This is a big day for one of my all-time favorite guys and a Chicago icon. My Chicago Tribune story charts Pat Foley’s journey to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
You also can access the story via my Twitter feed at @Sherman_Report.
All Blackhawks fans will recognize Foley’s signature call.
The kid from Glenview, first heard on a Cubs radio broadcast with Jack Quinlan at age 10, is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Pat Foley’s long career as the voice of the Blackhawks will reach its pinnacle Monday. Flanked by his family and team representatives, he will receive the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for “outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster” in a ceremony for the media winners in Toronto.
Named after the legendary Canadian announcer, the award is the ultimate honor for a hockey play-by-play man. Foley’s plaque will be displayed in the Hall along with winners that include Hawks icon Lloyd Pettit, one of Foley’s inspirations and heroes.
Former Hawks great Denis Savard, who was enshrined in the Hall in 2000, knows the ceremony will be challenging for Foley.
“He’ll realize how big it is when he gets there that day,” Savard said. “Even though he can speak really well, it’s not easy. The emotions will show, no doubt about that.”
Foley, 60, admits he still is “having trouble wrapping my arms around” being in the Hall of Fame.
“I never would have attempted to write a script like this when I was a kid,” Foley said. “I’ve been living the dream for the last 35 years.”
At 26, Foley got his big break when the Blackhawks hired him as their radio voice for the 1980-81 season. Again, his father’s Buick dealership played a vital role.
Mary Foley: (Michael Wirtz, Bill Wirtz’s brother and the Hawks’ executive vice president) was an interesting guy. If he hadn’t been in hockey, he probably would have done something with automobiles. He always was at Bob’s dealership. He knew Pat was into broadcasting. Bob said: “I’d like to give you a tape (of Pat calling minor league games). Put it in your car, and maybe you can listen to it on your way downtown.” Whenever he came in, Bob would give him another one. Pat always said Michael knew more about the Grand Rapids Owls than he ever needed to know. That was the opening in the door.
Rocky Wirtz: Uncle Mike didn’t say a lot. He passed Pat’s tape around and said, “Listen to this.” He sounded really good. Even though he was young, he didn’t sound like a 26-year-old. He had a presence. I don’t think that voice has changed one bit.
Foley: My first Hawks game was the night they retired Stan Mikita’s No. 21. Tony Esposito is 200 feet away. I grew up watching this guy. I’m going, “Good God, I’m doing an NHL game.” I’ll always be grateful (to Bill and Michael Wirtz) for taking a chance on a young kid.
Mary Foley: You love to see your kids follow their dreams. When it comes true like it did for Pat, it’s just fabulous.
Foley’s most memorable call occurred during aHawks-North Stars game in the 1985 playoffs. Goalie Murray Bannerman was spectacular. After he made a dramatic save on a breakaway, Foley cried out, “BANNERRRMANNN!” Nearly 30 years later, Foley constantly gets asked to reprise the call.
Bannerman: It’s become a phenomenon. Even people who are too young to know I played for the Blackhawks know of that call. The interesting thing was, it probably was a year or two before I heard the actual call. There wasn’t the Internet or social media back then. I didn’t see it as the big deal that it turned out to be. I appreciate Pat for doing it.