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posted: 7/11/2014 5:00 AM

No one gets it done like Rocky Wirtz

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  • Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz has rebuilt a franchise that was once rated the worst in all sports and made it one of the best today.

      Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz has rebuilt a franchise that was once rated the worst in all sports and made it one of the best today.
    Associated Press/file

 
By Mike North
The Rebel Inside

A little more than a decade ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were rated the worst franchise in all of sports by ESPN, and it didn't surprise anyone in Chicago.

The magic and history of the once-proud Original Six franchise was gone.

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When the Blackhawks were discussed on the radio, it was usually something negative. It wasn't about the team itself, but more about the business of the team.

In 1992, the Hawks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals but were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0. There could have been more runs at the Cup, but then-owner William Wirtz was a "my way or the highway" guy so great players such as Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick were let go.

Well, all of that is ancient history now because owner Rocky Wirtz and his people on Madison Street have done an amazing turnaround that would be difficult to match in any sport.

The long tenure of his father gave Mr. Wirtz plenty of schooling about what to do -- and more important what not to do -- to make a franchise successful.

Since Rocky's takeover, there haven't been many wrong moves -- from the genius signings of Chicago guy John McDonough (now president and CEO), Stan Bowman (now vice president and general manager) andScotty Bowman (the team's senior advisor of Hockey Operations).

I must admit I was wrong about the Bowman hirings. At the time, I thought GM Dale Tallon was doing a great job especially after drafting future stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

And speaking of our two stars, it was refreshing to hear that these two athletes realize the tremendous good luck and fortune they have to be a part of with the Hawks.

Kane, who had a couple of off-ice skirmishes early in his career, has become a model citizen, along with the Captain Towes, "Big Game Johnny."

Unlike some free agents in sports, these guys get it and believe their $84 million contract extensions are enough.

I was interesting to see how ESPN carried the news on their crawl the other day while talking about Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers, who at 23 has done a little something but won a whole lot of nothing. According to Stephenson, $44 million for five years isn't enough in the NBA.

Toews and Kane aren't the only players to sign contracts right away. Guys such as San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan and Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors and others have signed without much fan fare.

To me, the Hawks' dynamic duo signings are as big as the next one for LeBron James. They have the same resume as James -- two titles with more to follow.

The Hawks are now one of the best franchises in sports, and it's all due to the leadership of Rocky Wirtz, McDonough and head coach Joel Quenneville.

I liked Rocky the first time I met him, and he appreciates Chicago as a great town with great fans. A decade ago, I never thought I would say that the Hawks have great ownership and structure.

Expect more Cups to follow.

Program notes:

Follow me on Twitter@ north2north, and listen to Fox Sports Daybreak with Andy Furman and myself from 5-8 a.m. Monday through Friday on Fox Sports radio, and check me out on iHeart radio or Foxsportsradio.com.

• Mike North's column appears each Tuesday and Friday in the Daily Herald, and his video commentary can be found Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at dailyherald.com. For more, visit northtonorth.com.

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