Pat Foley had to keep his emotions in check.
Foley sat at his broadcast perch in Madison Square Garden set to call the Blackhawks’ season-opener against the New York Rangers. But this wasn’t just any game one for Foley.
Foley, the voice of the Hawks for 25 years, was back on the call after two years away from the club. He never thought he would be in this position again. It was a special feeling to be back.
Foley, though, had to pull it all in. He had to keep his eye on the puck.
“It felt awesome,” Foley said. “But if you sit around and look at the big picture, it could get overwhelming and distracting. I had to focus on the game.”
That focus provided fans with the clear, concise, insightful call that had been a staple of Hawks games for 2 ½ decades. Yes, hearing Foley at the microphone was special for them too.
Foley has been on a constant high ever since Blackhawks president John McDonough brought him back into the fold last spring. When McDonough took over control of the Hawks, it had been assumed that one of his first moves would be to rehire the popular Foley.
Foley, though, wasn’t one of those people making that assumption.
“Not at all,” Foley said. “It never crossed my mind until he reached out and called me. I had a good job working for the Chicago Wolves. I was all set to stay there. But it was exciting to get that call from John.”
The ultimate high for Foley came when he was reintroduced to a standing ovation at a June 15 press conference at the United Center. How big was it? Foley calls it “one of the top 3 or 4 days of my life.
“You have to keep in mind I hadn’t set foot in the United Center for two years,” Foley said. “When it ended, I thought there was no chance I’d ever be back. All the offices emptied out, all the new employees. They all were telling me how happy they were to have me back. The response was unbelievable. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Foley has been dazzled by all the changes that have taken place with the Hawks. He says it is a much different organization from the one he left.
Of course, one of the biggest changes is the Hawks’ decision to televise home games. Foley said if he had a nickel for every time he was asked about the controversial policy, he would be off somewhere playing on his private golf course. The fans wanted home games, and the Hawks delivered.
“It just increases the relevance of the Hawks in this city,” Foley said. “Televising home games seemed to work out fairly well for the Cubs. It didn’t scare people off. It’s going to bring the United Center experience to the public. If you can’t be there, we’re going to bring it to you to let you know what you’ve been missing.”
There are two other significant changes for Foley. After years of announcing games on a television and radio simulcast, he strictly will be doing television on Comcast Sports Net and WGN. As a result, Foley now can use phrases such as “look at that on the replay,” something that wouldn’t fly on a simulcast.
Foley also has a new partner in Eddie Olyzck. The pair goes way back to Olyzck’s days when he broke in with the Hawks as an 18-year old rookie.
“Eddie’s great,” Foley said. “He knows the game and he has a sense of humor. This is the entertainment business. We’re hoping to provide a fun and easy listen.”
Foley definitely is amped up. He has been around the game for a long time and seen everything. But the beginning of his second spin with Hawks has him feeling renewed.
“I told somebody I feel like a rookie,” Foley said. “There’s a new vibe to this organization. Everyone has been great to me. I always felt appreciated before, but that came from the outside, the fans. Now I’ve been made to feel welcome from within. It’s been remarkable.”