While hockey is becoming a global game, not many NHL players can claim South Africa as their birthplace. That’s how Olaf Kolzig came into this world, moving with his German parents to Canada’s west coast when he was three.
Blessed with a big frame, he played most of his major junior for the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. Kolzig is a part-owner of the Americans now, though his job as the Washington Capitals’ development coach keeps him mainly in the east.
Washington was also where Kolzig rose to fame in the 1990s. Stuck behind Don Beaupre and Jim Carey in the NHL and Jim Hrivnak and Byron Dafoe in the AHL, Kolzig actually spent parts of his first two seasons cutting his teeth in the ECHL.
It wasn’t until Kolzig’s seventh pro season that he broke through as an NHL starter. He was a backup for years before taking over from Carey in the 1996 playoffs and putting on a show (in a losing effort) against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Two years later, with Carey in Boston, Kolzig took the Capitals further than they had ever been before: the Stanley Cup final.
The Caps were swept by Detroit, but Kolzig had cemented his place among the league’s top goalies. In 1999-2000, he turned in his best season, winning the Vezina Trophy and earning first-team all-star honors by racking up an impressive 73 games and a career-best 2.24 goals-against average.
On top of his NHL heroics, Kolzig was a crucial member of Germany’s international squad. He played in two Olympics and several world championships and suited up for his first and only DEL season during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, helping Eisbaren Berlin win the title.
Technically, Kolzig ended his career in Toronto, via trade from Tampa Bay, but he never suited up for the Maple Leafs before retiring. Other than eight appearances with the Lightning, he was a Capital his entire career.
Born: April 6, 1970, Johannesburg, S. Africa
NHL Career: 1989-2008
Teams: Wsh, TB
Stats: 303-297-87, 2.71 GAA, .906 SP, 35 SO
All-Star: 1 (First-1)
Trophies: 1 (Vezina-1)
DID YOU KNOW?
One of Kolzig’s nicknames was ‘Godzilla,’ due tohis imposing size and fiery nature between the pipes. Kolzig rolled with the moniker and featured the famous movie monster on his mask.