On July 18, it was announced that beloved Chicago Blackhawks‘ broadcaster Eddie Olczyk would leave the organization after serving 16 years as a color commentator for the team, and will join the Seattle Kraken’s broadcast. Fans knew that the iconic duo of Pat Foley and Olczyk calling Blackhawks games wouldn’t last forever, but no one expected it to end this abruptly. Foley retired after last season after his 39-year tenure as a play-by-play announcer, and less than three months later, fans have to say goodbye to another big part of their team in Olczyk. Although the news is still shocking, the dust has settled after a few days. With that, our Blackhawks team wanted to get together to reflect on this monumental change.
How Is Everyone Feeling About Olczyk’s Departure?
The loss of Olczyk in the broadcasting booth makes me very sad. Let’s face it; he was the voice of the Blackhawks for the last 16 years. He and Pat Foley, who is also now gone. The Blackhawks are undergoing a true rebuild, and Olczyk would have been a credible voice for the fans. He would have been honest, but also positive, about the new direction. He was one last thing to cling to, and now he is gone.
I’d like to say that I’m shocked, but numb might be a more fitting word to use at this point. Not solely because of the Olczyk news, but more so because of all that led up to it. With that said, the fact that Eddie has found his way to being part of the overall teardown just seems all too fitting at this point. I went from building a case for why he should have been considered Chicago’s next general manager on “Blackhawks Banter,” to being less than surprised to see him depart their broadcasting booth. Clearly, the Blackhawks are taking the concept of a rebuild to a whole new level.
Honestly, more disappointed than surprised. Over the past year, it’s been obvious the Blackhawks are trying to get younger in nearly all aspects of their organization, including the broadcast. When thinking about most of the games Olczyk worked last year, they were mainly with Foley before he joined Chris Vosters for a handful of games toward the end of the season. Though I didn’t necessarily think this meant Olczyk would leave the booth, I’m not necessarily as shocked about this news as others.
Now, I completely respect Olczyk’s decision to step aside, especially if the two sides were not willing to come to an agreement. Having said that, this is a huge, huge blow for the Blackhawks and their fans. Olczyk is one of the best analysts in not just the NHL but all of professional sports. Through their ups and downs, he was the voice of reason for Chicago and was one of the team’s biggest ambassadors. You need that entering a rebuild, and they’re missing out. Good, high-quality broadcasters matter, and with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews being the exception, this feels tougher than losing any player.
I’m frustrated and sad about this news. I’m frustrated that the Blackhawks could not get a deal done, and I’m sad because of what the team will miss. Listening to Foley and Olczyk was part of the whole Blackhawks’ experience. You think of Kane and Toews on the ice and Pat and Eddie in the booth. I was looking forward to hearing Olczyk next season, as the club is not expected to be good, and he is always entertaining to listen to. But I am also happy for him as he has a lot of family connections in Seattle. His brother, Rick Olczyk, is the assistant general manager of the Kraken, and his son Eddie, Jr., is an amateur scout for the team. That’s an exciting opportunity for him, but it hurts and he will be missed.
How Confident Are You in the Organization to Find the “Right” Replacement for Olczyk Next Season?
These are some really, really big shoes to fill. I’m still trying my hardest to get up to speed with Chris Vosters. It’s just not the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. We all simply have to get used to a different voice. Well, now two different voices. Regarding a replacement for Eddie, Mark Lazerus of The Athletic brought up the names of Patrick Sharp, Adam Burish, and Caley Chelios. (from ‘Eddie Olczyk leaving Blackhawks, will join Kraken’s broadcast team,’ The AthleticNHL, 07/18/2022) Sharp indicated in the past he wasn’t sure if he would want to deal with live color broadcasting. Burish seems like someone who could fly off the handle, or perhaps not be as controlled or professional as the organization might want.
Chelios, well, I was impressed with ALL her commentary last season, of which she was trialed in all aspects. She was in the studio for pre-game, post-game, and intermission analysis. She spoke from the United Center. She did radio analysis, and she called a few games on TV. Would she thrive in a bigger role? It’s tough to say. But giving a woman this kind of rein would certainly be a good look for an organization that has been through the mud politically these past few seasons.
Or it could backfire. If it was me, I would give her a shot. But as a woman, I’m probably a bit partial.
As though the Blackhawks were giving onlookers much to be optimistic about in the first place, their ability to find the right fit in this regard that quickly seems farfetched at best. Not because it’s not possible, but more so because the void that Foley and Olczyk leave will be extremely difficult to fill.
I suspect that we’ll see a cast of characters come and go throughout the season, each taking their rightful turn at proving why the role should be theirs. Some will do it better than others and an imbalance in air time will ensue. Ultimately, fans will have a favourite or two by the season’s end, but I think it may still take a few years before anyone has the type of following that Foley and Olczyk were able to accumulate.
Not confident at all. The Blackhawks seem to like their in-house options such as Caley Chelios and Colby Cohen, and while I think both did well last season, they’re still relatively young and don’t have the same credibility or voice of authority that Olczyk brings.
No one will ever be able to replace Edzo, but you need those traits for the lead analyst role. Also, given Vosters is still relatively new, I strongly believe it would be in the team’s best interests to find a well-known, respected veteran to pair with him, even if it’s as simple as moving Troy Murray from the radio broadcast. However, I feel like that may not be a realistic possibility, considering the team’s apparent youth movement. For an Original Six franchise, the Blackhawks need to do right by their fans here, which lately hasn’t always been the case.
