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Blackhawks broadcaster Pat Foley will step down after upcoming season

Foley’s contract expires at the end of next season, his 39th with the team.

In his final season with the Blackhawks, Pat Foley has called only five of the team’s 14 games and won’t be back on the mic until Nov. 28.
Pat Foley, left, will step down after his 39th season as Blackhawks play-by-play announcer and 14th with color commentator Eddie Olczyk, right.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

The 2021-22 season will be the last for Blackhawks broadcaster Pat Foley, the team announced Wednesday morning.

The Hall of Fame play-by-play man’s contract expires at the end of next season, his 39th with the team.

“Listening to the great Lloyd Pettit fostered a love for the Chicago Blackhawks and broadcasting at an early age,” Foley said in a statement. “To follow in his footsteps and broadcast for the team for nearly 40 years is a dream come true for a Chicago native.”

The Hawks said they are searching for a new play-by-play broadcaster. Foley will call part of the 2021-22 season on NBC Sports Chicago while grooming his chosen successor.

“I have had conversations with the Blackhawks about my future, and because I cannot guarantee that I would like to continue beyond the length of my contract that ends after next season, they must look ahead,” Foley added. “I support and respect their plan to transition the broadcast booth.”

“Pat Foley has been synonymous with Chicago Blackhawks hockey for well over a generation,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. “We are thankful for the memories Pat has created for our fans through the years and he will continue to be a part of the Blackhawks family. We are excited to begin this search for a new television play-by-play broadcaster who will create Blackhawks memories for the next generation of fans.”

Foley’s return to the Hawks’ broadcast booth in 2008 — after his initial run from 1980 to 2006 ended due to a strained relationship with management at the time — helped rejuvenate fan interest and support right before the Stanley Cup dynasty era.

Accompanied by color commentator Eddie Olczyk throughout his second tenure, Foley’s raspy voice, quick delivery, lighthearted style and banter with Olczyk have been signature sounds in Chicago households.

“Pat Foley is not just a legendary broadcaster and great partner in the booth, but I’m proud to say he is an even better friend,” Olczyk said in a statement. “Two Chicago guys calling Blackhawks hockey for the past 15 years has been a dream come true for me.”

Foley received Emmy awards for achievements in sports broadcasting in 1991, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a broadcaster in 2014.

But two missteps in recent seasons — a racially insensitive comment about Eisbaren Berlin forward Austin Ortega in September 2019 and a joke about suicide during the Hawks’ final game in May — landed Foley in hot water and required apologies on air.

The list of possible successors for Foley is lengthy but lacks a clear frontrunner.

The Hawks have rotated many people — including player development coach Kendall Coyne Schofield, studio analyst Patrick Sharp, radio color commentator Troy Murray and former Flyers analyst Colby Cohen — into the color commentator role recently (during Olczyk’s absences for national broadcasts), but none into the play-by-play role.

John Wiedeman, the Hawks’ radio play-by-play man on WGN since 2006, and Joseph Zakrzewski, the Rockford IceHogs’ radio play-by-play commentator, are two possible internal candidates. Judd Sirott, the Bruins’ radio play-by-play commentator and a former Hawks’ pre- and post-game radio host, also was mentioned frequently Wednesday.

NOTES: Alex Nylander has been unexpectedly ruled exempt from the NHL expansion draft, per CapFriendly, guaranteeing the Hawks will retain control of the restricted free agent and be able to protect another player in his place.

Nylander has been under NHL contract for three years. Only players in their first two years are generally exempt, but an exception was made because Nylander missed all of his third season with an injury.

—- The IceHogs re-signed goaltender Cale Morris, a rookie out of Notre Dame last season, to another AHL contract Wednesday.