Monday, October 15, 2012
Hockey is a way of life for Ed Olczyk
By Scott Burnside
DALLAS -- There is a plaque that hangs in the Olczyk house that reads, "We interrupt this family for hockey."
It's not just a saying for the Olczyk clan but a way of life.
It's a way of life that on Monday night saw longtime NHL player, coach and broadcaster Ed Olczyk achieve a lifelong dream of being inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
That he shared the moment with a group of family and friends that was so large the official photographer had to open the doors and step out of the official photo room at the event was, well, just about right.
"I'm proud to say hockey is all I know," Olczyk said before the ceremony that also enshrined former U.S. national teammate Mike Modano and New Jersey Devils president and GM Lou Lamoriello.
For a generation of hockey fans in the U.S., Olczyk has become one of the distinguished voices of the game, and yet to track his family's connection to the game is to track Olczyk's 16-year NHL odyssey.
"Everything I have is because of hockey. I met my wife on an airplane. My two oldest boys were born in Toronto," Olczyk said.
"I was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Winnipeg Jets when my wife was giving delivery to my son Thomas. I got called out of the delivery room and they told me that I was traded. I came back to my delivery room and I guess Thomas decided he didn't want to come into this world for a couple of hours longer after I told [my wife] we were moving.
"My daughter was born in Stamford [Conn.] when I played for the Rangers and my son Nicky was born in L.A. when I played for the Kings," the Chicago native said.
While Olczyk continues his love affair with the game through his broadcasting -- when and if the NHL lockout ends -- the hockey gene has been shared with the rest of his family.
Two of his sons are playing Division I college hockey. Eddie is a senior with UMass-Amherst while younger brother Tommy was just named captain at Penn State, which is entering its first year of Division I play.
"Everything I have I owe to the game of hockey. To be a dad, one of the hats that I've worn representing the game, to have two boys playing college hockey," Olczyk said.
"Certainly couldn't be more proud and very exciting for all of us and for Hockey Valley now that they call it. I'm just very proud of them."
The skilled center had 794 points and nine times topped the 20-goal mark. He acknowledged that he wondered if he would ever get the call to join the rest of the hockey icons in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Certainly his family kept the faith.
"Everything that he's given to the hockey community, it's been given back to him through this induction," Olczyk's son Eddie, 23, told ESPN.com.
"It's really gratifying for me. It's something he's worked his entire career to achieve."
Olczyk became the first-ever native-born son to be taken by his hometown team in the first round of the draft when the Chicago Blackhawks took him with the third overall pick in 1984. His father, also Ed, ("the real Ed Olczyk," Olczyk quipped) recalled tossing the football around with his son preparing him for youth football. But an August birthday meant Ed was too young to play football and one day the youngster showed up with a flyer announcing a learn-to-skate program.
What the heck, his parents figured, the rink was close so why not give it a try?
Ed Sr. ran a string of grocery stores and worked long hours, but his wife took young Ed to the rink, where he learned to skate like the rest of the kids, pushing a chair around the ice, slipping and sliding around.
"She kept taking him and she kept taking him," Ed Sr. recalled.
"By the end of the year he was asked to be on a travel team," he said with a smile. "The rest is history."
As Olczyk finds himself humbled by the gift of the game and its impact on his family, so too is his father.
"I sometimes listen to him [broadcast games] and I go, wow, that's blood of my blood," Ed Sr. said. "I'm a pretty proud dad."