Blackhawks Have a Logical Fit for TV Analyst in Patrick Sharp

One of the most stunning departures for the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason came off the ice. On July 18, longtime TV analyst and former player Eddie Olczyk parted ways with the team after the two sides couldn’t come to a new contract. After 16 seasons in the Blackhawks’ booth, Olczyk will now join the Seattle Kraken broadcast team.

Eddie Olczyk
Former Chicago Blackhawks player Eddie Olczyk (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky, File)

Nearly a month after his departure, there hasn’t been any announcement of Olczyk’s replacement. However, Jeff Agrest of the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Aug. 11 that the organization is eyeing Patrick Sharp to take over for Olczyk in the booth. (from ‘Bears radio broadcasts will leave WBBM after season; ESPN 1000, WCHI vying to land them,’ 08/11/22, The Chicago Sun-Times). Though Sharp may not be some fans’ first choice to replace Olczyk, there are reasons why hiring him makes sense.

Sharp Is a Fan Favorite

Sharp, 40, got into broadcasting immediately after he retired from hockey following the 2017-18 regular season. From 2018-21, he served as a studio analyst for the NHL on NBC and has appeared on a handful of Blackhawks’ local broadcasts over the last few years. While he now works for the University of Vermont Men’s Ice Hockey team, Sharp could certainly take the Blackhawks’ job if he wanted and has the credentials for the gig.

When thinking of the Blackhawks’ “One Goal” era of the early-to-mid 2010s, few players were as iconic during that timeframe as Sharp. Yes, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith are probably the names most casual fans think of from that era, but Sharp isn’t too far behind. While he didn’t have the same career as the aforementioned trio, he became a fan favorite over the years for his playing style and personality.

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Knowing how much of a fan favorite Olczyk was, it would be understandable for Chicago to pursue someone of a similar caliber. Sharp is a recognizable name not just among Blackhawks fans but hockey fans, and though he hasn’t displayed the same flair through his TV work as Olczyk, he’s still someone who would draw eyeballs due to his high profile.

With Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and others all having left Chicago this offseason, there’s no doubt ratings will be down for Blackhawks’ broadcasts this year. The team is gearing up for potentially one of its worst seasons in franchise history; however, hiring Sharp for the role as opposed to a no-name would be both a sensible and smart choice. He’d give the club a well-known voice in the booth, even if he doesn’t have the same resumé as a broadcaster as Olczyk.

Sharp Would Likely Appeal to a Younger Audience

Think of many of the changes that have taken place within the Blackhawks organization during the last year. Though not necessarily intentional, one common theme for Chicago is they are going younger in many facets of their club. Blackhawks general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson is the league’s youngest GM, while developing young talent remains a priority for the club on the ice. The broadcasts are no exception either, given Chicago hired Chris Vosters for the TV play-by-play role, an up-and-comer, over longtime radio announcer John Wiedeman or another veteran.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Sharp isn’t young, per se, he knows several current players and the NHL’s current structure. Because of this, he’d probably be able to connect well with a younger audience, given his familiarity with the current league. In turn, given the Blackhawks are aiming to draw a new generation of fans, Sharp would also appeal to this group as someone who retired from hockey just four years ago.

However, that’s not to say Sharp wouldn’t only attract a younger audience. From 2009-15, during the peak of Chicago’s dynasty era, the Blackhawks were as prominent as ever both across the NHL and professional sports in general. Sharp, like Olczyk, would bridge the gap between different generations of fans.

If Not Sharp, Blackhawks Have Other Good Options

Despite their on-ice shakeup, there are reasons to argue losing Olczyk has been the Blackhawks’ biggest blow this offseason. He brought a flair to broadcasts few other analysts could, and many Chicago fans appreciated his credibility. Whoever replaces him will have major shoes to fill, but as a former Blackhawk, Sharp may be one of the closest things to Olczyk in terms of being a fan favorite and an iconic name.

That said, while I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Blackhawks choose Sharp for the role, he’s not based out of Chicago. There’s also no indication he wants to give up his current position with the University of Vermont, as appealing as the Blackhawks’ job may sound. Even if the team has high interest in Sharp, it may not be his first priority, but there are still other quality names Chicago could choose for the job.

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Troy Murray, Blackhawks’ longtime radio analyst, could probably make the move to TV if he wanted. Similar to Olczyk, he’d serve as a good mentor for Vosters, who is entering just his first full year of calling NHL games. Adam Burish and Colin Fraser, other players from Chicago’s “One Goal” era, may not have the same name recognition as Sharp, but they’ve also done some broadcasting work for the team. If Chicago wanted to go bold, Chris Chelios is already a Blackhawks’ ambassador and could probably make a smooth move to the booth considering his ESPN work.

Much like how the Blackhawks chose Vosters to replace longtime TV play-by-play voice Pat Foley, it’ll be intriguing to see what direction Chicago goes with replacing Olczyk. With the regular season less than two months away, you’d think the club would announce its decision sooner rather than later to let fans know what to expect. Regardless of who Chicago chooses, though, the club should hire a recognizable name. Sharp would fit that bill.

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