On Wednesday morning, the Blackhawks announced that the 2021-22 NHL season will be the final one for play-by-play announcer Pat Foley.
It’ll be his 39th season as the voice of the Blackhawks, dating back to 1980. He’s been in that spot ever since, save for a brief stint with the Chicago Wolves towards the end of the 2000s. In the earlier stages of his career, Foley’s voice was the singular accompaniment of Blackhawks hockey, with his signature call on both the television and radio broadcasts.
Through a team statement, Foley reflected on his stint with the team:
“Listening to the great Lloyd Pettit fostered a love for the Chicago Blackhawks and broadcasting at an early age. To follow in his footsteps and broadcast for the team for nearly 40 years is a dream come true for a Chicago native. Any kid who eats, sleeps and breathes sports, grows up wanting to play for their hometown team. Thankfully for me, I realized early on that my playing career wouldn’t last beyond intramurals and that broadcasting was the next best thing to staying around the game. I have had conversations with the Blackhawks about my future, and because I cannot guarantee that I would like to continue beyond the length of my contract that ends after next season, they must look ahead. I support and respect their plan to transition the broadcast booth and I’m thankful to the Wirtz family and the Blackhawks for this opportunity.”
Team chairman Rocky Wirtz added his own thoughts in the same team statement:
“Pat Foley has been synonymous with Chicago Blackhawks hockey for well over a generation. We are thankful for the memories Pat has created for our fans through the years and he will continue to be a part of the Blackhawks family. We are excited to begin this search for a new television play-by-play broadcaster who will create Blackhawks memories for the next generation of fans.”
Foley has received a slew of awards, including an Emmy in 1991 for “Outstanding Achievement-Sports Program Live Series,” another Emmy in 2009 for “Outstanding Achievement for Individual Excellence On Camera: Programming” and three more in 2012, 2014 and 2015 for “Outstanding Achievement for Sports Programs - Sporting Event/Game - Live/Unedited Program/Special.” In 2014, Foley was tabbed for the Hockey Hall of Fame Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for his contributions to the game as a broadcaster.
While the accolades certainly don’t hurt, the true legacy of Foley is how much his voice and his signature calls are intertwined with the history of the Blackhawks, to the point that it’s impossible to fully separate the two.
For the older fans, it’s the BAAAAAAAAANNNNNNEEEEEERRRMAN calls:
For those newer to the fan base, this call of a Jonathan Toews OT goal against the Blues in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs stands out:
There are countless calls in between those two, an endless series of moments that will never leave the minds of Blackhawks fans — and Foley’s voice will never leave those calls.
While he never stepped on the ice, Foley has his place cemented in the organization’s history — a “titan,” as he was described in the team statement. He was the conduit between the game and the fans, providing commentary you could “see” even though it was being transmitted through radio waves. It’s hard to overstate how complicated it can be to broadcast the same game for both radio and television as Foley did for so long, but he did it effortlessly.
For the final generation of sports fans who grew up with this technology, Foley’s voice was the one emanating from the radio smuggled into childhood bedrooms as a game from the west coast continued well past the bedtime of a young Blackhawks fan — a constant that could be replied upon even as the team faded into anonymity during its worst stretch. That The decision to go in a different direction from Foley in the mid-2000s was met with nearly universal derision in the fan base and the opposite reaction came when Foley was welcomed back a few years later as the team started its memorable run in the 2010s — indicative of how beloved a figure Foley was and is.
Here’s hoping that Foley’s final season on the call will be another one worth remembering, too.