The Blackhawks defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-4 Thursday night at the United Center, but the real star of the game was seated in the broadcast booth.
Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer Pat Foley called his final game Thursday night, capping off a career that spanned more than four decades, including 39 seasons with the Blackhawks. The franchise and its fans came prepared to celebrate the 69-year-old suburban Chicago native.
Fans chanted Foley’s name during a pregame ceremony on the ice and the team played highlights of his career during the contest.
Foley began calling Blackhawks games in the 1980-81 season. Being a major-league announcer was the fulfillment of a childhood dream. After a 10-year-old Foley had the chance to sit with famed Cubs announcer Jack Quinlan in the booth at Wrigley, he went home that day and knew what he wanted to be when he grew up, he recalled in a video posted on Twitter.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Foley said after Thursday’s game.
The team has announced that Chris Vosters will take over as the team’s TV play-by-play voice next year.
Foley’s first stint with the Blackhawks ended in 2006. He returned two years later to work alongside analyst Eddie Olczyk, who has remained Foley’s broadcast partner since 2008.
Foley was in the booth when the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cup Championships between 2010 and 2015.
“Thanks for being the soundtrack to my career,” forward Patrick Kane said in a Twitter video.
Known for his signature excitement, Foley said in a video that his voice climbing octaves in big moments is an audience service of sorts.
“A lot of people I think watch the games and might not have a great understanding of everything that’s going on; I’m trying to help them with that,” he said.
But over the years, Foley has also made controversial on-air comments, as the Tribune reports. Last year, the team and Foley both issued apologies after Foley made a remark that “trivialized mental health and suicide while discussing the challenges and the loneliness the team may have faced during COVID-19 restrictions.” A couple years earlier, Foley made a racially insensitive comment during a broadcast. He later apologized.
After the work was done for the “voice of the Blackhawks” on Thursday and he’d been given the chance to say his “favorite words: Blackhawks win” one more time, the attention turned to the booth.
Olczyk handed Foley a beer, put his arm around him and offered a toast: “39 years of cheer to the great Pat Foley.”
“It’s hard to know what to say other than ‘thank you,’ ” Foley said, sporting a suit and red tie. “I’m the lucky one here. I always have said that I’m the luckiest person in the building and it’s true tonight. I appreciate all of you for your support and appreciate you being Blackhawks fans and now I’m one of you. I’ll be watching these games like you will.”
Courtney Kueppers is a digital producer/reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @cmkueppers.