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Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz dead at 70

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CHICAGO (AP) — Rocky Wirtz, who won three Stanley Cup titles as owner of the Chicago Blackhawks and presided over the team during one of the NHL’s biggest scandals, has died. He was 70.

The Blackhawks said in a release that Wirtz died on Tuesday, calling it a “sudden passing.” No further details were provided.

“Our hearts are very heavy today,” Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz, Rocky’s son, said on Twitter. “Our dad was a passionate businessman committed to making Chicago a great place to live, work and visit, but his true love was for his family and close friends. … His passing leaves a huge hole in the hearts of many and we will miss him terribly.”

Rocky Wirtz was 2 years old when his grandfather, Arthur Wirtz, purchased the Blackhawks in 1954. Rocky Wirtz took over the team after his father, William, died in September 2007.

William Wirtz was nicknamed “Dollar Bill” for his frugality when it came to acquiring the services of the game’s best players. And the team struggled, making only one playoff appearance from 1998-2008.

Everything changed when Rocky Wirtz became the team chairman. He helped re-establish the franchise’s connection to some of its best players from the past. He put the team’s games back on local TV, and the Blackhawks had a lengthy sellout streak that ended in 2021.

“The National Hockey League family is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of W. Rockwell ‘Rocky’ Wirtz,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a release. “Devoted to family and the Chicago Blackhawks, Rocky was a native son of Chicago and an accomplished businessman. Rocky took over control of the Blackhawks in 2007 and almost immediately restored the passion and following of this storied, Original Six franchise.”

With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane leading the way, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The team also made it to the 2014 Western Conference Final, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in seven games.

With the Blackhawks’ success on and off the ice, Wirtz became a beloved figure in his native Chicago. He also was lauded by the NHL for his leadership.

Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and baseball’s White Sox, called Wirtz a great man.

“We were far more than partners at the United Center. We were very close; he was a dear friend and our trust, our bond, was unbreakable,” Reinsdorf said in a release. “We never had a disagreement or argument during all of our many years together.

“Everyone liked Rocky. He was smart, passionate, generous, personable and friendly. He cared deeply about the Blackhawks, the people who worked for the team and at the United Center, Blackhawks fans and the city of Chicago.”

However, Wirtz’s tenure as owner was forever tarnished by the organization’s response when a player said he was sexually assaulted by an assistant coach during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title.

A review by an outside law firm, commissioned by the team in response to two lawsuits and released in October 2021, found that the franchise badly mishandled Kyle Beach’s allegations that he was assaulted by then-video coach Brad Aldrich.

The investigation by Jenner & Block found no evidence that either Rocky or Danny Wirtz was aware of the allegations before Beach’s lawsuit was brought to their attention ahead of its filing.

The Blackhawks reached a confidential settlement with Beach. Aldrich told investigators for the team’s report that his encounter with the player was consensual.

A second suit filed by a former high school student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan was quietly dismissed “by stipulation or agreement.”

The NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response,” and longtime general manager Stan Bowman resigned. Rocky Wirtz also successfully petitioned the Hockey Hall of Fame to have Aldrich’s name removed from the Stanley Cup.

At a town hall in February 2022, Wirtz angrily rejected any conversation connected to the franchise’s response to Beach’s allegations. Wirtz apologized for his remarks that same night.

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Juan Brunetta has a goal and an assist to lead Liga MX All-Stars over MLS All-Stars 4-1

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Juan Brunetta and Maximiliano Meza scored a minute apart in the second half, and Mexico’s Liga MX All-Stars beat the Major League Soccer All-Stars 4-1 in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday night.

Brunetta (Tigres) scored in transition in the 68th minute to make it 3-1 and set up Meza (Monterrey) soon after in front of a record crowd of 20,931 at Lower.com Field.

It was the first MLS All-Star Game victory for Liga MX in three tries. The MLS All-Stars won in 2022 and won on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw a year earlier.

“It was an incredible game,” Liga MX coach Andre Jardine said. “There were a lot of high-level players. It was a tight game. Both teams definitely came out to play. In the second half they came out with a lot of great names as well. I was a bit surprised. It was a bit difficult, especially in the first 15 minutes, but we had to adjust and ultimately it was a great game.”

There were plenty of big names on the field, but the absence of the brightest and biggest one took some luster out of the event. The league announced Monday that Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi was unable to play because of ligament damage in his right ankle.

The 2022 World Cup champion was injured while playing for Argentina in its victory over Colombia in the Copa America final on July 14.

Fans cheered when Columbus forwards combined to tie the match 1-all in the 17th minute, about a minute after Germán Berterame (Monterrey) scored for Mexico on a header.

From the left flank, Diego Rossi found Crew teammate Cucho Hernandez racing unmarked down the middle of the box for the equalizer.

“Unbelievable for me to score in front of my home fans,” Hernandez said.