I’m not very confident. It’s impossible to replace legendary broadcasters like Olczyk, so it’s hard for anyone to live up to those expectations. However, people grow into that legendary status all the time within hockey. Who’s to say the Blackhawks can’t find another as they were lucky enough to find two? But I don’t see that happening for a long time. I’m not confident that they’ll find their permanent fit by next season. Besides Chelios or Murray, I thought Nick Olczyk, Eddie’s son would make a good candidate as he did well calling some games last season, but Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times reported he left the organization as well. It will be a growing season within the booth next year for sure.
Olczyk Stated That a Contract Offer Was on the Table From the Blackhawks, but That They Couldn’t Come to an Agreement. Could Chicago Have Done More to Keep Him Around?
Well. They could have offered him more money or a longer contract. But let’s face it, the Blackhawks are trying to start anew. They were hoping Eddie would be a bridge to that newness. But if you’re Olczyk, do you really want to do that?
Just like with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. You’re a proven star. One of the best in the business. Sure, you’re getting older, and the glory days might be more behind you than in front of you. But do you want to stick it out with a rebuilding club? Or do you want to spend your remaining time in the limelight you’ve always known?
Olczyk kept saying, “It was time to step back.” With his brother Ricky being the assistant general manager for the Kraken, Perhaps he just saw this new opportunity as a better way to go out than the slog that will probably be the Blackhawks for years to come. If that’s the case, do you blame him?
The same thinking could be applied to any of their offseason departures, in that it feels like the Blackhawks failed to do much of anything when it came to finding a way to keep fan favourites around. Of course, not knowing the details of the negotiation, it’s hard to gauge what that offer may or may not have looked like. However, it feels like there may have also been a little more at play in this particular scenario. With reports indicating that Olczyk is heading to Seattle for the 2022-23 season, he obviously wasn’t suffering for other opportunities. Perhaps it didn’t really matter what the Blackhawks threw his way, as he may have been waiting for the perfect excuse to find his way out of town anyway. Given their current outlook, he may have realized there was no better time than the present.
Absolutely. While Olczyk has repeatedly said it was his decision to step aside during his recent media appearances, it seems very evident he didn’t want to leave. Though I understand he’s older than some of the team’s current broadcasters, he is 100% worth keeping around, even in the worst of times. For someone who’s done so much not just for the Blackhawks but the Chicago community, it seems like the organization totally misread the room.
Yes, I do. Olczyk stated, “Negotiations are hard. At the end of the day it is always about money and terms. I mean that’s just the reality of the world we live in. That’s as far as I’m gonna go on that. I think both sides certainly expected to get a contract done.” That was hard to hear because it seemed like all the Blackhawks had to do was give him what he wanted. He has more than earned the right to command whatever he wants as far as contracts go. It seems like the Blackhawks stiffed him in that sense, and if that’s the case, then that’s disheartening knowing they didn’t step up to the plate. It’s not a great look for the organization, especially knowing that retaining him would be necessary for next season’s struggles. However, because we don’t know what the conversations looked like, it’s hard to gauge what went into the decision entirely. But either way, it doesn’t paint the best picture for the team.
Finally, What Has Olczyk Meant to You as a Blackhawks Fan? What Will You Miss the Most?
“All you young hockey fans out there,” “Keep your stick on the ice!”, “Stop it right there”. This is what I will remember about Eddie O. Plus the fact that he always went out of his way to praise his partner, “The great Pat Foley.”
Shucks, nobody calls me, “The great Gail Kauchak!”
My point is that Olczyk is a man of heart and a man who cares — about the game of hockey and anybody else who happens to care about hockey. I’m envious of his new colleagues in Seattle and all the people he will influence and mentor there, just like he did in Chicago. God bless!
The credibility that Olczyk brought to his role was second to none. Like the Blackhawks who seemed to always put competing at the forefront, Eddie led with passion in all he did for the franchise. The two sides fit perfectly in that regard. That he was a former draft pick made it that much more special to witness. His adoration for the organization was obvious and it oozed out in the best of ways. As a fan, he made watching and listening to that much more of a treat as a result. With the Blackhawks heading into unchartered territory, with pain ahead for every inch of the franchise, it almost seems fitting that Olczyk has found a way to escape it all in advance. This way, we don’t have to associate his voice with what’s to come. Rather, we get to remember the calls that made celebrating their achievements that much more because he was part of sharing the good news.
Like many Blackhawks fans, Edzo has done a lot for me. A few years ago, I got his book “Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life,” which is a fascinating read. From making the U.S. Olympic Team in 1984 to winning his battle with cancer over three decades later, it’s incredible how much he’s accomplished over his life.
My favorite Edzo moment came back in March 2018, when the Blackhawks were playing the Vancouver Canucks. During the game’s first intermission, he announced he was cancer-free, and his openness during and after his battle never failed to amaze me. For as good as Olczyk is a broadcaster, I will even more so miss his personality and what he brought to the broadcasts as a human being.
Olczyk is Chicago, just like Foley. He was born and raised here, and he played for the Blackhawks. He understands Chicago fans, and he connected with them so well because of that. He truly became the face of the franchise with Foley, and they are what made people feel at “home” when watching games. Broadcasters can rarely connect with a vast audience, and he was able to do that because of how relatable he is. He is one of us, a Blackhawks fan. He even stated, “I will die a Blackhawk.” Because of that, he could relay what most were thinking, whether good or bad. That is what I’m going to miss. I will also miss him always saying, “Keep an eye on the goaltender” if the Hawks or the opposing team were down by a goal with a couple of minutes left. He is a class act.
Blackhawks fans: what will you miss the most?
Thank you Eddie for all you have done for the Blackhawks and the city of Chicago, and best of luck on your newest adventure!
Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.