On this site, we’ve given Pat Foley a hard time a lot. Some of it is just splash-back from our vitriol directed at his broadcast partner, but we haven’t hesitated to point out Foley’s mistakes or sometimes archaic view of the game.
And it’s kind of killed me every time I’ve done so.
Maybe we do it because the standard is so high, and it’s the one he’s set. Maybe we do it because we always eventually color on the people we used to revere (I’m still mad at Ryne Sandberg for costing the Cubs Craig Biggio in free agency, and Ryne Sandberg is the best position player the Cubs have produced in like 40 years at least. At least one that wasn’t hopped up on goofballs. Seriously, go look at his Fangraphs page. It’s hilarious). Maybe we’re just bad people.
But for any Hawks fan around my age or older, Foley is still the backbone to all our Hawks memories, if not our entire childhood. I’ve written tributes to Foley here and in the publication before, but it feels time for another one.
Foley might not get everything right, maybe he never did and I just don’t remember it that well. The anecdotes go on too long. The jokes with Eddie aren’t all that funny (they were with Tallon though). But the big moments still ring louder in my head because he was calling them. Toews’s OT winner in Game 5 last year is just that much better with the accompanying “HAWKS WIN! HAWKS WIN!” with Foley’s voice on the cusp of cracking with excitement. Try and think about Krivokrassov’s OT winner against Colorado without hearing Foley (“HIS FIRST PLAYOFF POINT, NEVERMIND GOAL, IS AN OT WINNER!”). Roenick’s OT winner in 1994 in Game 4 against Toronto (THE OLD GRANDLADY ON WEST MADISON ST!). The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre (THEY’RE GOING OUT TO CENTER ICE!). Being drowned out by the Stadium crowd when Brent Sutter scored Game 4’s only goal against Detroit in 1992. So many more I could mention, though sadly for Foley the Hawks didn’t provide too many memorable moments when he was in his prime (thanks Wirtz).
It’s not just the calls though. For those of us who have been in part of the fandom for all our lives, there’s still a call to the dark that keeps us hockey fans. It diminishes every year and if they had their way all teams would get rid of it to avoid scaring away the families. But hockey fandom still at least has a twinge of the dimly lit dive bar, a couple of bottled beers and cigarette smoke everywhere as you bitched about how Keith Brown couldn’t move or Joe Murphy didn’t have any heart or whatever else. It’s wading through the tight concourses at the old Stadium, also filled with smoke, unsure if you should make eye contact with anyone out of fear of making eye contact with just the wrong guy. It smells bad. There’s an inch of water (you hope) on the floor. It’s the crowd you’d only see there, or at various metal shows and nowhere else. It’s where your sure all the women can kick your ass eight ways to Sunday.
That’s still a part of my fandom, as shrouded as it’s become in other things. And Foley’s from there too. He was next to you in that bar, swearing up a storm and ordering another round. He just happened to be narrating the anarchy. Hockey and being a fan is still supposed to carry an element of danger, though it barely does any more. Foley sounded dangerous because he loved that danger so much and made it seem like it would be something you wanted to be a part of if you were cool enough. But don’t tell anyone else, we don’t want the fucking yuppies here and complaining about the cleanliness. He bitched about bad pinches from Weinrich or marveled at Savard or prayed at the alter of Steve Larmer just like we all did. Pat Foley was and is one of us.
And one of us went into the Hall of Fame last night. I think that’s pretty fucking cool.