Known for his fiery disposition and temper on the ice during his 17-season NHL career, it’s hard to imagine ‘Godzilla’ as a patient full-time parent; getting the kids ready for the day and trekking them around town to gymnastics and other outings. But that’s exactly how Olaf Kolzig has chosen to spend his post-playing days – at least for the time being.
“I’m actually playing Mr. Mom this year,” Kolzig said from his home in St. Petersburg, Fla. “We enrolled our kids in school and we figured, ‘you know what? Let’s enjoy the first year of retirement in the sun.’ ”
Who can blame him? After a less than desirable end to a solid career, Kolzig is well within his rights to take as much time as he needs to regroup before moving on to his next vocation.
After spending his first 16 NHL seasons with the Capitals – taking the franchise to the Stanley Cup final in ’97-98 – Kolzig wasn’t offered a contract in Washington as a free agent in 2008. After considering retirement that summer, he eventually signed in Tampa, where he’d play only eight games in an injury-plagued season that would see him eventually traded to Toronto in a salary dump.
“Halfway through ’07-08, I was looking at maybe playing a year and a half with the Caps and retiring as a Washington Capital.” Kolzig said. “I knew that organization was going to be a force to deal with in the not-so-distant future.
“It’s definitely not the way I wanted my career to end, but I have no regrets. If you had told me when I was 18 that I would have played for 19 years as a professional, I would have laughed at you. I didn’t win a Cup, I didn’t finish my career with one team, but you know what? There’s a lot of other players who would have wished they had a quarter of the career I did.”
While he wasn’t able to claim Stanley’s chalice, Kolzig did win an American League Calder Cup championship with Portland in 1993-94 and was awarded playoff MVP honors for his efforts.
The Johannesburg, South Africa, native also won a Vezina Trophy for 1999-00, when he posted a 41-20-11 record with a 2.24 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. However, somewhat surprisingly, that’s not the personal accomplishment he’d like to be remembered for.
“The King Clancy (for leadership and humanitarian contributions) is the one I’m most proud of,” said Kolzig, whose autistic son inspired him to help found Athletes Against Autism and the Carson Kolzig Foundation. “The Vezina for me got a little tarnished just because of the playoffs we had that year (losing 4-1 to Pittsburgh in the first round).
“Stats and the way you performed in the league is great, but how you’re viewed as a person, what you’ve done to help others, is what is more important to me.”
‘Olie the Goalie’ also looks back fondly on the opportunities he had to play at the 1998 and 2006 Olympics, where he went 2-1-2 in five outings.
“Because I played for a non-powerhouse country in Germany, there wasn’t a lot of expectations; we were always the underdog,” said Kolzig, who, despite moving to Canada when he was young, never applied for citizenship, making him eligible to represent Germany, where his parents where born. “To be honest, it’s more fun to play the underdog role. You always like to go out and try to prove people wrong.”
Despite taking it easy in his first year away from the game, don’t expect his respite to last long. In fact, he’s already planning to move his family back to the Tri-City (Washington State) area and get involved with the Western League’s Americans, the team he owns with fellow former NHLer Stu Barnes.
“I’m getting a little antsy to do something else,” Kolzig said. “I’m not a guy who likes to sit around a lot, so this is my one hiatus from anything and then I’ll definitely find something that I can sink my teeth into a little more.”
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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