Everything Else

My Ode To Pat Foley

As we enter the doldrums here is summer, we’re going to be doing a lot of different things to try and entertain you. One will be sharing some of my favorite things from program-version of The Indian. This is my editorial from April 19th on Pat Foley’s 30th Anniversary.

It’s Pat Foley Night here at the UC. 30 years behind the mic doing the Hawks. If you’re like me, that just makes you feel fucking old.

If you’ve been a reader of this bathroom periodical for any length of time, you know I’ve never been shy from taking my shots at Foley and his recent work. He’s too buddy-buddy with Edzo. He misses players’ names all the time. He tells stories for far too long that actually block up the action. He has vendettas against players, just like Olczyk, for reasons we can’t understand.

I know a lot of you agree with some if not all of these points. But you also probably have the conflicting emotions when you do, just like I do.

Maybe it’s the standard we hold Foley to. Because there’s no question he’s still a Chicago sports icon. And he should be. Maybe all great sports announcers fade with time. Harry Caray was un-listenable at the end. Pat Summerall couldn’t talk. Ernie Harwell could be a tough listen at the end at times, in the brief chances I got to hear him. Except for Vin Scully obviously, who I’m more and more convinced just isn’t from this planet (sidenote: if the Kings and Ducks are going to play at Dodger Stadium next year, can Scully call it? Nothing should take place ever at Dodger Stadium without Scully calling it. Heaven has to be Scully narrating your daily routine).

But let’s take a step back from our complaints about what Foley is now and look at what he is. He’s living out pretty much every Hawks fans’ dream. He grew up here. He was as avid a Hawks fan as you or I were when we were kids. He huddled over the radio listening to Lloyd Petit, probably in his room when he should have been doing homework like we should have been. And he got to become the Hawks broadcaster. He got to occupy the seat he dreamed of getting. How many of us would have loved to do that? He got to do that at 26. Where were you when you were 26? I was fucking up all over the place in LA.
Go and watch the video on the Hawks site of Foley’s great calls. Then think about your favorite Hawks memories from the 80s and 90s. Are they the same if you try and remove Foley’s call from them? No, of course they aren’t.

Do the chills still run down your spine when watching Roenick’s OT winner in ‘94 against the Leafs without Foley yelling, “HAWKS WIN! HAWKS WIN!”? It’s just not the same moment without it. Does it stick in your memory if he doesn’t illustrate just how bonkers the Stadium was going one last time? “THE OLD GRANDLADY OF WEST MADISON!” It’s almost as important as the goal.

What are your other memories that weren’t on the video? I have a couple. Game 1 against the Avalanche in ‘96. Our cable went out that night, and we only had the radio simulcast to go on. But I still remember standing in the kitchen when Roenick buried a power play goal and got that “HAWKS WIN! HAWKS WIN!” I didn’t need anything else.

The other is Brent Sutter’s winning goal in Game 4 against the Wings in 1992 in the dying minutes to complete that sweep. Foley’s voice when Sutter scored was the perfect complement to the sheer tumult and anarchy the Stadium crowd was at that moment. You almost didn’t need to be there if you had that radio call. Even though it was silent in our apartment then, to me it was rocking just as much as 1800 W. Madison was.
And that’s the thing about Foley. In many of the same ways that Vin Scully is synonymous with Dodger Stadium, no announcer fit in better with his home arena than Foley did with the Old Stadium.

That dump on Madison; it was danger. It was anarchy. It was metal. It was all those things and so many more.

And Foley’s voice…it’s the Stadium too. It’s the voice of someone who closed down his share of bars, could pierce through all the cigarette smoke that filled that building without choking, it had an edge. There was a hint of menace, to go along with the joy and excitement and tension that hockey is. That was the Stadium. That was Foley. There were times where you thought Foley would have had no problem taking off his headset and picking a fight with someone in the upper deck, kicking his ass eight ways to Sunday, and then resuming his call like nothing had ever happened. Foley’s call always had a twinge that it could all go wrong at any minute and you’d never recover. Just like that building did. Don’t believe me? Look up the YouTube clip of Foley calling the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre, when Dave Manson called Scott Stevens out to center ice and ended his world. The crowd, Foley, everything felt like it was going to cause a hole in the Earth. And we ate it up.

When Foley’s frustration became papable as the Hawks self-inflicted descent into hell became unstoppable, wasn’t that our frustration too? He was just a fan like we were, and sick of all he was seeing.

And Foley will still have that place in my memories and heart. I may make fun of him now at times, but I’ll never lose sight of what he’s meant to Hawks fans. How could I?

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