Brian Hanley hadn’t been in the building that houses ESPN 1000 since the summer of 1980, when he interned for late Ch. 7 sportscaster Tim Weigel.
As an original member and longtime host on sports-talk rival The Score, Hanley had no reason to return until a couple of weeks ago, when he met with new ESPN market manager Mike Thomas about a potential opportunity.
‘‘I had no idea what specifically they wanted to talk about,’’ Hanley said. ‘‘They just wanted to know if I’d be willing to be part of what they have going on and the changes they’re making.’’
The first on-air change involves Hanley, who was cast aside by The Score in July 2018 in favor of David Haugh on its popular morning show with Mike Mulligan. Hanley had spent 26 years at the station, the last 11 doing morning drive.
Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Hanley will join Pat Boyle on the weekly ‘‘ESPN 1000 Hockey Show,’’ an hourlong program designed to give underserved Blackhawks fans a place to talk hockey.
Thomas had success with a hockey show on Saturday mornings in his last job as program director at The Sports Hub in hockey-crazed Boston, where he had been since 2009.
‘‘We’re still talking about it, but it’s going to be fan-driven to check the pulse of Hawks fans,’’ said Hanley, who covered the Hawks from 1993 to 2001 during a 27-year run at the Sun-Times. ‘‘We don’t want to take up the full hour with interviews, unless there’s news that needs to be responded to.’’
Hanley dealt with plenty of news during his time on the beat, which coincided with the end of the Hawks’ 28-year playoff streak and the beginning of their dark age. Jeremy Roenick was traded, Doug Gilmour was signed instead of Brett Hull and seven coaches came and went.
Eventually, people stopped paying attention.
‘‘Even when the Hawks were paying [for their games] to be on the radio at The Score, we were still told not to talk about them,’’ Hanley said. ‘‘And that’s a paying customer. But they kind of dug their own hole. That’s the spot they were in on the sports landscape.’’
Three Stanley Cups and 525 consecutive sellouts later, Hanley is looking forward to tapping into the rabid fan base of today with Boyle, who hosts the Hawks’ pregame and postgame shows on NBC Sports Chicago and is among David Kaplan’s rotating co-hosts on ESPN 1000’s ‘‘Kap & Co.’’
Hanley said he is excited to work with Boyle.
‘‘He’s got the hat trick,’’ Hanley said. ‘‘He’s got the great knowledge, the face for TV and the voice for radio, and I got none of them.’’
The initial plan for Hanley is to co-host the show, then stick around with Fred Huebner, another former Score guy, until noon. He also will fill in elsewhere when needed.
For many, it’ll be great to hear Hanley’s voice again. His last show on The Score was a tearjerker, but for reasons that flew in the face of ratings, management decided to break up a good thing.
‘‘I’d never been fired for anything in my life before, so it was odd,’’ Hanley said.
Perhaps The Score will hear from him again. What if ESPN 1000 finally untied itself from ESPN Radio’s national ‘‘Golic and Wingo’’ morning show, and in walked Hanley as the host of a local morning show? That might give ‘‘Mully and Haugh,’’ which hasn’t missed a beat and regularly crushes ‘‘Golic and Wingo,’’ a run for its money.
But that’s for another day, if it happens at all. Besides, Hanley has no animosity toward his former station.
‘‘I don’t begrudge anybody over there,’’ he said. ‘‘It was a hell of a run. I still have plenty of friends in that building, and they seem to be doing well.
‘‘Hopefully, we’ll be doing a bit better eventually.’’