Rozner: Eddie O raring to go with playoff hockey
It's only a matter of time before Eddie Olczyk finds his way to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.
But it's not just in that role that he understands the game's value. It's in his 35 years in the NHL that he has learned what the game means to those who need it.
And it's why he knows the return to action Aug. 1 is significant.
"It's an opportunity to entertain," Olczyk said. "We know what's happening in the real world. This is not the real world, but it's an opportunity for all of us in hockey to at least bring some enjoyment to people's lives, to turn on a TV or a radio, and watch or listen to your favorite team, to see the Blackhawks in the playoffs.
"We all know you can't get away from real life, but at least for a few hours it's good for the mind and soul to have something else.
"Players and coaches and organizations look at this chance here to bring some positive feelings and galvanize a community or a city by going out and entertaining.
"It's really exciting to have this possibility. There's still a lot or hurdles, but it's an opportunity to put a smile on somebody's face and I think that's a good thing considering this pandemic we're living through, even if it's for a short period of time."
Exactly where he'll be broadcasting from is unclear, though he expects to find out in the next few days. Olczyk has Hawks and NBC Sports Chicago obligations, but he's also the face of the national NBC broadcast along with Doc Emrick.
Based on what the other sports are discussing, it's likely that the local hockey broadcasts will originate from studios in the hometown, while the national broadcast teams will be on site in the bubble. Olczyk will be a part of both, eventually.
"I don't know all the logistics yet," Olczyk said. "It's just nice to know that the games are on the schedule and I'll get to work with Pat Foley again soon."
Olczyk has passed the time during the shutdown like the rest of us, though one big change is he's returned to the golf course for the first time in more than a decade.
"It's a good way to get outside," Olczyk said. "It would be better if I could straighten out my driver."
The much bigger news is last week he welcomed his first grandchild, Audrey Marie, courtesy of daughter-in-law Erika and son Eddie.
Grandpa Edzo is also a cancer survivor, lest we forget, but he says he's been assured that he has no more reason to fear COVID-19 than anyone else.
"I've talked to my doctors and they told me I'm not in any higher risk category. I'm far enough removed from chemo that I don't have to worry about it," said the 53-year-old Olczyk. "Believe it or not, it's three years on Aug. 4 that I found out.
"Even before I got sick, I used to carry hand sanitizer around. I think as you get older you just become more aware of your surroundings and try to lead a healthy life.
"I feel good. Looking forward to getting back to work."
As for what's going to happen when play resumes, you can count Olczyk among those who doesn't have a clue as to who will have an advantage.
"The analytics, the numbers, the results of a season series or anything that happened five or six months ago, it's absolutely irrelevant," Olczyk laughed. "This is a new season, a completely new season.
"I do believe that you need the guy in goal, you need hockey health and you have to stay away from the virus. Those three things have to happen. But young teams? Older teams? Experienced teams? I don't have the answer. I wish I could handicap it.
"I love long shots. I'm a horse player. You want to back a 99-1 shot? I can't argue with you."
And as Olczyk has made his rounds of the league via telephone, one thing has become clear.
"Every team I've talked to thinks they have a shot," Olczyk said. "The core guys I've talked to, or management teams, they all say same thing. They all say, 'Why not us?' But in a five-game series, Game 1 is pretty much a must. You're asking for trouble if you lose Game 1.
"I think it has a chance to be really exciting if everyone's healthy. Nobody knows. Just have to wait and see. But if those three things happen, any team could go on a two-month heater and all of a sudden they're playing for the Stanley Cup."
Good luck picking a winner. Let's just hope we get the chance to see it happen.