Hawks Get It Right With Foley

Howard BurnsCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2008

It's almost unheard of when a professional sports franchise brings back an announcer after having fired him. Perhaps the most notable example is the great Mel Allen, who was given a reprieve by the New York Yankees 12 years after being unceremoniously dumped by the team after the 1964 season.

This year the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks have gotten it right by restoring Pat Foley to his rightful place behind the mic. For 26 years, Foley was to the Hawks what Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse were to the Cubs. (All three are in the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame.) Then in 2006, he was surprisingly let go in favor of the more sedate Dan Kelly. His ouster drew the ire of many Hawks rooters. One such fan was a guy named Louis Campagna, who was so irate following Kelly's first season in Chicago that he was compelled to post a petition on the Web demanding the Hawks bring Foley back.

Wrote Campagna:

"We, the undersigned, feel that we have been served a tremendous injustice as fans of the Chicago Blackhawks having lost Pat Foley for one season as play-by-play announcer. His radio replacement, John Wiedeman has the respect of many fans, but his television counterpart, Dan Kelly, is the proverbial salt on the wound.

"We feel that if the Chicago Blackhawks hockey organization has any class and respect for its fans, they will do what is right and bring back Pat Foley to replace Dan Kelly. Pat Foley is the Blackhawks, and we as fans request that this terrible wrongdoing of one year be righted immediately."

Foley's return comes in the same year that the Blackhawks are televising home games for the first time in their storied history. It was about a year ago when team chairman Rocky Wirtz reversed his late father's long-standing policy of blacking out home games as a way to protect those who purchased season tickets. Bill Wirtz had always viewed airing home games as a negative influence on attendance rather than as a way to fortify the team's fan base.

After years of futility, the Hawks are building a team worth crowing about and what better way to do it than pairing the energetic Foley with Ed Olczyk, one of the best color men in the business. If the hockey team performs as well on the ice as the duo in the broadcast booth, they just may make the playoffs for the second time in the last 11 years.