To many fans, Blackhawks TV voice Pat Foley’s last season hasn’t gone as expected
The yearlong celebration has been muted, and his portion of games has been small. There are reasons for both, but with three months left, Foley belongs behind the mic.
Pat Foley’s final season in the Blackhawks’ TV booth hasn’t gone as fans expected.
The Hawks announced in June that the season would include a ‘‘yearlong celebration’’ and that Foley would work ‘‘a portion’’ of the schedule while grooming his successor. But all fans have seen to celebrate him are some clips of famous calls on the pregame show, and his portion of games has been smaller than they hoped.
The celebration has been muted by the sexual-assault case that rocked the organization at the start of the season. Celebrating anything during the investigation and fallout wouldn’t have been appropriate. The surge of COVID-19 cases this winter added more complications.
But Foley’s diminished visibility in his farewell season has led to fans expressing their frustration on social media. Foley will call only his 20th game Friday, when the Hawks host the Avalanche. It’s NBC Sports Chicago’s 37th broadcast; ESPN or TNT aired seven others.
Foley figures to have a similar schedule in the second half of the season, but that’s partly by his choice. He and the Hawks have mapped out a schedule with his preferences, some of which have been affected by travel restrictions. You can’t blame Foley for not wanting to be confined to a hotel room when he isn’t at the arena.
Fans also haven’t been happy about the revolving door of announcers. The lack of consistency can make it hard for viewers to enjoy the broadcasts. The situation was exacerbated around the holidays, when a rash of positive COVID tests among the fill-ins wreaked havoc with the schedule.
Foley was supposed to have had three more games in the booth, but they were among the six the NHL postponed. It points to the Hawks not being in complete control of their plans. They don’t want to confuse fans, but this has been a tricky season to navigate.
You could argue that’s partly their doing. The Hawks have auditioned seven broadcasters. (If you’re keeping score at home, Chris Vosters has the most appearances with five.) And there are other ways to audition. The announcers and analysts on NFL broadcasts generally audition by calling a recorded game in a studio. By industry standards, the Hawks’ process is unique.
As far as where all this is leading, the Hawks are still unsure. Everything remains on the table, including having two play-by-play voices and maybe even two announcing teams. There’s no timetable for a decision on personnel or structure, but expect the matter to be addressed when the Hawks host a town-hall-style meeting next week.
Rest assured, the Hawks will celebrate Foley. Pat Foley Night is in the works for April 14. And fans hopefully will be able to relive more of his famous calls during NBCSCH broadcasts.
The kid in me who learned hockey from Foley can’t comprehend there’s three months left in his career. You can’t tell me he couldn’t call games for another five to 10 years. But here we are.
The Hawks don’t figure to make a playoff push. Down the stretch, Foley likely will be the primary reason to watch them. Because of that, he belongs behind the mic as often as possible.
Analyst Eddie Olczyk is expected to rejoin Pat Foley in the Hawks’ booth Friday. Olczyk left the broadcast Saturday in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the second intermission and went to a hospital after becoming ill. His son Nick moved over from radio for the third period and called the game Monday in Denver.
• Former Hawks wing Patrick Sharp will join Colby Cohen and host Pat Boyle for NBCSCH’s studio shows Friday. For the game Monday against the Canucks, Sharp will analyze the action from between the benches as part of the broadcast with Foley and Olczyk.