How late Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz helped Michael Jordan become an NHL owner

Scott King
NBC Sports Chicago

After Michael Jordan retired from the NBA in January of 1999, he was ready to dabble in another sport, and not baseball again.

Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski about the time Jordan had a lengthy interview with the board of governors executive committee, in which late Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz was a member of, to become the newest owner of an NHL franchise at a Palm Beach resort in December of 2000.

"I remember being at The Breakers with Billy Wirtz and Michael Jordan. It was crowded. Hundreds of people stopped what they were doing and turned to see Michael walking through the hotel in a suit," Leonsis said. "I could have been naked, on fire and with an ax in the middle of my head, and no one would have noticed. Everyone was just staring at Michael."

The executive committee's approval is the first step needed toward getting the green light from the NHL's full board of governors. The executive committee was compromised of the NHL's most influential owners. 

At the time, Wirtz had some of the most influence among team owners. 

"When we went into the board meeting, Billy was effusive in his praise, talking about Michael Jordan being the epitome of success and competitiveness. How he felt Michael being around hockey, and coming to some games, would be a fantastic benefit to the league," Leonsis said. "Billy was star-struck, and just had so much respect for Michael and what he had done with the Bulls."

Jordan got a unanimous recommendation from the executive committee and the full board of governors approved him a month later. 

"His Airness" served as a minority owner of the Capitals from 2000-2001.

When MJ announced his return to the NBA with the Washington Wizards on Sept. 25, 2001, he had to sell back his stake in the Caps. 

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How late Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz helped Michael Jordan become an NHL owner originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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