8:20 PM CDT, April 18, 2013
Pat Foley wasn't behind a microphone when Patrick Kane's overtime goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup finals lifted the Blackhawks to their first championship in 49 years.
NBC had exclusivity for the finals, which meant Foley was reduced to spectator status.
Nobody in the Hawks traveling party, however, had a bigger grin on his mug when the team and its families celebrated for an hour on the ice at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center.
"I think I've only worn this once before," Foley told me, pointing to a red necktie with the number "3" in white. "I knew this was going to be something special and I wanted Maggie to be a part of it in some way."
Maggie is Keith Magnuson, the former rugged Hawks defenseman and coach, who remained active with the team's alumni association until his death in December 2003. Magnuson and Foley were pals.
Foley's wardrobe selection may seem a small gesture, but it speaks largely to the loyalties he has built in his 30 years as the voice of the Blackhawks. Friday night before the Hawks entertain the Predators, the organization is paying back that allegiance by honoring Foley.
It's most appropriate. Even during the lean years of the last decade — when Foley arguably was the best "player" on the team — the lifelong Chicagoan delivered his descriptions of the action to Hawks fans with passion and precision.
No sportscaster in town is more synonymous with the team for which he broadcasts than Foley. He is as entrenched in Hawks culture almost as much as the crossing tomahawks over the gold "C" on the shoulders of the team jersey.
Foley's road to his moment in the spotlight this evening has not been without obstructions and detours.
When the Bulls were capturing Chicago's imagination in the 1990s, accruing six championships over an eight-year stretch, the Blackhawks still weren't putting their home games on television.
Foley's radio-TV simulcast partnership with the gregarious Dale Tallon remained only a cult classic on the tube. From a public relations standpoint, the Blackhawks consistently were getting their ears boxed in.
The bad teams of the early 2000s produced — for the first time in my lifetime — unimaginably small crowds for Hawks games. Non-playoff season after non-playoff season created an indifference none of us 50-somethings thought was possible.
In 2005-06, the Hawks were 29th in the NHL in attendance. They won only 26 games and finished with 65 points, ahead of only the Blues in the Western Conference.
So what was the first offseason move? They fired Foley.
No reason was given. They just dumped him.
Quick to pounce on a marketing opportunity, the Wolves hired Foley for two years before the Hawks current front office reached out to the popular voice of the team and the two sides reconciled.
And Blackhawks fans are glad they did. A broadcaster's relationship with the fan base for which he calls the action is an intimate one.
I haven't heard one Hawks die-hard suggest he would prefer Foley date someone else again.
Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.
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