85 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers: Eddie Olczyk
In this entry of chicagoblackhawks.com's "85 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers" series, longtime broadcaster Pat Foley talks about the playing and announcing career of his broadcast partner Eddie Olczyk.
When you think about local kids “making good” in the history of Chicago sports, not many can say they made it better than Eddie Olczyk. He had a tremendous amount of skill, and you could make the argument that he was the first great Chicago-born hockey player in both the NHL and in Olympic play. He’s had a great career that continues both on and off the ice.
I still vividly remember when he was going to be drafted in the summer of 1984. The Blackhawks were picking third that year, and there was a lot of talk about what they were going to do. Obviously for Eddie, it was a dream come true to be drafted by the team he grew up cheering for. But with that came a tremendous amount of pressure. It probably would have been easier on him, in some respects, to start his career in a different place. But he would have never wanted that to happen.
On November 17, 1926, the Chicago Black Hawks took the ice for the first time. 85 years later, the Blackhawks hold an important place in NHL history and Chicago sports.
In celebration of the Blackhawks’ 85th anniversary, Blackhawks Magazine and chicagoblackhawks.com will profile some of the greatest players to ever don the sweater, with essays written by the people who knew them best: teammates, rivals, broadcasters and other members of the NHL community.
Check chicagoblackhawks.com every Wednesday for another entry in the "85 Years" series.
Recent "85 Years" essays:
> Pierre Pilote on Bobby Hull
> Denis Savard on Patrick Kane
To walk into an NHL locker room as the third player picked in the draft, an 18-year-old no less … Those are pretty lofty expectations. He was not dealt an easy hand in that respect. But in the end, Eddie handled himself beautifully and obviously was a very productive player. He came in with the bar set pretty high and was able to do well and not get set back by all the distractions.
Even as he was coming into the league, Eddie was a tremendously gifted player. He was something akin to a wizard with the puck and a terrific playmaker. When you think about that Clydesdale Line that he played on … Well, it was amazing in its day. There were three guys – Troy Murray and Curt Fraser, along with Eddie – who were all 200-pound horses, and each guy on that line was tremendously skilled in some way. At that time in the NHL, there weren’t that many guys who were that big, and they were a really, really good line together. When you think about the high quality of talent that Eddie, Troy and Curt had, and that is your third line, that’s a really good hockey team.
If he had written the script, Eddie would have played his entire career in Chicago. I know it was hard for him to get traded to Toronto after being here for a couple years, but it was ultimately a trade that worked for everyone; he went on to have some really good years in Toronto, Winnipeg and New York and was a really productive NHL player for a long time, and the Blackhawks brought in Al Secord, who has his own place in Blackhawks history with the Party Line.
As good of a player as he was, I think that when the Olczyk book is written, he will be best remembered as a broadcaster – an amazing one at that. There’s no doubt in my mind that he has worked his way to the top of the profession. Eddie has become the best analyst, not only in hockey but I believe in sports, and I’ve said that many times.
He has a knack for TV; he knows what’s going to happen before it does – not only on the ice, but in the truck, too. He knows what camera angle he’s looking for, and he’s always talking to the production team, telling them what he needs and how to get it. It’s really tremendous to be a part of.
One of the many beauties of him as a broadcaster is that he sees the game as a coach, and he’s watched videotape for a hundred years. He’s able to break things down and provides a lot of teachable moments; he uses those to good advantage. All those young hockey players in this city, if they’re watching our telecast and listening to what he’s saying, they will learn something. Even in the broadcast booth, he’s still teaching, but now he gets a national audience.
When we work together in the booth now, we have a great chemistry, and it shows in our broadcasts. We had an advantage: I’ve known him since he was 18, and when I sat down next to him for the first time in the booth, there was that instant bond. He might have learned a thing or two from me, but I’ve certainly learned from him, too. There’s a high degree of respect going both ways.
When I say the chemistry was instant, it has also been continuous. He works with a lot of different guys in his travels, but I don’t think he minds coming back to do Blackhawks games. We have camaraderie that works well. Wherever we are and however long it’s been since we’ve broadcast together, I know we can pick right back up again, and you can’t do that with just anyone.
What really makes coming to work with Eddie enjoyable is that we are similar in some key ways. One of them is that we like to laugh; that’s a real bonus for the viewer because it puts them at ease, and it makes you want to come back and see what we’re going to say tomorrow night. We are in the entertainment business; we’re there to broadcast a hockey game and hopefully teach a little bit but also make it a destination. Have fun, good lord, this isn’t brain surgery!
It certainly helps when the team is playing well, there’s no question about that. The whole dynamic with what’s happened to the Chicago Blackhawks in the last few years, it’s remarkable to be part of it. It’s really been a lot of fun, and Eddie has made it even more enjoyable.
With more than 25 years in professional hockey, Eddie Olczyk has made himself into one of the most recognizable and beloved figures in the NHL. It’s been an honor and a privilege to occupy a front-row seat to watch everything that he has done for the Blackhawks and the game.