Pat Foley claimed during his pregame speech Thursday that there had been more talk about him recently than he deserved.
But the adoring crowd that packed the United Center for a terrible Blackhawks-Sharks matchup –although most surely weren’t there for the matchup –told a different story. They made that clear when interrupting his speech to chant his name.
So did the commemorative shirts distributed to said fans when they entered the arena. So did the larger-than-human-size letters positioned behind Foley’s lectern. So did the endless montages of legendary Foley calls accompanying historic Hawks highlights that echoed through the building during every commercial break. And so did a postgame “toast” that truly sent Foley off into retirement.
Indeed, after 39 years, the retiring Hawks broadcaster couldn’t quite get away with that outrageous claim.
“I’ve worked for a lot of radio and TV stations in this town, but really, you’re the people I’ve been working for here,” Foley told the fans. “It has been my pleasure and my honor to try and serve the greatest fans in the world.”
For 39 years, Foley’s broadcasting greatness has been predominantly experienced everywhere in Chicagoland (and beyond) except for this block of Madison Street. Such is the functional purpose of a play-by-play man.
That broadcasting greatness has always originated and emanated, however, from this block –first from the Chicago Stadium, then from the United Center. And as Foley rides off into the sunset, with fresh-faced Chris Vosters stepping into his shoes as the new “Voice of the Blackhawks,” his legacy won’t soon be forgotten by Hawks fans in any block of the city.
“I always say I’m the luckiest guy in the room, and tonight is noexception,” Foley said. “It has been a great ride. This career has exceeded my wildest hopes. Those dreams as a 10-year-old have been eclipsed tenfold.
“One thing I want to say to you tonight, and I cannot pretend to say it any better than the great Warren Zevon did: ‘If I leave you, it doesn’t mean I love you any less.’ Keep me in your heart for a while, please.”
Quite a few of Foley’s iconic calls during the second half of his tenure involved Patrick Kane, and Kane fittingly turned up his game for Foley’s final night in the booth.
Reunited with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome as interim coach Derek King put back together the only line that has consistently produced offensively this season, Kane finished with three points in the Hawks’ 5-4 shootout win against the Sharks.
Kane buried a three-on-one rush with DeBrincat and Strome less than two minutes into the game, then fed Calvin de Haan — who returned to the lineup after missing one game nursing lower-body soreness –for a go-ahead goal late in the second period.
The Hawks blew a 4-2 lead in the third period — their third squandered lead of the night — but DeBrincat potted a third-round overtime winner to officially snap the eight-game losing streak.
Letters of Johnson
Reese Johnson, who signed a two-year contract extension Wednesday to theoretically keep him in Chicago through 2024, received some massive praise from King.
“The work ethic’s there; the character’s there; the leadership quality’s there,” King said. “If he’s around here [for] the next two-plus years, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s wearing a letter on his jersey. That’s the kind of leader he is.”
King has obviously loved Johnson since their days together in Rockford, but that’s still an eye-opening comment about a player with six career NHL points (in 34 games).