Oussama Idrissi (Pachuca) made it 2-1 in the 41st with a strike from the top of the penalty area.

MLS had two chances to tie it in the 63rd when Riqui Puig (Los Angeles Galaxy) hit the crossbar and on the follow, Luca Orellano (Cincinnati) was denied on a goal-line clearance by Unai Bilbao (Tijuana).

Minutes later, Liga MX put the game out of reach.

MLS recognized the revival of the Columbus market by awarding it the All-Star Game. The Crew, a 1996 charter member, were threatened in the fall of 2017 with relocation to Austin, Texas, by then-owner Anthony Precourt.

A grassroots movement called Save the Crew drew international attention and helped persuade Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam to buy the team and keep it in Columbus.

The Crew won the MLS Cup in 2020 and 2023, reached the final of the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup and opened Lower.com Field in 2021, where there have been 28 straight sellouts for MLS matches.

“It shows everyone the courage of the owner,” Crew and MLS All-Stars coach Wilfried Nancy said. “Listen, this is a representation of what Columbus is and the passion for the soccer.”

The All-Star squad had five Crew players. Hernandez and Rossi were joined by midfielder Darlington Nagbe and defenders Rudy Camacho and Steven Moreira.

UP NEXT

MLS and Liga MX continue the rivalry with the start of the Leagues Cup on Friday All 47 teams will compete in a World Cup-style format, with the championship match on Aug. 25. There will be 77 matches in the United States and Canada. Inter Miami is the defending Leagues Cup champion.

___

AP soccer:

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Chelsea salvages 2-2 tie with Wrexham in friendly at Levi’s Stadium

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Lesley Ugochukwu scored in the 82nd minute to help Chelsea salvage a 2-2 tie with Wrexham in a friendly match Wednesday night at Levi’s Stadium.

Ugochukwu rolled a shot from the middle of the box through traffic into the right corner.

Wrexham took a 2-1 lead when Jack Marriot scored on a counterattack in the 72nd minute.

Luke Bolton also scored for Wrexham, the Welsh team co-owned by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds that was promoted this year to the third tier of English soccer.

Christopher Nkunku scored first for Chelsea in the perennial Premier League power’s first pre-season match and its first under manager, Enzo Maresca, the former Leicester City manager.

Nkunku fired a shot from the middle of the box into the left corner of the net past goalie Arthur Okonkwo in the 35th minute off an assist from Marc Guiu after a corner kick.

Wrexham tied it in the 58th minute when Bolton scored from the right wing off an assist from Sebastian Revan, who connected with Bolton on a crossing pass.

Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez blocked a breakaway shot from James McLean in the 29th minute.

Chelsea beat Wrexham 5-0 in a friendly last season.

UP NEXT

Wrexham: Visits the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

Chelsea: Plays the Celtic on Saturday at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

AP soccer:

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Preseason Opener: Enzo Maresca’s Chelsea Takes on Wrexham

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Welcome to the first match of the summer, the first preseason game, and the first chance to see Enzo Maresca’s Chelsea in action. While the main focus today is on fitness, this game will undoubtedly spark analysis and excitement among fans.

Football, sort of, is back! Let’s see how the teams line up for this highly anticipated friendly.

Chelsea Starting XI:

  • Sánchez
  • James (c)
  • Tosin
  • Badiashile
  • Colwill
  • Lavia
  • Chukwuemeka
  • Nkunku
  • Madueke
  • Guiu
  • George

Substitutes:

  • Beach
  • Bergström
  • W. Fofana
  • Veiga
  • Acheampong
  • Gusto
  • Chilwell
  • Santos
  • Ugochukwu
  • Sterling
  • Ângelo
  • Broja

Wrexham Starting XI:

  • Okonkwo
  • Cleworth
  • Brunt
  • O’Connor
  • Bolton
  • Jones
  • Dobson
  • Lee
  • Revan
  • Palmer
  • McClean (c)

Substitutes:

  • Howard
  • Burton
  • Boyle
  • Barnett
  • James
  • Forde
  • Evans
  • Ashfield
  • Cannon
  • Davies
  • Bickerstaff
  • Waters
  • Dalby
  • Marriott

Match Details:

  • Date / Time: Wednesday, July 24, 7pm PDT; 3am BST (next day); 7:30am IST (next day)
  • Venue: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA, USA
  • On TV: ESPN (USA); none (UK); elsewhere
  • Streaming: ESPN+ (USA); Chelsea TV (int’l pay-per-view)

Both teams will be eager to test their tactics and players ahead of the upcoming season. Chelsea fans are particularly excited to see how new manager Enzo Maresca will shape the team, while Wrexham supporters are keen to see their team perform against top-tier opposition.

Let’s see how the starting formation and tactics unfold as we get a first glimpse of what’s to come this season. Stay tuned for an exciting game!ea

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