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Eddie Olczyk describes life in broadcasting bubble during Stanley Cup playoffs

Since July 28, Olczyk has been living in a hotel near NBC Sports Network’s studios in Stamford, Connecticut, where he’s analyzing games nationally and for the Blackhawks.

Eddie Olczyk (right) and Pat Foley are calling Blackhawks playoff games together but apart. Foley is in a production truck outside the United Center, and Olczyk is at NBC Sports Network’s studios in Stamford, Conn.
Eddie Olczyk (right) and Pat Foley are calling Blackhawks playoff games together but apart. Foley is in a production truck outside the United Center, and Olczyk is at NBC Sports Network’s studios in Stamford, Conn.
James Foster/Sun-Times

Eddie Olczyk packed for two months.

Think about that.

“I’ve become pretty cagey on running the hotel washer and dryer -machines,” he said.

Since July 28, Olczyk has been living in a hotel near NBC Sports Network’s studios in Stamford, Connecticut, where he’s -analyzing Stanley Cup playoff games nationally and for NBC Sports Chicago, home of the Blackhawks. Knowing he’ll be heading to the bubble in Edmonton at some point, he packed as though he were preparing to travel abroad.

“I didn’t know if I was gonna get a chance to get home,” Olczyk said. “I had to bring a bunch of sport coats and suits because when you’re on every day, you can’t just be switching two or three suits. Some people have said some of my suits might look better inside out. I haven’t tried that yet.”

Then there are the shirts and ties and shoes and workout clothes, not to mention the warmer apparel needed to combat the autumn cold in western Canada. He had to prepare for everything.

In the meantime, he’ll continue preparing for his role on the studio desk, as well as in his personal broadcast booth, from where he’ll call Game 3 of the Blackhawks-Golden Knights first-round series with play-by-play voice Doc Emrick at 7 p.m. Saturday on Ch. 5.

Olczyk has had a busy week. On Tuesday, he was working the intermissions of the Blue Jackets-Lightning game until the five-overtime affair forced him out early to call the Hawks game that night with Pat Foley. On Wednesday, he worked the intermissions for the Islanders-Capitals game before calling the Coyotes-Avalanche game. On Thursday, he worked the “NHL Live” pregame show before calling the Hawks game.

He described the booth in which he calls games as “probably twice as big as a phone booth.” It has two monitors, a telestrator, a screen with four camera angles and a computer. He ditched the all-12 monitor, which shows the entire ice surface, because it wasn’t worthwhile on such a small screen.

“It’s perfectly workable, and it’s comfortable,” Olczyk said. “You just do the best that you can.”

Olczyk has called Stadium Series and Winter Classic games off monitors at venues where the press box is too far from the players. But he had never dealt with what he called a “three-person party line” from the Sportsnet production crew in Edmonton to the NBCSCH crew in Chicago to him in Stamford. That can be tricky setting up replays.

“There’s gonna be a lag time, and there’s not gonna be a lot of time to explain it, so I just have to say what’s on the picture,” he said. “A lot of times, whatever the fans are seeing for the first time, I’m seeing it for the first time, too, which is not the norm. Sometimes they’ll show something that may be irrelevant to what we’re talking about.”

But Olczyk emphasized these are minor inconveniences considering there’s a pandemic going on, and he praised the technical teams for making the broadcasts as normal as possible given all the moving parts.

“Pat’s sitting in a truck outside the United Center, I’m sitting in a studio in Connecticut and we’re calling a game from Edmonton,” Olczyk said. “It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours for people making sure there’s no delay, and then it’s up to me and Pat to try to make it like we’re in the building together, and obviously we’re several hundred miles apart.”