Growing up in the city of Chicago, my childhood was full of going to sporting events supporting the city’s teams. Whenever my family and I weren’t watching a game in person, we were catching it on the radio or on TV. I got introduced to hockey when I was around eight, and it instantly became my favorite. I got to watch the Chicago Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups in the span of six years, and I will forever cherish those memories. I was extremely fortunate enough to be in the Madhouse on Madison when the Hawks clinched their spot in the 2015 playoffs, but the majority of the time I was watching the games from home and yelling at my TV as Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk delivered game commentary.
When I first started watching hockey, I was completely clueless when it came to the rules. What was icing? Why was that a penalty? What does top shelf mean? I had to learn from game announcers, and I couldn’t imagine learning from anyone better than Pat and Eddie.
Olczyk was the broadcaster I learned from the most. Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks as the third overall pick in the 1984 entry draft, Olczyk went on to play for the Hawks, Maple Leafs, Jets, Rangers, Kings, and Penguins during his professional career. He became a Stanley Cup champion with the Rangers during the 1994 season. Naturally, you would expect a Stanley Cup Champion to have a deep understanding of the game. After retiring from playing professionally, he began his broadcasting journey serving as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ color commentator on FSN. He later became head coach of the Penguins from 2003 to 2005, before returning to the role of color commentator for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2006-2007 season.
In the hockey world, broadcasts feature both a play-by-play announcer and a color commentator. While the play-by-play announcer is responsible for the delivery to describe what was going on during the game in a quick and articulate way, the color commentator provides a secondary service. It is that individual’s job to analyze plays and provide insight into game play. They are extremely valuable based on their previous experience with the game. In the Blackhawks’ broadcast booth, Olcyzk broke plays down for fans to understand and did so in a way where new fans could learn aspects of the game.
One of the many things I enjoyed about listening to Olcyzk is that he spoke to young hockey players directly. Not only did he inspect plays for fans to understand, but he spoke directly to young hockey players. It was common for him to break down defensive and offensive plays and inform players watching what to work on during practices in order to be successful. This free advice proved how Olczyk wanted to grow the game and helped me learn the vocabulary of a hockey game.
Now, after sixteen seasons in Chicago, Olcyzk is walking away to begin a new journey with the Seattle Kraken. As a fan who has grown up listening to him deliver insight into hockey, it’s bittersweet to see him go. Without Olczyk and his close-knit relationship with Pat Foley, I wonder if I’d be as excited to watch games from home. If you’ve ever watched a game with both of them in the booth, it’s fair to say you’d agree. As a hockey fan, all I can say is thank you Eddie. Chicago will always be your home, and Hawks fans will always be thankful to be a part of your career for the past sixteen years. I guess I’ll have to become a Seattle Kraken fan now!