ice.

•   Following the game, Phil Thompson asked Seth Jones about the Town Hall event and if the team had seen or heard anything about it and had any thoughts on it. It’s not his words I care about, it’s his body language.

•   My guess is Seth and the team saw or heard about the exchange involving Rocky Wirtz and knew they would have to answer for it in some manner. Having to do so after a terrible 5-0 loss just compounds the situation.

•   Chicago is now 16-23-7, or 16-30 through 46 games this season. Derek King is 15-14-5, or 15-19 as interim head coach. While something might have to change in his approach, it’s become crystal clear that there won’t be hockey played at the United Center beyond April 29.

•   Chicago is off until February 9, when they travel to Edmonton to face the Oilers in their first game after the NHL All-Star break. We all need a break right now.

•   In Olympics news, the U.S. Women got in the win column this morning!

https://twitter.com/Mario_Tirabassi/status/1489242692701798407?s=20&t=2djqD29ipHfyQUUgVYHagA

•   Blackhawks development coach and U.S. Captain Kendal Coyne-Schofield netted a pair of goals to help Team USA top Finland 5-2 in their opening game of the 2022 tournament.

https://twitter.com/peacockTV/status/1489256099962241025?s=20&t=2djqD29ipHfyQUUgVYHagA

•   It wasn’t without a tough loss though as Brianna Decker left the game on a stretcher in the first period due to a lower body injury and shortly after the game, was announced out for the rest of the tournament.

•   It’s a rough spot for the U.S. squad not only to lose such an important player like Decker, but also for the fact that the team did not bring any reserve players with them. So already the team is flirting with playing short-handed.

•   On the Men’s side, Team USA and Blackhawks prospect Drew Commesso made their way to Beijing yesterday.

https://twitter.com/Mario_Tirabassi/status/1489019827381485571?s=20&t=LP-rG1fAYWMyEQZ_Dium4w

•   The U.S. Men play their first game of the tournament on Thursday, February 10 against host nation China.

•   In non-Blackhawks GM searching news, the Anaheim Ducks are set to hire Pat Verbeek as their next GM.

•   That will do it for today. I hope you all enjoy your Thursday!

•   *sigh*



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.