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Getting to Know: Eddie Olczyk

NHL player-turned-coach-turned-broadcaster recalls his best memories from many years in hockey.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Status: NHL center from 1984-2000 with Chicago, Toronto, Winnipeg, New York Rangers, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh. Currently serves as color commentator for NHL On NBC and Chicago Blackhawks games. Also former coach of Penguins (2003-2005).

Ht: 6-1 Wt: 200 pounds

DOB: August 16, 1966 In: Chicago, IL

First Hockey Memory: "Stepping on the ice and falling down, crying and wanting to get off the ice with my mom (Diana) standing there, telling me to give it a chance. Obviously, I'm glad she did [smiles]. But it was pretty intimidating putting on those pair of skates and stepping on the ice for the very first time. That was my introduction to skating."

Hockey Inspirations: "Wow. I think I'd have to say it was the older kids in the neighborhood that played street hockey. And then when I'd go and skate at the rinks in Chicago - I used to watch and skate with a lot of the older kids - seven and eight years old and I was skating with ten and eleven year olds - but I always wanted to be like the older kids. As I got older, I was a big Bobby Clarke fan. Tommy Lysiak fan. Guys I looked up to and were idols of mine. My folks inspired me to continue to play hockey. But I would say it was the older kids in the neighborhood that I wanted to be like. When you're a young kid, it's always cool to be accepted by the older kids."

First Famous Player You Met Or Encountered: "Bobby Hull at an autograph signing at a local bookstore in Niles, IL. I think when I was eight years old, so that would have been 1974. The line was from here (Amalie Arena in Tampa) to Fort Lauderdale. It was just incredible. Any time I see him now I shake his hand. My hand was engulfed when I was eight years old and it's still engulfed when I'm almost fifty. Bobby Hull was the first NHLer I came across."

Greatest Sports Moment(s): "Winning the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in '94. It's why you play. My role was really small. But it was the greatest accomplishment team-wise that I ever was a part of in the NHL."

Most Painful Moment: "Painful? Dislocated elbow? Broken two zagomatic arches? Are we talking that kind of pain or are we just talking psychological [smiles]? (Whatever comes to mind. How do you spell zagomatic?) I don't know. Good luck. It's right below your cheekbone. Dislocated elbow was the most painful injury I ever had. (How did it happen?) I was playing for Winnipeg. We had a 4-0 lead. Craig Simpson was on a breakaway for the Edmonton Oilers - I was back-checking - my general manager at the time Mike Smith said it was the first time that I back-checked. Simmer cut to the net and as he cut to the net I stuck my left arm out and the impact just took my elbow right out. I was actually having the best year of my career that year. I think I was actually six in the league in scoring when I got hurt. Painful? Probably two things. One - probably when I got traded from the Blackhawks. Traded for the first time. From my hometown team to Toronto. And probably the most painful - when I realized it was time to get on with my life. And probably June of 2000 is when I retired."

Embarrassing Hockey Memory: "Embarrassing... good question... Shot a puck at my own goal once. Winnipeg. Bobby Essensa was our goalie. Still should've had it. I see him all the time. He's the goalie coach in Boston. We were playing Hartford in Winnipeg. We were actually on a power play [smiles]. Guy made a pass, went 'D' to 'D,' I'm standing at the right circle - lefthanded shot - in our zone. I didn't realize someone was coming at me when the pass was being read, so I tried to pass it back behind the net and fired it right back behind goalie Bob, so [smiles]."

Strangest Game: "We had a game in Los Angeles where I was playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs and John Brophy, our coach, went to the locker room under the old Forum to go to the bench and as he was going under he hit one of the girders or cement thing and it cut him. He was bleeding profusely. And for the whole period he just stood on the bench and never got any medical attention. He just wanted to show how tough he was. So, during the whole game, the whole third period he was standing there bleeding on his gray suit, white hair with a big, red blotch on his head. I said to myself: Is this really the NHL? But that was Broph. (Did you win that game?) I don't think we did. Because I remember Bernie Nicholls skating by the bench, looking at us all: What the hell is going on!? I don't think we won. That's one strange but true hockey story."

Favorite Rink(s) To Play: "I'm old school, so old Chicago Stadium. Spectrum obviously, because of Bobby Clarke. Loved playing at old Madison Square Garden, especially winning the Stanley Cup there. Boston Garden - smelled like hockey in there. I always loved The Joe. I always seemed to have great success in the Joe Louis, maybe that's why. When I go in there... just a great building. I spent a lot of time in the Igloo in Pittsburgh. In the Igloo, I was a player, visiting player, home player, coached there, and I was a broadcaster. Spent a lot of years in the Burgh. When I saw that being taken down - that hurt. Just a lot of memories in there. I know it's not about me but when you see things, you relate to how it affects you. I put the Igloo right near the top just because I spent so many years there wearing a lot of different hats."

Most Memorable Goal: "You never forget your first goal. Which was against the Red Wings actually. In my first NHL game with the Blackhawks. I scored an overtime winner in the playoffs against Detroit as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in I think it was the '88 playoffs. '88 or '89. Borje Salming assisted on it. 6-5, capped off a hat trick. So I would say that. My first goal in the league - because you dream about that. But to get a hat trick in the playoffs and cap off a hat trick was pretty special."

Funniest Players Encountered: "Aw man. There's a lot of funny humans in the league... Glen Healy. Marc Bergevin. Keith Tkachuk. Ray Ferraro. That's probably... Kevin Stevens. That's probably my top five."

Funny Hockey Memory: "Was playing in Los Angeles (1996-97) with Ray Ferraro. We had a guy on our team, his name was Kai Nurminen. He actually had a thigh injury for three months. And I changed his name to 'Thigh.' And we were playing on a line together, me, Ray and Thigh. And he was saying, 'Eddie, my name is not Thigh it's Kai. I go, 'I know I know it's Thigh. You hurt your thigh and now it's Thigh.' He had no idea why I was calling him Thigh. So we had a shift and Thigh comes off the ice and says, 'Razor, did you not see me? I was three meters behind you.' And Ray looked at me and asked, 'How far is three meters?' I mean, I had no idea. I just busted out laughing. Ray just basically told him, STFU and if I see you I'll give it to you. I remember that story like it was yesterday [smiles]."

Closest NHL Friends: "Ronnie Francis. I've got a lot of guys I keep contact with - Troy Murray, Denny Savard, Keith Tkachuk, Glen Healy. I never played with Brian Engblom but he's a great guy. I never played with Keith Jones. Guys you develop relationships with. That's all part of the fraternity. Those guys I mentioned. Former roommate Mark Osborne."

Favorite Sport Outside Hockey: "Horse racing, for sure. If you look at the other big sports, I'd probably go with baseball."

People Qualities Most Admired: "Trustworthy. Respectful. Sincerity. And I believe in always try to make people feel good about themselves regardless of the situation. Those, to me, are really important of making up somebody's character."

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