Vernon Hills hockey campers learn from Olczyk, other NHL players
Using a whistle and a loud voice instead of a microphone, Blackhawks television analyst Eddie Olczyk was in command as an instructor for the finale of a youth hockey camp Friday at Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills.
Olczyk, who played for his hometown Hawks, said he believes the team winning the Stanley Cup this year and in 2010 has had a runoff effect on local youth hockey.
"Two Cups in four years speaks for itself," Olczyk said during a brief break. "I don't think there's any doubt it has an impact on amateur hockey, I think, especially in numbers (of players). We live in a fast-food society. You see it, you want it, you want to buy it, you want to try it, you want to go there. When you see the Hawks win the Stanley Cup and the United Center is filled every night, people want to be there and they want to play it and try it."
Big-time instructors with National Hockey League experience were part of the Glacier camp that started Monday and covered a range of fundamentals. Among those to join Olczyk as tutors were former Hawks Steve Dubinsky and Steve Konroyd, who is part of the team's local telecasts.
Olczyk -- a Stanley Cup winner with the New York Rangers in 1994 who also works as an NBC Sports hockey analyst -- held the attention of about 20 PeeWee and Bantam boys at Friday morning's session. Blowing his whistle and elevating his voice when necessary, he put the kids through their paces with drills that included stickhandling and passing.
Similar to his TV commentary, Olczyk stressed how players must keep their stick on the ice and their feet moving at all times. The 16-year NHL veteran who bagged 342 goals told the campers the best way to pass is by sweeping the puck ahead with a good follow through.
"You've got to be strong on your stick," Olczyk said. "You've got to be strong."
Mark Easterwood of Chicago, whose 10-year-old goaltender son, Jesse, was a camp participant, soaked up Friday's instruction from the bleachers. He said he was impressed by the work of Olczyk, a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer who coached the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2003 to 2005.
"I love it," Easterwood said. "He is nonstop with the kids. He works them hard, and I love how he demonstrates a drill and his voice projects so well. And I think that's important. You have to be high-tempo, loud-spoken and it keeps the kids interested. So, he's doing a phenomenal job. I'm enjoying it."
Glacier hockey instructor Jeff McPherren, who worked with Olczyk and the other former NHL players at the five-day camp, said the big names provided additional excitement for the boys. It was the camp's second year.
For the high-profile Olczyk, working with the boys at Glacier was an opportunity for him to give back something to an area that's been good to him.
"To get a chance to come to the neighborhood and work with these young kids, it's really important," he said.