That’s the way it used to go with this organ-I-zation. No great player who wanted to get paid market value at the peak of his skills would remain a Hawk. That’s the way the penurious owner decided things should be done, and those things were carried out by Bob Pulford, the exchequer of his loser fiefdom.
Wirtz didn’t want to win. It was too expensive. Then players really wanted to get paid. Losing in the finals was perfect for Wirtz. Getting close meant not getting out the wallet.
Wirtz learned this from his father, the man who started the exodus of great talent because of money back when he let Bobby Hull skate to the World Hockey Association in 1972.
Bill Wirtz left his skid mark on a wonderful 1990s team by moving out Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios and Eddie Belfour -- a 50-goal scorer, a Hall-of-Fame defenseman and a Hall-of-Fame goalie. Chelios and Belfour went to the Red Wings and Stars, respectively, and won Stanley Cups.
What’s more, Wirtz refused to sign free agent Brett Hull because -- wait for it -- he wanted too much money, so Hull signed with the Stars and scored the Cup-winning goal.
It became so cheap and stupid on West Madison Street, in fact, that Wirtz and Pulford dumped announcer Pat Foley, who became a Hall-of-Famer a few weeks ago.
For those of you new to the Hawks bandwagon, you could stand a bit of history. You could stand a bit of realization that Toews might’ve already found his way home to Winnipeg, which is where you’d give Canada an enema. You could stand another layer of appreciation that Kane might’ve already found his way home to Buffalo, also known as America’s Winnipeg.
They could’ve been elsewhere. They would’ve been elsewhere under previous stewardship. They wouldn’t be Hawks, that’s for sure.
But Wednesday, Toews and Kane signed eight-year deals – their second long-term deals – for Rocky Wirtz’s team. That was unimaginable before Bill Wirtz died in 2007. But since his son took over, it’s no longer a miracle that the Hawks keep their home-grown talent and demand banners.
“When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization,’’ Wirtz said in a statement. “There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.’’
Truth is, there isn’t a greater example of that than Rocky himself, and here’s why:
Rocky Hockey became televised home games.
Rocky Hockey became general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville.
Rocky Hockey became two Stanley Cups in four seasons.
And now Rocky Hockey assures that the team’s two most dynamic players will stick around into their 30s.
That still doesn’t guarantee another Stanley Cup. The Hawks have work to do. They didn’t reach their “One Goal,’’ so the season was a failure.
The Kings’ size and talent down the middle killed the Hawks in the Western Conference finals, and the Kings aren’t going anywhere. The Hawks must do more than bring in aging Brad Richards as a supposed second-line center after the Kings destroyed him in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Hawks also have to force Quenneville to play and trust some of the kids, especially Teuvo Teravainen and Jeremy Morin, to minimize the salary-cap issue that becomes greater when the Toews and Kane deals kick in next season.
The Hawks must see Nick Leddy become a top-four defenseman for the same salary-cap reasons because it appears that Johnny Oduya or Brent Seabrook will have to be traded from the blue line, and Patrick Sharp could go for the same financial reasons.
But the task becomes easier when your most dynamic players are locked in for eight years in their mid-20s because your dynamic owner wants to win and wants to spend every dollar he can to make that happen.