Eddie Olczyk, the top TV analyst for the Blackhawks and NBC, has been diagnosed with colon cancer and had a tumor removed last week. The Chicago native and former Hawks star will miss the start of the season as he undergoes further treatment, including chemotherapy.
“I have been working with outstanding health-care professionals and expect to be back in the broadcast booth after I complete my treatment,” Olczyk said in a statement released by the team. “Having the support and encouragement from my family, the Chicago Blackhawks organization, NBC Sports and all my friends and fans means the world to me and will give me continued strength to beat this.”
The indefatigable Olczyk is one of the hardest-working people in the sport, crisscrossing the continent for more than nine months out of the year to call more than 100 games, all while squeezing in side trips to see his sons play. In the last two years, he has added horse racing, covering Triple Crown races and other major events.
A gregarious sort whose personality is as big off the air as it is on, the boisterous Olczyk has become the voice of the NHL for millions of American fans. He also has been a fixture in the community with his youth-hockey initiatives in his hometown.
“I read in the [Washington] Post that 75 percent of Americans of all faiths pray at least once a week,” Mike “Doc” Emrick, Olczyk’s NBC partner, told the Sun-Times. “So there is something I/we can do. I think it makes a difference. Eddie loves ice cream. So each time I pass an ice-cream parlor [or a race track], he will come to mind. I will look forward to our next game even more than the previous 12 years’ worth. ’Cause I have a great original brother in Indiana, but a second ‘brother’ in Chicago.”
The Hawks did not announce a replacement, but Steve Konroyd has been Olczyk’s fill-in when national games prevented Olczyk from calling Hawks games.
“Eddie Olczyk is a treasured member of the Chicago Blackhawks family, and we will be supportive of him as he fights this disease,” Hawks president John McDonough said. “We encourage our fans to keep him in their thoughts as we all look forward to having him back in good health as soon as possible.”
A first-round pick (third overall) of his hometown Hawks in 1984, Olczyk had three productive seasons with the Hawks before starring for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, scoring 42 goals in Toronto in the 1987-88 season. He went on to win the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994 and played for the Jets, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins before finishing his career where it began, in Chicago.
He spent three seasons as a broadcaster for the Penguins before becoming their coach in 2003.
He joined the Hawks as a broadcaster in 2006-07. He has been the lead analyst for NBC since 2007, working on the top team with Emrick and Pierre McGuire.
“On behalf of everyone at NBC Sports, we wish Eddie and his family all the best as they cope with this health issue,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said in a release. “Our top priority is for Edzo to get healthy, so he won’t be joining us at the beginning of the season. . . . We’re looking forward to when Edzo comes off IR and rejoins Doc and Pierre to call the great game of hockey.”
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