by Scott King
Despite being an open book in interviews and on broadcasts about his days as a player – and more importantly – his battle with and victory over colon cancer, there was still a lot for Eddie Olczyk to write about.
The 53-year-old beloved broadcaster tells all in Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life.
“I think that when you are in the so-called ‘public eye’, people, they they feel for you, they worry for you, they’re living this with you,” Olczyk, the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador said. “In the world we live in now, there seems to be even more of a connection with people that are in the public eye.”
“And being a Chicago guy and having played here and now broadcasting the games here for the last 14 years, which is really hard to believe, it made me and my family just so appreciative for the people that I didn’t know [reaching] out and know that there are people out there pulling for me and praying for me and mass cards and notes and cards and e-mails and phone calls and messages, and just people I come across because look cancer does not discriminate. It sadly touches us all.”
Olczyk will be hosting a Purple Carpet event at the United Center atrium at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday for Hockey Fights Cancer Night before the Hawks take on the LA Kings.
Eddie will take photos with fans who buy a signed copy of his book until 5:30 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation.
“For me, the support, I couldn’t have done it by myself,” Eddie said. “And when I got on TV with Pat [Foley] and talked about the the sickness and the disease and then when he came back and told everybody I was cancer free, I think the exact words I used [were], “We did this. We beat it.” And I couldn’t have done it by myself. There’s no doubt.
Foley wrote the foreword to Olczyk’s book and recounts calling Eddie every day to make him laugh and raise his spirits during his battle.
“I got his A++ material,” Olczyk said. “And he always made me smile. And sometimes it made me cry just because he was checking in on me, and he knew when I was having good days and bad days.
“I’ve known Pat for a long time. I knew Pat before we knew each other because, of course, I listened to him and Dale [Tallon] all those years doing the games.
“When he threw out the first pitch at the Cubs game there a couple of years ago when I was first diagnosed, that was really hard. That was one of the hardest things I went through was seeing that because I’m thinking like, ‘Well, geez, is this how it’s going to end?’ There he is holding up a Cubs jersey with Olczyk 16 on the back and the crowd is going crazy. And he’s honoring me in that way.
“My wife and I were watching it, I knew he was gonna be there, but I didn’t know he was gonna do that. And I felt like I cried for such a long time. But his friendship never wavered, he was always positive.
“We talked a lot about just whatever was on the docket. And like I said, there wasn’t a day that’d go by that he did not reach out and I’m forever grateful for my partner, the great Pat Foley, for looking after me at really my weakest time.”
Blackhawks fans will love the details Eddie remembers about playing for Chicago in the book. He describes his first NHL goal in his first NHL game with the Hawks, but we wanted to make sure a certain Blackhawks color analyst on WGN Radio was credited with an assist.
“Troy [Murray] got the secondary assist, yeah. He got it back to ‘Feamer’ (Dave Feamster). ‘Feamer’ shot the puck wide. It was a really important goal against the Red Wings. I think it the seventh goal in a 7-3 win that night. They don’t ask, ‘How?’ they just ask, ‘How many?’
“And I was able to bury it in the back of the net and to be able to accomplish that in my hometown from my favorite team and my very first game, I [can] still see it.
“Obviously, when Kirby Dach scored the other night, somebody sent me a graphic about guys ages of scoring goals and whatever… I still see the play develop.”
Dach and Olczyk were both picked at No. 3 overall by the Hawks in the NHL Draft. Olczyk in 1984, Dach in 2019.
“I could see everything,” Eddie said. “Keith Brown grabbed the puck and ‘Brownie’ gave it to me and the fans were chanting my name. It just seems like it was yesterday and it was a thousand years ago, but something I’m super proud of. And to be able to play my first game with the Hawks and actually score a goal in my first game…”
The Blackhawks will wear purple Hockey Fights Cancer sweaters during pregame warmups that will be signed and auctioned off to benefit various cancer charities.
The first 10,000 fans in the arena on Sunday will get Eddie Olczyk bobbleheads also sporting a purple jersey.
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