5 Questions with... Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk

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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)

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya is headed to the Eastern Conference.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. The contract could be worth up to $1.25 million with incentives.

Oduya, who the Blackhawks re-acquired prior to the trade deadline last season from the Dallas Stars, finished with two goals and seven assists in 52 games between the two teams.

It comes to no one's surprise that the Blackhawks didn't re-sign the veteran defenseman.

After being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Nashville Predators, Stan Bowman has made it clear the Blackhawks are headed in a different direction, and their offseason has been plenty of busy so far. Headline deals included trading Oduya's linemate Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for 24-year-old defenseman Connor Murphy and re-acquiring Brandon Saad from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

Oduya heads to a Senators team which got ousted in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.