“For all you young hockey players” and “stop it right there”, just some of the familiar phrases uttered by NHL analyst Eddie Olczyk on his local and national broadcasts. “Edzo” as he’s affectionately known, has been the lead color commentator on NBC’s broadcast of the NHL since 2007 and he’s held the same role with the Chicago Blackhawks broadcasts since 2006. The Chicago area native has done it all in professional hockey. Olczyk played at a high level, coached in the NHL and has become one of the most successful broadcasters the sport has ever seen.
Olczyk grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and realized a dream by being selected in the first round by his hometown Blackhawks in 1984. He was the third overall pick. Olczyk scored his first NHL goal in his first game and wound up with 342 career tallies and 794 career points in 1031 games. Olczyk was traded a few times in his career but wound up finishing his run with the Blackhawks during the 1999-2000 season. He won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994.
ROAD TO NHL COLOR COMMENTARY
Following his playing career, Olczyk embarked on a career as a broadcaster. He started the journey by working on Pittsburgh Penguins television broadcasts for Fox SportsNet Pittsburgh from 2000 until 2003. Olczyk also did games for ESPN, ESPN2 and NHL Radio during his time with the Penguins. His broadcasting path was interrupted as he became the Head Coach of the Penguins from ’03 until 2005. When he was let go Olczyk took a little time off. Eventually Olczyk came home to Chicago and began his work on Blackhawks Television in 2006, a role he continues in today.
Also, at that time he was picked up as the lead analyst for the NHL on NBC. The network job allowed him to work a couple of Olympic Games as well. In 2010 at the Vancouver games and in 2014 at the Sochi games. In Vancouver one of his greatest lines ever was uttered when the United States defeated Canada 5-3 in a preliminary game. Ryan Kesler scored an empty net goal to sew up the win and Olczyk, a US Olympian in 1984, declared, “This has been tremendously tremendous”. The moment went viral and was an instant hit among hockey fans.
DID YOU KNOW??
Olczyk isn’t just a hockey announcer, NBC has used him on Horse Racing coverage. He actually commentated on the “Sport of Kings” first. OIczyk took the Stanley Cup to Belmont Park in 1994 after winning it with the Rangers. He had an opportunity to take a photo with Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin, trained by Nick Zito.
Olczyk was always into horse racing and when the NHL had a work stoppage the next season, the management of the race course he visited asked Olczyk to be their race analyst/handicapper on the in-house broadcast of the races at the track. That was actually the first time Olczyk worked on tv and is what allowed him to become a hockey analyst for NBC and also on their big race coverage including the “Derby”.
WHY IS HE SO GOOD?
I am fortunate to be able to watch him most nights on NBC Sports Chicago. Hawks fans expect him to be a little more of a “homer” when on the local broadcast. Olczyk delivers, but he is good not to take it to the extreme. If you’re a first-time viewer of Blackhawks hockey, you’ll know which one is his team. After all, he played for the franchise and grew up a fan of the team. It’s not over the top though.
The chemistry between Olczyk and Pat Foley on Blackhawks telecasts is remarkable. The two are a dynamite pairing. They have an ability to make their telecast seem like you’re watching two fans call a game. Not just for the fact they work for the organization, but that they are enjoying the time spent at a hockey game and it comes beaming through. Olczyk has a way of injecting humor in the right spots. He knows that during big moments in a game, you play it straight. At other times, it’s open season on laughter. It’s refreshing and you find yourself laughing right along with them.
Speaking of laughing, Olczyk has a unique way of chuckling at his own expense. Using self-deprecation if he misreads a sponsorship or misidentifies a situation. The latter rarely happens.
Hockey acumen and Olczyk go hand in hand. I can’t tell you how many times he is able to predict things before they happen in a game. When he talks hockey, he breaks things down in a simplistic way that gains new fans to the game, without insulting the intelligence of long-time fans. That likely comes from the experience of a 16-year playing career and his time as a head coach in the league. The passion for the NHL and the game of hockey come through in every game Olczyk does.
Whether he’s in the booth for a national broadcast with Doc Emrick, John Forslund, Kenny Albert or a local telecast with Foley, the approach doesn’t change too much. Having fun and providing great insight are two of the things Olczyk brings to whatever broadcast he’s doing.
Hockey is one of those sports in the United States that is still trying to find itself in the mainstream. This is where people like Olczyk are a vital cog in the wheel. He is a relatable, likable and knowledgeable ambassador for the game of hockey. Olczyk appeals to all ages of fans, especially the younger ones, because he gears a lot of his analysis to the youth hockey players. Some may find it hokey, but in truth it’s great for hockey.
WHY HE’D BE GREAT TO WORK WITH
The ability to combine professionalism and a good time is a great trait most play-by-play announcers look for in an analyst. Olczyk is the kind of person that can not only laugh at himself, he can dish it out as well. To work alongside him would be entertaining to say the least. Olczyk has the ability to help keep an audience if a game is out of hand or one sided.
It would not only be entertaining but informative. I truly believe people learn a lot about the game from Olczyk. I’m one to think that no matter how long an announcer has covered a sport, or feels like he/she knows the game, the former player is still the teacher. We can always learn and why not learn from those that have lived it and played it at a high level.
Olczyk loves what he does. You can tell. You can hear it in his voice with every play he analyzes just how much he loves hockey and talking about it. That passion is evident.
Not only is Edzo the cream of the crop at what he does, the man is an inspiration to others. In August of 2017, Olczyk learned he had Stage 3 colon cancer. Once the diagnosis sunk in and the treatments began, Olczyk took it public. He wanted to accomplish a few things by doing so. First, he wanted to give fellow patients hope and perseverance and second to tell people to get screened for cancer.
“I wanted to make people aware to give them strength and hope. Sadly, people are going to get it and go through it. Hopefully, my story will help them battle every day because it’s not just a battle every treatment, it’s every second you breathe,” Olczyk told the AP in 2018. “You’re taking poison to get rid of other stuff. I was so overwhelmed by the response that I wanted to be an example for somebody going through it or somebody who will go through it, and hopefully be an olive branch.”
He was declared cancer free in March of 2018. He made a public announcement just before the start of the 2nd period of the Blackhawks and Canucks game at the United Center.
Olczyk is the best in his field, hands down. He makes the game entertaining and will drop a little knowledge on you too. When Olczyk is on the air, it’s like watching a game with your buddy, that’s probably the highest compliment I can pay him.