Eddie Olczyk doesn’t hesitate to give back to hockey. It’s natural, considering how much hockey has given him. And with his annual eponymous award, Olczyk continues to give kids the opportunity to see where hockey can take them.
The Blackhawks have partnered with Olczyk and Blackhawks charities for the third annual Eddie Olczyk Award, which supports youth hockey players, teams and organizations in Illinois that may not have the means to play at a competitive level.
For Olczyk, the award obviously means a lot. Getting to contact the winner does, too.
“I don’t have any input or say in the decisions they choose, but the best thing I get to do is make the phone call to the kids who win the award,” Olczyk said. “To hear their family or their voice on the line and realize we’re helping them in whatever way, it’s an opportunity for me to give back.”
Since it began in 2011, the Eddie Olczyk Award has distributed more than $55,000 in grants, raised through Blackhawks youth hockey summer camps, to 24 individuals and one organization. Individuals and families in need of assistance for participation in an Illinois sanctioned team or organization, sanctioned teams in need of assistance for tournament expenses and Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois (AHAI) organizations in need of assistance to run programs which increase the participation in, and quality of, youth hockey who wish to be considered for the grant process must submit a letter of inquiry by Jan. 10, 2014. Complete information can be found here.
“From the financial aspect, it is such an expensive game to play,” Olczyk said. “We want to help organizations, families that are in need. We want to hear from everybody.”
As an aspiring hockey player, Olczyk had to leave the Chicago area to pursue his hockey dreams. Today, hockey is thriving here and kids can keep those dreams alive right here.
“I try to tell hockey families and players: if your aspirations are to play college hockey, if you’re a good player they’ll find you. It doesn’t matter where you play. It’s been proven that Illinois and Chicago produce pretty good hockey players at all levels. But the more opportunities kids have in our area, the more opportunity they have to grow as a player and person,” Olczyk said. “Hockey doesn’t just teach you about the game. There’s something about camaraderie, teamwork and discipline. That’s the important message of the award and everything we’re about.”