Friday, November 14, 2014

Pat Foley and Dominik Hašek: Blackhawks in the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2014

Pat Foley has been the voice of the Blackhawks for over 30 years, starting on WBBM 780 and continuing on whatever radio or television station (currently WGNTV and CSN-Chicago) has carried Blackhawks. When Foley graduated from college, he knew he wanted to go into sports broadcasting but did not have a job--he had worked for his school radio station. As it so happened the Wirtz family got their cars serviced at Foley Buick, owned by Pat's father. One day Michael Wirtz brought his car in for service and when he picked it up he found a tape of Pat's play by play left in the tape deck, he was sufficiently impressed and the Blackhawks hired a young, unknown broadcaster by the name of Pat Foley to do their radio play by play.

Foley quickly became a mainstay behind the Blackhawks mic, one of his earliest signature calls was BAAAANERMAN, which got its start in the 1985 Western Conference Finals between the Blackhawks and the Edmonton Oilers. He was the regular broadcaster until 2006, when Bill Wirtz decided to terminate his contract.

For two seasons, Foley did play by play for the Chicago Wolves, a local AHL team. After Rocky Wirtz became Blackhawks President after his father's passing, he brought back in Pat Foley, to do the television broadcasts alongside former Blackhawk Eddie Olczyk. Since 2008, Pat and Eddie have broadcast Blackhawks games on both WGNTV and CSN-Chicago. Several more signature calls have been added to Foley's repertoire, "Niemi says no" from the 2010 Western Conference Finals and "GREAT SAVE BY CRAWFORD" said on numerous occasions 2010-present are two of the most notable.

Dominik Hašek began his NHL career as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, including action in the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After Hašek drew attention for his play in the Stanley Cup Finals, Ed Belfour, the Blackhawks established starting goalie, felt his minutes were in jeopardy and told Blackhawks management, he goes or I go.

Hašek was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, where he would spend the majority of his career. In 1998, Hašek met fellow Hall of Fame goalie, Canada's Patrick Roy, in the Olympic semifinals. Hašek's Czechs beat Roy's Canadians in a shootout to advance to the gold medal game, where the Czechs would win their only hockey gold to date.

In 1999, Hašek met his former partner, Ed Belfour, who had since gone to the Dallas Stars, in the Stanley Cup Finals. Like with winning the Blackhawks starting job in 1992, Belfour beat Hašek, who saw his Cup hopes crushed in the Finals once again.

Hašek finally won the Stanley Cup as a member of the 2002 and 2008 Detroit Red Wings, alongside former Blackhawks teammate Chris Chelios, who had been traded to the rival Red Wings after a falling out with Blackhawks management. Hašek became the first European-trained starting goalie to win the Stanley Cup and second European starting goalie to win the Stanley Cup (after Blackhawks' 1934 goalie--Charlie Gardiner).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

You are not a NHL GM

In 2010, one of the many decisions Stan Bowman made when faced with a cap crunch was to trade goaltender Antti Niemi to San Jose, allowing him to match San Jose's offer sheet on RFA defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Fans hated that decision, Niemi had just won the Stanley Cup and was a large factor in the Blackhawks sweep of the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, while Hjalmarsson was young and unproven. Also, the Blackhawks then needed to call up the unproven Corey Crawford from Rockford to take Niemi's roster spot.

Fast forward to 2014, the Sharks are struggling and Alex Stalock might have stolen Niemi's roster spot. Hjalmarsson added a second Stanley Cup in 2013 and an Olympic Silver in 2014 and ranks 30th in franchise points by a defenseman (as of 11/11/14). The unproven Crawford now ranks 5th in franchise wins, behind Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, Ed Belfour and Jocelyn Thibault. Crawford won the Jennings Trophy and Stanley Cup in 2013, Conn Smythe Winner Patrick Kane said Crawford deserved the award more than he did and Crawford was invited to Team Canada's Olympic training camp (he was cut from the final roster).

If Stan Bowman had done what the fans had wanted in 2010, the Stanley Cup and Jennings Trophy would not have made their way to West Madison in 2013. Hjalmarsson-Oduya would not exist, and therefore Sweden's Olympic Silver would have been far less likely. Crawford would have been sent somewhere else or still be in Rockford and therefore the Blackhawks would not have someone rapidly ascending the franchise wins list.

Stan Bowman clearly knew what he was doing and the armchair GMs were wrong. You are not an NHL GM, you do not know better than them.