Chicago Blackhawks

5 Questions with... Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk

558952.jpg

5 Questions with... Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk

CSN Chicago Senior Director of Communications
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guesta Chicago hockey legend who started and ended his brilliant 16-year NHL career for his beloved Blackhawkshes a Stanley Cup champion, a U.S. Olympian, but without question, this guy is THE best television color analyst in the game todayyou can catch him all season long on Comcast SportsNet with his on-air partner Pat Foley, along with regular appearances throughout the season on Versus and the NHL on NBClets drop the puck already, here are 5 Questions withEDDIE OLCZYK!

BIO: Eddie Olczyk is currently in his fifth season as the television analyst for Blackhawks hockey on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Olczyk, a 16-year NHL veteran, scored 342 goals and recorded 794 points in 1,031 games with Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Winnipeg, the New York Rangers and Los Angeles, winning a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994. The third overall choice in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, he was also a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and represented the U.S. in numerous international competitions.

Eddie began his NHL career as an 18-year old with his hometown Chicago Blackhawks in 1984-85. He played three seasons recording 180 points (65 goals, 115 assists) in 228 games. He then spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1987-91), scoring a career-high 42 goals during the 1987-88 season and recording a career-high 90 points during the 1988-89 season.

Olczyk was traded to Winnipeg and played two-and-a-half seasons with the Jets from 1990-1992, recording 142 points (66 goals, 76 points) in 150 games. He played for the Rangers (1992-95) before heading back to Winnipeg, scoring 27 goals with the Jets in their last season in Winnipeg (1995-96). He began the 1996-97 season with Los Angeles before being traded to the Penguins late in the season. Olczyk played parts of two seasons with Pittsburgh before returning to Chicago and finishing his NHL career with the Blackhawks. He retired from the league in 2000.

Following his playing career, Olczyk embarked on a career as a broadcaster, working on Pittsburgh Penguins television broadcasts for Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh (2000-03) and calling games for ESPN, ESPN2 and NHL Radio.

Olczyk was named head coach of the Penguins on June 11, 2003, and he posted a 31-68-14 record while behind the Penguins bench (2003-05).

He returned to broadcasting during the 2005-06 NHL season, serving as an analyst and studio host for Versus and NBC, where he also resides as the networks chief game analyst.

Eddie O., as he is affectionately known, and his wife Diana have four children: sons Eddie, Tommy and Nicholas and daughter Alexandra.

1) CSNChicago.com: Eddie, thanks for taking time to join us for this edition of 5 Questions with With the NHL season finally upon us, theres plenty of positive buzzhigh expectations throughout the hockey world for this seasons Blackhawks team. In your opinion, what would you say would be your top 3 team priorities from an offensiveand defensivestandpoint that must happen in order to propel this well-stocked Blackhawks squad to the top of the Western Conference standings?

Olczyk: I think first off is that they need to get off to a really good start. The first 20 games are crucial for any team, but I think for a team that got off to a tough start last year in the first 20 games, is really the first and foremost as far as a collective standpoint.

I think second is the health of this team right now is probably the biggest question mark because you have some guys banged up. You've got Viktor Stalberg on the mend and Ben Smith banged up. So to me, to really get a true assessment of this club, is that you've got to have everybody healthy in order to have a good first 20 games and have a good start.

Lastly, finding that chemistry as quick as you can, whether it's on the forward lines, on the back end or who even's going to be the backup goalie. Chemistry is something that can come in a lot of different ways, but I think it's something that will help the team down the stretch and into the playoffs.

2) CSNChicago.com: This next question will be tough to answer. Which was a more emotional moment for you personally: when you were drafted first overall by your hometown Blackhawks in the 1984 NHL entry draft (third overall in the entire NHL) or when the Blackhawks won it all two years ago?

Olczyk: (Laughs) Well, considering both of those were something I'd dreamed about as a kid growing up in the city of Chicago: what it would be like to play for the Blackhawks and then skating the Stanley Cup around the old Chicago Stadium. Considering I had nothing to do with what happened two years ago, I was more of a fan than anything else and a proud alum of the Blackhawks organization, it was close. But being drafted by my hometown team and being an American and from the greatest city in the world, there's nothing really that would ever top that moment as a member of the Blackhawks. I got a chance to play my first game as a Blackhawk, my thousandth game as a Blackhawk and my last game as a Blackhawk, with a lot of games in between. So, I would have to say, longwinded, being drafted by my favorite team was a lifelong dream.

3) CSNChicago.com: Through your expert knowledge of the game and natural ability in front of the camera, you have established yourself as the premier color analyst in all of hockey. Tell us how you got your start in broadcasting.

Olczyk: Considering a lot of my friends tell me I have a face for radio, I have no idea what that means, but on the inside, I really do. Actually, I got my start in television during the 1994-95 season. There was a work stoppage and I was playing for the New York Rangers at the time and we didn't play the first four months of the regular season. Everybody who knows me, knows I have a passion for horse racing. I got a chance to work at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey. I actually did in-house and race analysis at the Meadowlands Racetrack. So that was kind of my introduction to working in front of the camera, having an IFB, which is an earpiece that you talk to people in the truck to communicate. That's how I pretty much got my start on television, being a racing analyst at the Meadowlands Racetrack in the fall of 1994.

4) CSNChicago.com: Two-parter here: what was your most memorable game as a player and who would you say is the toughest opponent youve ever faced on the ice?

Olczyk: The toughest opponent I ever played against without a doubt was Scott Stevens, who was a longtime NHLer and one of the meanest, toughest defensemen ever to play in the National Hockey League. I just think that he was one of those guys, I mean there are a lot of players you knew were on the ice, but when you talk about tough, he had everything that you would want in a tough, hard-nosed defenseman. There was always a battle each and every night, but just the physical strength that he had was really second to none.

I was lucky enough to win a Stanley Cup with that Rangers in 1994, scoring my first goal in my very first game as a Blackhawk against the Detroit Red Wings probably would be right at the top. However, coming in a close second would be the year we won the Cup with the Rangers in 1994. I was voted the Players' Player Award, which was voted on by my teammates. To win that award, on a team that eventually won the Stanley Cup, is something I will always take great pride in.

5) CSNChicago.com: Now that youre back calling Blackhawks games, were curious what you did for fun during this off-season (excluding going to the race track!)

Olczyk: (Laughs) Well that's not fair considering you won't allow me to answer chasing the ponies around the racetrack! It's a time for me to stay at home and be with my family. Everybody knows my schedule is pretty crazy during the regular season. It's a privilege and honor to sit in the chair that I do for 125 games a year, but I just like staying at home. Both my boys come home from college, so its a full house at the Olczyk household over the course of the summer for about four months. I took a trip to Las Vegas, which my wife and I annually do, so we enjoy doing that. We stay at the beautiful Red Rock Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. I would highly recommend that to any people who might be going west for a vacation in the near future.

Olczyk LINKS:

Chicago Blackhawks official site

Nominate your favorite youth hockey team via CSNChicago.coms Eddie Os All-Stars presented by Galaxie Home Remodeling

(Note: Meghan Bower contributed to this edition of 5 Questions with)

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

nick_schmaltz.jpg
USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”