With all the stories that have been written about the renaissance of the Blackhawks, one thing that doesn't get discussed much is Pat Foley's return to this team and chronicling its amazing transformation.
Could you imagine the Stanley Cup run in 2010 without Pat Foley or the record setting start to this season without him? Well, it could have happened.
Back in 2004 you could hear the disappointment and frustration of where this franchise was in Pat's voice as he called the games. You understood it, because Foley was speaking for Blackhawks fans everywhere as he watched this original six franchise flat lining, with no signs of being resuscitated. Thus, it wasn't a huge shock when Pat and the team parted ways in 2006.
We all know the story of how Rocky Wirtz changed the course of this franchise and the critical role John McDonough played in the transformation. John sought to bring back people who were part of the rich history of the franchise. McDonough told me about the emotional conversations he had with Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito, but when I asked him who was the most difficult person to smooth things over with and welcome back to the family, John said without hesitation, "Pat Foley was the toughest".
It took a few conversations for McDonough to convince Foley that things were going to dramatically change. Pat decided to put the clubs in the trunk and use the mulligan McDonough had offered him.
You could hear the rebirth of the franchise in Foley's voice when he returned to the booth in 2008. During breaks in the action he would tell stories of walking around the Blackhawks headquarters seeing people working in offices that were closets for promotional giveaways under the previous regime. The United Center was packed like the 'Old Stadium' used to be and "Madhouse" had reclaimed its original meaning for Pat.
Foley was back and so was his beloved team.
[RELATED: Comcast SportsNet to celebrate "PAT FOLEY NIGHT," honoring 30 Seasons of excellence from the Blackhawks play-by-play legend (Fri, Apr. 19)]
In this day where there's a myriad of channels and hundreds of sports options, most play by play announcers seem to come from a cookie cutter mold, manufactured in Syracuse.
Such is not the case with Pat Foley, he is an original and the ultimate story teller. Whether it's an odd man rush, a regrettable trip to a Mexican restaurant by the training staff or a member of the military being honored at the United Center, Pat delivers the story as if he were sitting next to you at your favorite neighborhood tavern. He delivers it with passion and if it needs a punch line or laugh you'll get one. There is also a compassionate side of Foley, like last week when he interviewed a teen battling Leukemia during an intermission. Foley was so impressed with the boy that he invited him to watch the rest of the game from the TV booth.
How much of an impact has Pat made with Chicago fans? A few years ago, I was getting set to tee off at a Wilmette club, when a guy came running out of the clubhouse….. "Pat, Pat, can I get your autograph?" As he got closer to the tee box he began to realize the Pat from Comcast Sportsnet that someone mentioned in the pro shop was Boyle and not the great Pat Foley. I can still remember the look on the his face, it was like Edzo said "Stop it right there!" and the "Price is Right" losing horn went off.
I get asked all the time, "What is Pat Foley like?" and while my answer may sound generic, I feel it's the ultimate compliment. He is just like the guy you hear on TV calling the game. He is the same person. He doesn't become broadcaster guy when the lights go on or script a cliche' phrase for an important moment in the game and he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with other Chicago legends like Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray.
So on Pat Foley night this Friday, tip your favorite cold beverage in “salute” to this legendary broadcaster and be thankful that after Pat is honored, we will be lucky enough to hear him call another game!