Forgotten Lightning Profiles: Olaf Kolzig

When hockey fans remember the contributions of goalie Olaf Kolzig, those memories most definitely will be of him spending his time with the Washington Capitals. The man also known as “Olie the Goalie,” spent parts of 16 seasons with the franchise, and is one of the best to ever be between-the-pipes for them. However, the Capitals were not the only team he ever played for.

There was a small stint where the German goalie was a part of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Some fans might not remember this happening, but he did indeed have some time in net for the Bolts, who at-the-time were doing what they could to transition the team in a more positive direction. Before discussing the last season for Olie, let’s review how he became the well-known goalie he is today thanks to his time in Washington, DC.

Becoming Mr. Capital in Net

Kolzig was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on April 6, 1970. He lived in a couple of different countries during his early life, including Denmark and Canada. He started playing hockey and worked his way up to playing for the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the New Westminster Bruins who later became the Tri-City Americans. He put up the following during his time in juniors:

  • 1987-88 (New Westminster): 6-5-0, 4.43 goals-against average (GAA), and one shutout in 15 games played
  • 1988-89: (Tri-City): 16-10-2, 3.48 GAA, and one shutout in 30 games played
  • 1989-90 (Tri-City): 21-18-3, 4.48 GAA, and one shutout in 48 games played
Before making it to the NHL (shown here), Olaf Kolzig suited up for the New Westminster Bruins and Tri-City Americans in the WHL. (Joe Wilson)

Kolzig was selected in the first round (19th overall) by the Capitals in the 1989 NHL Draft. He made his league debut during the 1989-90 campaign, starting in only two games but both being tough losses. He ended up letting in a total of 12 goals against in those two games combined, but it was only the beginning of his career and more time was needed to see what he could do. He did not make any appearances in the NHL after the 1989-90 season all the way until 1992-93 when he played in one game that he did not start.

Gradual development took place in the 1990s as Kolzig gained more experience and accumulated more games under his belt. A big pivotal season where Olie got a big workload and carried the team through it was in the 1997-98 campaign. He played in 64 contests (started 63 of those) and posted a record of 33-18-10. His GAA was 2.20, while his save-percentage (SV%) was .920. He was looked upon as the man between the pipes for Washington for a long time after that. He posted the following from 1997-98 on with the Capitals in the regular season:

  • 1997-98: 33-18-10, 2.20 GAA, .920 SV%, and five shutouts in 64 games played
  • 1998-99: 26-31-3, 2.58 GAA, .900 SV%, and four shutouts in 64 games played
  • 1999-00: 41-20-11, 2.24 GAA, .917 SV%, and five shutouts in 73 games played
  • 2000-01: 37-26-8, 2.48 GAA, .909 SV%, and five shutouts in 72 games played
  • 2001-02: 31-29-8, 2.79 GAA, .903 SV%, and six shutouts in 71 games played
  • 2002-03: 33-25-6, 2.40 GAA, .919 SV%, and four shutouts in 66 games played
  • 2003-04: 19-35-9, 2.89 GAA, .908 SV%, and two shutouts in 63 games played
  • 2005-06: 20-28-11, 3.53 GAA, .896 SV%, and no shutouts in 59 games played
  • 2006-07: 22-24-6, 3.00 GAA, .910 SV%, and one shutout in 54 games played
  • 2007-08: 25-21-6, 2.91 GAA, .892 SV%, and one shutout in 54 games played
Olaf Kolzig Washington Capitals
Kolzig established himself as one of the best goalies in Washington Capitals history. (By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

Kolzig established himself as one of the best goalies the Capitals ever had. He was a two-time NHL All Star (1998 and 2000), and won the Vezina Trophy as the season’s best goalie in 2000 among other awards and honors throughout his tenure in Washington. He was a stellar piece in helping the Capitals go to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998. Olie is up there along with Braden Holtby as two top netminders in the club’s history. However, just like in the case with Holtby going to the Vancouver Canucks, Kolzig too did not play his entire career in DC.

Finishing Career Elsewhere

It happens every so often in the NHL that players who are known for suiting up for one club find themselves playing for another organization to finish up their career. It could be for a variety of different reasons this is the case, including the idea that the team feels it is in their best interest to move on from the talent, but the player feels there is still more left in the tank and more game to be played. Hockey fans saw it with Martin Brodeur and the St. Louis Blues, Mike Modano with the Detroit Red Wings, and one of the most recent examples was former Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu playing his last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Kolzig was another player many thought would end his career with the Capitals, but it did not happen.

Kolzig signed as a free agent in the summer of 2008 with the Lightning, who were looking to bounce back after being one of the worst teams in the league the season prior. The team made quite a few moves that summer. They addressed defense by trading for Matt Carle from the San Jose Sharks (and later dealt him months later to the Philadelphia Flyers), Andrej Meszaros from the Ottawa Senators, and Lukas Krajicek from the Canucks.

Matt Carle was originally with the Tampa Bay Lightning for a brief period of the 2008-09 season before eventually returning for his second stint with the club as a free agent in the summer of 2012. – Photo By Andy Martin Jr

They also spent quite a bit in free agency; landing Mark Recchi, Radim Vrbata, Marek Malik, and Adam Hall among others. Not to mention, their biggest acquisition that summer was drafting Steven Stamkos 1st overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. They were transitioning to their next chapter while also keeping certain star players who were part of the core in Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. Kolzig joined the goaltending group that also ended up including Mike Smith, Karri Ramo, and Mike McKenna.

Kolzig ended up playing fewer games than the other goalies mentioned in the 2008-09 campaign. Smith led the way with 41 games played, followed by Ramo with 24, and McKenna with 15 played. Olaf only appeared in eight games for the club. In those contests, he chalked up a record of 2-4-1 with a 3.66 GAA and a .898 Sv%. Olie was originally supposed to be the backup goalie for Smith which he was, but he suffered a ruptured biceps tendon which ended his season. Later on, at the trade deadline that same season, he was part of a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The full deal was Olie, defenseman Jamie Heward, defender Andy Rogers, and a 2009 4th round pick for defenseman Richard Petiot. He never suited up for the Leafs, and announced his retirement from the game prior to the 2009-10 season.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith, shown here with the Calgary Flames, played most of the games for Tampa during the 2008-09 season. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal)

“Olie the Goalie,” will always be more recognized for his time in Washington. He spent his entire career with the franchise besides 8 games when he was with Tampa. He was used for a season to be a veteran who would provide support for Smith as he was getting games for the Lightning. If Kolzig had not dealt with the bicep tendon injury, he would have probably suited up a few more times. He will always be considered a solid goalie, just with the focus on his accomplishments in DC.

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