Pat Foley’s last season in the Blackhawks’ TV booth did not go as fans hoped.
The seasonlong celebration for the Hall of Famer was muted by the organization’s sexual-assault scandal, the team’s poor play and Foley’s limited schedule while others auditioned for his job.
Fans were annoyed (particularly this one) not only because they heard less of Foley, but because they heard seven other voices call games. It made for a difficult viewing experience.
Adding to their dismay, the season ended up being analyst Eddie Olczyk’s last, as well. He and the Hawks couldn’t agree on a new contract, and he left for the Kraken’s booth. Hawks fans were about to enter a rebuild without one of the pleasures of watching a game — listening to Pat and Eddie.
The loss of the high-profile pairing, one of the best in the league, tops our list of the 10 biggest Chicago sports-media stories of 2022.
The Hawks did go all out for Foley’s last broadcast, honoring him with a pregame ceremony and a postgame beer. They also helped arrange for him to fulfill a lifelong dream by calling a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, where the great Jack Quinlan introduced Foley to broadcasting.
Foley will return to the rink Monday, when he calls the Winter Classic at Fenway Park between the Penguins and Bruins for Sports USA radio. His partner will be Olczyk’s son Nick, who also left the Hawks to join the Kraken.
The Hawks have moved on, hiring Chris Vosters to call play-by-play and splitting the analyst work between Troy Murray and Patrick Sharp. Vosters is off to a good start overall, and he figures to grow into the role.
But Foley’s departure signified the end of an era in Chicago sports broadcasting. He began with the Hawks in 1980 and was the last link to a golden age that included the Bears’ Wayne Larrivee, the Bulls’ Jim Durham, the Cubs’ Harry Caray and the White Sox’ “Hawk” Harrelson. It’s OK to be sad about that.
2. Olin Kreutz’s eventful year
Kreutz began the year by going on The Score in January and eviscerating Bears chairman George McCaskey, who essentially accused Kreutz of lying when he said the Bears offered him $15 an hour to be a player consultant in 2018. In May, podcaster CHGO fired Kreutz after he assaulted colleague Adam Hoge in the company’s West Loop studio. That also cost Kreutz his job with NBC Sports Chicago, where he appeared on the “Football Aftershow.” It was a shame because Kreutz is a fantastic analyst.
3. Hub Arkush’s eventful year
On Aug. 15, Arkush collapsed outside Halas Hall and nearly died from a heart attack. Miraculously, he was well enough to appear on his “Pro Football Weekly” TV show and The Score two weeks ago. Arkush made national news in January when he said on The Score that he wouldn’t give Aaron Rodgers his vote for NFL MVP because Rodgers kept the Packers in limbo all offseason and misrepresented his COVID vaccination status. Rodgers called Arkush “a bum,” and Arkush said he regretted discussing the award.
4. Bears moving to ESPN 1000
After 23 seasons on WBBM-AM, Bears games will move to ESPN 1000 next season. Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer are expected to remain in the broadcast booth. Since going almost four years without the rights to a local pro team, ESPN 1000 has picked up the White Sox (2021) and Bears. Owner Good Karma Brands has re-energized the station since taking control in 2019.
5. Cubs, Sox air on streaming services
Cubs and Sox fans are accustomed to games being picked up by ESPN and Fox. But MLB threw them a knuckleball last season by adding Apple TV and Peacock to its list of exclusive rights-holders. Suddenly, fans needed more than cable or satellite to watch their team, and many were not happy. Granted, Apple made its games free, but the announcers were not up to snuff.
6. David Kaplan leaves NBC Sports Chicago
“Kap” will sign off Saturday at NBCSCH, where he has been an omnipresent voice since 2008. He received a buyout opportunity from parent company NBCUniversal that he said he couldn’t refuse. Kaplan will continue to co-host his ESPN 1000 morning show with Jonathan Hood and produce videos for his YouTube channel. But the man of many platforms figures to add another at some point.
7. Pat Hughes becomes a Hall of Famer
The Cubs’ longtime radio voice had quite a finish to 2022. After being inducted into the Cubs’ Hall of Fame in September, Hughes won the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, earning him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. He joins Jack Brickhouse (1983) and Harry Caray (1989) as Cubs announcers to win the award.
8. Leila Rahimi becomes NBC 5’s first female lead sports anchor
What worlds are left for Rahimi to conquer? She has more than recovered from being let go by NBCSCH in August 2020. In 2021, she co-hosted full-time on The Score, then added part-time work at NBC 5. In March 2022, NBC 5 promoted her to the full-time position of lead sports anchor, and she later returned to the NBCSCH studio, all while making at least weekly appearances on The Score.
9. Les Grobstein dies
Grobstein, who died in January at 69, was more than the longtime overnight host at The Score. He was a Chicago sports broadcasting icon. “The Grobber” had an encyclopedic mind of local sports knowledge. One of his claims to fame was having the only recording of then-Cubs manager Lee Elia’s infamous profanity-laced tirade on April 29, 1983, at Wrigley Field. Whenever you hear it, thank Les.
10. WGN without a team again as MLS moves games to Apple
The Fire and WGN were a perfect marriage. The Fire wanted to increase their local presence, and WGN wanted a team. But it lasted only three seasons. Next season, every MLS game will appear on Apple TV. The league’s wisdom in putting its season behind a paywall (some games will be free, others will air on Fox or FS1) is questionable, to say the least. How does that grow the league locally?