CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks would probably have understood if Pat Foley had opted to take Sunday night off from announcing.
It is only once in a career you’re inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and you probably want to be well rested for it.
Foley wasn’t having it, though. He called the Blackhawks’ 6-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday evening and then planned to set his alarm for 4:45 a.m. to fly to Toronto for an afternoon ceremony to be honored with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, which recognizes radio and television broadcaster who have made “outstanding contributions to their profession and the game.”
“No, I have a game to do,” Foley said prior to Sunday’s game. “There’s no chance I was going to miss this."
Part of Foley’s dedication comes from the fact he doesn’t view what he does as a job. He’s the hometown kid who’s living out his dream. He grew up in Glenview, Ill., and began wanting to be a announcer after getting the opportunity to join Jack Quinlan and Jack Brickhouse in the Chicago Cubs’ broadcasting booth as a kid. Now at 59, Foley is in his 32nd season doing play-by-play for the Blackhawks.
“That’s the thing, said this a lot, but I do think I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Foley said. “When I first had this idea about trying to form a career, you’d never bet you’d work in your hometown. This is a transient business. Most folks change jobs a couple of times, and I did, but I stayed at home and I’m really proud of that. Happy to have my family share in some of the residuals. It’s been beyond dreamlike. It’s been incredibly cool.”
Foley attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., and Michigan State University before beginning his career as an announcer for the Grand Rapids Owls in the International Hockey League in 1977. He was hired in 1981 by the Blackhawks and spent 25 years with them until being fired in 2006. He spent two seasons with the Chicago Wolves before rejoining the Blackhawks after the passing of chairman Bill Wirtz.
Foley and the Blackhawks made sure they were right for each other again before he came back.
“I had to know things were different,” Foley said. “From the outside looking in, I had that sense. John McDonough came to my house three times. He had some questions for me and I had some for him. Those were interesting meetings, but he’s lived up to everything he said he was going to do. The experience in my return here has been beyond cool. They’ve been so good to me and incredibly good to my family, which means all.”
Even if Foley’s career didn’t play out like it had for him, he’s confident he would be somewhere in the world announcing hockey.
“When I was a young guy, I thought, ‘What if it doesn’t work? What if you don’t get a break? What if nobody likes you?’” Foley said. “But I was going to find a way to make this a profession. To me, even back then I said to myself, ‘You know what? If I wind up on a bus for years following the Toledo Goaldiggers around, I’d be fine with that.’ I like the job. I like the challenge of trying to describe the fastest game in the world and so it was going to work out, one way or another. I didn’t know where, but the fact that it’s here is unbelievable.”
Eddie Olczyk, who shares the television booth with Foley, couldn’t be happier to see his broadcast partner being recognized.
"It's long overdue," Olczyk said. “Glad the committee recognized his influence in hockey and how he's been a voice not only of the Blackhawks, but of hockey in general for 30-plus years. He's always been a Hall of Famer in my eyes.
“I think a lot of people who are hockey fans and Blackhawks fans relate Pat to Blackhawks hockey. It doesn't get better than that. When you can be aligned and get the award from Foster Hewitt, arguably the most renowned and recognized broadcaster of all time, I couldn't be happier for him and his family.”