Legendary Chicago Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley called his final game of his career on Thursday night, ending a 39-year career by one of the greatest broadcasters, not only of Chicago, but of all time.
It’s surreal to imagine life without Pat Foley behind the Blackhawks mic. He was there in 1980, when Stan Mikita’s number was risen to the rafters. He was there during those heartbreak years of the 90’s, when the Hawks felt ever-so-close to reaching the holy grail behind the likes of Roenick, Belfour, Larmer, Amonte, and Chelios. He was there during the “dark ages,” when the Hawks were a perennial laughing stock with no end in sight; and he was there when they rose from the ashes of oblivion into one of the greatest eras of Blackhawks history. He was not only the voice of the Chicago Blackhawks, he was the rock, through good times and bad.
To say the organization has had a lot of missteps this year would be an understatement, but in the case of honoring Foley last night, they nailed it. Joined by his family, including his mother Mary, Foley was honored with a pre-game on-ice celebration of his hall-of-fame career. He was met by raucous applause by the crowd and a video which highlighted the greatest moments of his career, from his many classic calls (BAAANNNNEEERRRMANNN!!) to his 2015 Stanley Cup parade speech. Humble as ever, Foley credited his father and mother for all of his success.
Pat Foley addressing the United Center crowd:
"If I leave you, it doesn't mean I love you any less." pic.twitter.com/nHowyUb166
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) April 15, 2022
“The only thing that’s not perfect about tonight is that the greatest man that I have ever known is not here,” said Foley. “I love saying that Bob Foley got me this job, but it was Mary Foley who made sure I was ready when I got it.”
“I always say I’m the luckiest guy in the room, and tonight is no exception. It’s been a great ride. This career has exceeded my wildest hopes. Those dreams that began as a ten-year-old have been eclipsed ten-fold.”
In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, the night was in danger of being spoiled by the visitors. The Hawks appeared as if they would never snap out of their current funk before their season concluded, but the hockey gods — and Patrick Kane — had other plans.
After blocking a shot from the point, Kane ignited a 3-on-1 rush with Strome and Debrincat, finishing with a quick tap-in for the opening score. It was one of many highlights Kane would have in the game, including a half-spin-o-rama that provided Foley an opening for one last classic line. As Sharks defenseman Jaycob Megna completely lost his skates trying to cover Kane on the play, Foley replied, “”I think there’s a little underwear laying around in the San Jose end of the ice.”
Pat Foley: "I think there's a little underwear laying around in the San Jose end of the ice." pic.twitter.com/rw8NNkh34f
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) April 15, 2022
For Foley’s final call, the game itself could not have been more perfect: a back-and-forth affair between two competitive teams, with many big saves and highlight reel goals. The Sharks not only tied the game twice through the first thirty-eight minutes, but also rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third to force overtime; as if the hockey gods did not want to let Foley go just yet.
On any other night, a blown two-goal lead would have been infuriating. On this night, it ended up being serendipitous. After Alex Debrincat scored what would be the game-winning goal in the shootout, goalie Kevin Lankinen would provide the penultimate moment for the legendary broadcaster to shine:
DeBrincat gets the goal. Lankinen gets the stop. Blackhawks get the win ❤️ pic.twitter.com/39eAQwWuJc
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) April 15, 2022
Quite simply, it would have been a travesty for this game to end any other way than it did, with Foley exclaiming, “Hawks win! Hawks win!” In a dismal year of Blackhawks hockey — both on and off the ice — it was a moment Hawks fans desperately needed. Somewhere between the pure elation and the bittersweet realization of Foley’s final call, capping off a year that was as tumultuous for an organization as it ever could be, Blackhawks fans were once again able to rely on the rock they had leaned on during the best and worst of times, one last time.
There are a minority of fans — and I stress, minority — who have said that Foley lost a step over the years; that his play-calling wasn’t as sharp as it once had been. Even on his worst off-days, there was absolutely nobody better than Pat Foley. His cadence, his infectious laughter, his pure enthusiasm and knowledge of the game was surpassed by no one. Quite simply, what made him eternally great was that he was just another fan, who just so happened to have the mic in his hands. He loved the sport. He loved the Blackhawks. He loved the fans; and he exuded that in every single broadcast during his 39-year career.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) April 15, 2022
It’s unfathomable that Blackhawks hockey will exist without Pat Foley, but as hard as it is to see him go, there is a modicum of solace in the fact that he received both the recognition and the send-off he so rightfully deserved. His Hall-of-Fame legacy is solidified all the more with the class, humility, and honesty with which he carried himself. Although Blackhawks hockey may never be the same without him, he will always and unequivocally be a legend in Blackhawks hockey.
At the end of it all, with the Blackhawks staying on-ice after a 5-4 win to join the fans in one final “toast” to him, Foley truly went out on top. We not only enjoyed the broadcast; we were honored to witness his outcome.
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