Chris Vosters emerges as leading candidate to replace Pat Foley in Blackhawks’ TV booth

Nothing is finalized, but the Hawks would like to be able to reach an agreement with their new regular voice and allow for a passing of the torch.

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Chris Vosters called Blackhawks games with Eddie Olczyk earlier this season.

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It will be a long time before we know who’s playing for the Blackhawks next season. But we’re getting closer to knowing who will broadcast for them.

At the Hawks’ town-hall event Feb. 2, president of business operations Jaime Faulkner said the team was close to naming a successor to Hall of Famer Pat Foley, whose contract is expiring after the season. In the month since then, we’ve been able to narrow the field.

Of the seven who have filled in for Foley, the top four candidates are Mike Monaco, Stephen Nelson, Jason Ross Jr. and Chris Vosters. Though Monaco has become known in Chicago for his fill-in work with the White Sox, Bulls and Hawks, he would be tough to nab because of his commitments at ESPN, where his star is on the rise. The Hawks like his work, but he might not work out.

That would leave Nelson, Ross and Vosters, who will have the most TV appearances of the fill-ins through March, barring any changes. Vosters is scheduled for his seventh game March 31. Nelson’s games March 10 and 12 will give him five. Ross will stay with four, but he’s scheduled for five games on radio this month in place of John Wiedeman.

Of those three, it’s clear that Vosters has emerged as the leading candidate. Ross could end up spelling Wiedeman on radio and filling in for Vosters if he has a conflict. Nothing is finalized, but the Hawks would like to be able to reach an agreement with their new regular voice and allow for a passing of the torch.

Vosters would be a great choice. In just six games, he has shown noticeable improvement. My biggest criticism of him early on was he lacked a strong goal call. That has changed. He has good energy and a smooth delivery, doesn’t appear to get rattled and creates a good rapport with his analyst. And let’s be honest: Who wouldn’t want to look like him?

Vosters has extensive play-by-play experience, calling several sports for Big Ten Network, Fox Sports, ESPN, NBC Sports and Stadium. He has worked at three Olympics, including the last one, where he called hockey. That gives him a sizable edge over Nelson, who has been solid in his appearances but is best-known for hosting “Intentional Talk” on MLB Network. He has called games on MLB and NHL Network.

Ross has wowed not just the Hawks, but BTN and ESPN, for whom he has freelanced. His baritone voice belies his age (23), and it’s obvious the Hawks are looking to get much younger with their broadcast teams. Plus, he’s the first Black TV play-by-play broadcaster in franchise history. His hiring would go a long way as the Hawks work to repair their image from a tumultuous season.

With Vosters and Ross in place, the next spot to examine is TV analyst. Eddie Olczyk’s contract also expires after the season, and other analyst jobs around the NHL will be open. The Hawks always have accommodated Olczyk’s national TV work, and his presence on that stage is a good look for them. But if they’re committed to a youth movement – they’ve given analyst Colby Cohen a lot of face time in the booth, and Caley Chelios has more games scheduled – it’d be tough for fans to lose Foley and Olczyk.

The Hawks have 22 broadcasts left this season on NBC Sports Chicago. (Somehow, they still have five national appearances, too.) Those should be dedicated to honoring Foley and his 39 seasons. The promised seasonlong celebration of him has yet to begin. But little has gone according to plan this season, and that’s just rotten timing.

But for Vosters and Ross, their timing couldn’t have been better.

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