Glenview, Ill. – “I can’t swing. My eyes are watering.”
“I know. Me too. I can hit my seven iron 100 yards, maybe.”
Pat Foley and Dan Roan are sharing some laughs at The Glen Club as both get ready to retire after nearly four decades as Chicago broadcasters.
Foley will ring down the curtain on his 39-year run as the voice of the Blackhawks Thursday night, when San Jose takes the ice at the United Cener.
“Strange. It’s been a little melancholy for sure. It’s been a great ride. I got into this job hoping I could make a living and have fun. Both those things have happened. I’m just a lucky guy. I’m a Glenview kid that’s been sitting at that mic for parts of five decades. You’re shaking your head. I’m kind of shaking my head, too. It doesn’t seem like that, but that’s what it is.”
In an era of cookie-cutter broadcasters, Foley’s voice and style will never be mistaken for any other.
“Bannerman did it again!”
The trademarks, the excitement, the dramatics – they all place Pat Foley on the Mount Rushmore of Chicago broadcasting. Oddly enough, it began when Pat was 10-years-old, visiting Cubs announcer Jack Quinlan in the Wrigley Field radio booth.
“My dad was on the radio between innings that day to make his pitch for Foley Buick, which was a sponsor of Cubs baseball. So he does his thing.
“The GN guy, when he’s done says, ‘Oh that’s great Mr. Foley. We’ll take you back to your seat.’ Jack Quinlan says, ‘Bob if you’d like to go, go ahead. Leave him here.’
“He points at me because I’d asked him a question or two between innings. He could tell I was just into it. I sat the whole afternoon in Jack Quinlan’s radio booth. That’s the day when the seed got planted.”
It was further nurtured at Michigan State, where Foley called Spartans hockey, baseball and basketball games before a short stint with the IHL’s Grand Rapids Owls in the late ’70s. Then in 1980, when the Blackhawks had no radio announcer and no radio affiliate to start the season, Foley got a call from Chicago.
“‘Mr. Wirtz would like you to come to the game tonight. Can you make it?'”
“‘Oh yeah. I think I can make it.'”
“I go down and sit in his box. Between periods I get taken back to his Sonja Henie Room and Mr. Walters, who owned the station, was in there. We made a deal right then. They offered me the job and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to say, ‘Oh yeah. I’ll be happy to take that job.'”
Except for a two-year disagreement with the front office in the mid 2000s, he’s been with the Blackhawks ever since.
Foley has spent the great majority of his time working alongside either Dale Tallon or Eddie Olczyk and Hawks fans have reaped the benefit.
“For me, the biggest thing was how much those guys taught me about hockey. I’ve watched a lot of games, but the little nuances that they pick up looking at the game as a scout or as a coach – those are really educational not only for me, but the audience. I’ve learned so much about the game from them. That’s what I’m so grateful for, in addition to – they’re a ton of fun, man.”
You can’t talk with Pat Foley for long without the word ‘fun’ coming up. He was central to the greatest era in franchise history that was more fun than Foley ever expected to have as a broadcaster.
“I never thought I would see the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime. I really didn’t. If you go back to the 80s, we had some great, great teams – teams that were good enough to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, you’d win two rounds and then you’d play the Edmonton Oilers in the semis with seven or eight Hall of Famers and you know, ‘Thanks for coming.'”
The Blackhawks’ transformation arrived and three Stanley Cup followed. Foley had a front row seat for it all.
“The Hawks were unbelievable with me. They said, ‘Look it, you’re a part of us. You want to come with us to the road games and the Finals? You’re on the plane. Come with us.’ Being a part of that was incredibly special. Standing on a stage in Grant Park and looking as far as the eye can see is red, white and black – I mean it’s mind-boggling.”
Not a bad way to describe Pat Foley’s career. Rarely, do you see a play-by-play man spend parts of five decades, essentially with one franchise. It’s less and less likely that we’ll see it happen again.
Pat will saddle up one more time Thursday night alongside his pal Edzo. The Hawks will pay him homage in the pregame, then it’s over with one basic plan in mind.
“What’s your thing gonna be?”
“Doing whatever the heck I want. I’m not a hard guy to figure out. I’m a fun-seeker. There’s all different kinds of fun to have.”