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There won’t be another one like Pat Foley

Some final thoughts after Foley’s final broadcast.

San Jose Sharks v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

No one holds jobs for nearly four decades anymore.

It’s true in virtually every job industry that exists in this world but it is most true in the harsh, cutthroat, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of professional sports.

Yet, somehow, Pat Foley racked up THIRTY-NINE seasons as the Chicago Blackhawks broadcaster. He held down one of the most prestigious jobs in one of the most competitive industries in the world for longer than the majority of people reading this story have been alive.

For reasons like that — among a mountain of others — there will never be another announcer quite like Pat Foley.

Mil said this a few times during our last podcast and in Thursday’s game recap, but the simplest way to understand why Foley is so beloved is the common bond he shared with every Blackhawks fan listening to his broadcast: Pat was one of us. Still is, too. He grew up in Glenview, in Chicago’s northern suburbs and was a lifelong Blackhawks fan who just happened to end up as the team’s broadcaster. The emotions in his voice that rose and sank with the action on the ice were indicative of his deep passion for this team. Those things cannot be faked. Those feelings that cannot be forced if they aren’t there because they’ll come across as insincere.

Ain’t a thing insincere about Foley’s joy in these moments:

And there’s no mistaking his disdain in this moment:

Or in this one from just three nights ago:

(We’ll skip the obvious one here out of respect for the deceased.)

Take those calls and spread them across four decades and it’s easy to understand how Foley became so universally beloved across the Blackhawks fan base: his words matched our feelings.

It’s not an easy line to walk, either. Lean too far into those emotions and the broadcast will sound more like the delusions of that grumpy old bastard yelling at the TV while sitting at the end of the bar by himself for reasons obvious to everyone but him. Move too far in the opposite direction and the broadcast feels stale, more like a national broadcast instead of its more regional focus. But Foley masterfully tiptoed that line for four decades.

Yeah, there was a two-year gap where Foley was with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, but that may be an even more of an argument in Foley’s favor. He was removed from his role as the team’s play-by-play voice in 2006, 26 years after he started in that position. Two years later, they brought him back. How many times has that happened in professional sports?

It feels like broadcasters of Foley’s mold are being phased out of sports, too. Even for regional broadcasts, it feels like there’s been a movement away from the raw emotion of broadcasters like Foley in favor of a more polished, corporate feel that’s less prone to angry outbursts when the home team is turning in an effort worthy of lambasting. And that’s why the headline at the top of this article feels so accurate: this style of broadcasting feels like it’s on its way out the door every time someone like Foley hangs it up for good. It feels like another stab at the heart and soul of the kinds of things that make us fall in love with sports in the first place.

I don’t know Blackhawks hockey without Pat Foley calling it and I’m well into my third decade on this orbiting rock of a planet. It’s unfathomable that Foely won’t be calling the next game, or any other game in the future. Denial’s going to run this space until — at least — the start of the next season arrives and it still may take another 20 or 30 games before the realization hits that it’s all over, that we’ll never get that experience again.

But we got to experience it, didn’t we? For longer than any of us would’ve guessed. It doesn’t matter when this end would’ve come, it was going to feel premature because it’s virtually impossible to identify the right time to move on from a legend.

If there’s any solace to reach for, it’s that the Blackhawks were able to gather themselves just enough to send Foley out a winner, so that we got to hear those two words one final time:

It was an amazing run, Pat. Hawks games won’t sound the same again.

Thanks for everything.