Eddie Olczyk owns decision to leave Blackhawks, but he didn’t arrive at it alone
The Hawks and Olczyk had been talking for weeks about a potential contract, but the team essentially let him test free agency. That allowed the Kraken to swoop in.
As the MC of the Blackhawks’ town-hall event Feb. 2, Hawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk introduced the panel of team executives — chairman Rocky Wirtz, CEO Danny Wirtz and president of business operations Jaime Faulkner.
Olczyk then turned the mic over to Rocky Wirtz, who thanked everyone for attending before heaping praise on Olczyk.
“I want to thank Eddie for his unsuffered commitment to this organization, even in the face of personal challenges,” Wirtz said. “Eddie, we look up words like courage, grace, professionalism, family man; your picture shows up all over them. On behalf of the Writz family, thank you for what you do for us every day. We admire you, and we’re lucky to have you as part of our extended family.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more loyal to the Hawks over the last 16 years than Eddie O, whether it be in the broadcast booth or in the community. He has represented the organization as well as anyone could, through good times and bad.
And now this.
Olczyk won’t return to the Hawks next season, another domino that has fallen in a lengthy row as the franchise stretches its teardown all the way to the beloved broadcast booth. Instead, Olczyk will join the Kraken while remaining as an analyst for TNT. Olczyk’s brother Ricky is a Kraken assistant general manager, his son Eddie is an amateur scout and general manager Ron Francis is a close friend.
Olczyk, who has been on Hawks broadcasts since 2006, couldn’t reach an agreement with management on a new contract. His deal expired after last season. According to a source, the Hawks would not give him the same contract length that the Kraken did.
“We just could not come to terms on a contract, and I have stepped away,” Eddie Olczyk told the Sun-Times on Monday. “There was a contract on the table, but I have decided to step away.
“I had an incredible conversation with Rocky, met with him in person, as well as Danny and Jaime. There’s great disappointment, but this was my decision. In negotiations, sometimes you can’t come to terms, and that’s what happened here.”
The Hawks released a statement: “For 16 seasons, we were fortunate to have legendary broadcaster Eddie Olczyk bring Chicago Blackhawks hockey into the homes of our fans. We are going to miss him as much as our fans will. Eddie will always be part of the Blackhawks family. We appreciate his many contributions and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
The Hawks and Olczyk had been talking for weeks about a potential contract, but the team essentially let him test free agency. That allowed the Kraken to swoop in. Olczyk will team with John Forslund to form one of the best TV tandems in hockey — which the Hawks once had.
Hall of Fame play-by-play voice Pat Foley and Olczyk worked together for 14 years, and they were always entertaining and informative. Yet the Hawks paved the way for both of their exits, skewing younger and more social-media-savvy. The moves are not sitting well with fans, who might feel the sting of this more than the rebuild. That’s the pull announcers have in Chicago.
The Hawks have been undergoing turnover in seemingly every facet of business and hockey operations. Some changes perhaps will be for the better, but letting the best hockey analyst on TV walk out the door will not be one of them. The team will be hard enough to watch.
In the big picture, the Hawks are focused on saving money. They already have had significant layoffs in the organization, and now with Foley and Olczyk off the payroll — and a cost-saving rebuild underway — they can save more.
Olczyk took the high road by owning the decision to leave, but he didn’t arrive at it alone. How could he? He’s a Chicago native who grew up a Hawks fan and was the team’s first-round draft pick in 1984. But despite Rocky Wirtz’s feelings for him, the Hawks drew a line with Olczyk.
But he drew one, too — and it leads to Seattle.