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Sam Elias, who brought WhirlyBall to Chicago, has died at 59

He died of cancer at home in Northbrook while listening to his favorite music — the Grateful Dead. He got hooked on WhirlyBall after his wife took him to play for his 30th birthday.

Sam Elias, founder and CEO of WhirlyBall’s Chicago-area locations, seen in 2005 at the Vernon Hills WhirlyBall.
Sam Elias, founder and CEO of WhirlyBall’s Chicago-area locations, seen in 2005 at the Vernon Hills WhirlyBall.
Paul Valade | Daily Herald

As Sam Elias lay in his hospital bed receiving treatment, two doctors asked about the WhirlyBall shirt he was wearing.

Well, they were told, he was the founder and chief executive officer of WhirlyBall’s three Chicago-area locations and two more in Milwaukee and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“The two doctors absolutely lit up,” said Sam Elias’ son Adam Elias, who since 2013 has worked with his father as WhirlyBall’s vice president.

Mr. Elias, 59, died from cancer Sept. 4 at his Northbrook home.

“All the way up through his last days, people were still telling him how much fun they had at the concept he brought to Chicago,” said his son, who helped engineer the relocation of the Chicago-area flagship from Lombard to Naperville last November.

Like the other locations, it combines a restaurant and bar with the crazy concoction that is WhirlyBall — imagine a combination of basketball, lacrosse and hockey played while careening around a rink in bumper cars.

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