O'Donnell: Shock value of Olczyk exit right up there with Caray, Durham and Kupcinet
THE FIRESTORM IN RESPONSE to the abrupt departure of Eddie Olczyk from the broadcast scheme of the Blackhawks continues.
The iconic TV analyst set West Madison Street hockey pucks flopping when he confirmed he's sonically disconnecting from the Wirtz family to take a similar role with the second-year Seattle Kraken.
Kraken management was apparently stunned and thrilled that the Hall of Fame-caliber Olczyk was willing to leave his hometown and skate his talents 2,000 miles west.
Among the primary initial responses of Blackhawks bosses was to announce a new initiative to "educate the general public about the history and culture of Native peoples."
All once again proving that millennia-old adage, "Inherited money ain't brains."
A QUESTION HAS ARISEN: As a shocker, where does Olczyk's exit rank on the list of all-time Chicago sports radio/TV booth blockbusters?
1. Harry Caray from the White Sox to the Cubs (1981) -- In truth, first tipped in The Daily Herald in August 1981 as a residual from a feature on Walter Jacobson's two years as a bat boy at Wrigley Field (1952-53). ... The Tribune Co. was in its first year of ownership of the Cubs and broadcast power man Jim Dowdle wanted change.
Caray didn't want to work for Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn and they really didn't want him to linger on the their fresh-mint South Side. ... Boom-zappo, in November, the sly Caray crossed over and idled Jack Brickhouse was walkin' toward a 1983 Cooperstown induction.
2. Jim Durham out as Bulls play-by-play man (1991) -- Downright tragic. ... Durham was up for renewal after Michael Jordan championship No. 1. ... For the first time in his 18 seasons with the team, the Downstate native retained an agent, green bean Darcy Bouzeos. ... The Bulls countered with young VP/marketing & broadcasting Steve Schanwald, another inexperienced sort trying to defiantly make his bones.
Negotiations spun horribly out of hand and Reinsdorf failed to effectively intervene. ... Durham retained leaguewide respect and went on to complete his Hall of Fame career as a national NBA play-by-play man before his sad death at age 65 in 2012.
3. Jack Brickhouse and Irv Kupcinet finished as Bears/WGN-AM (720) team (1976) -- An imperfect storm generated by two very different professionals: Decisive Halas Hall chieftain Jim Finks and Gary Deeb, then the nationally renowned radio/TV columnist at the Chicago Tribune. ... The Buffalo-bred Deeb -- age 30 -- kept hammering at the lovably parochial style of Brick' and Kup ("Dat's right, Jack") and Finks took note.
The ax came down following the duo's 24th season. ... Finks brought in old favorite Joe McConnell from Minneapolis and compromised with new rights holder WBBM-AM (780) on improbable "Potato Head" Brad Palmer as paint-by-numbers analyst.
4. Olczyk (2022) -- Many words to describe the staggering organizational miscue, almost all of which are non-starters on any family-oriented Scrabble board. ... "Edzo" is talented, smart and extremely protective of his rock-solid reputation. ... "Foxholer" doesn't even begin to describe what a consummate pro and faithful team player he is.
As for Rocky Wirtz, Danny Wirtz and Hawks president of business ops Jaime Faulkner, maybe they can borrow from Chicago mayoral hopeful Willie Wilson and stage free gas giveaways to try and coax back fleeing fans. ... Or, ol' Rockwell can pay Jenner & Block again for another "independent investigation," this one suggesting that the goofy disconnect is all Olczyk's fault.
5. Wayne Larrivee bolting the Bears for Green Bay (1998) -- A very capable Larrivee walked into the Bears' dream SB XX season on WGN-AM (720) after arriving from Kansas City in 1985. ... Fourteen seasons later, he had enough of the vacillating Bear waves and suddenly announced he was heading for the Packers booth and a versatile base at WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee.
He remains one of the most gifted local p-b-p-ers in the NFL. ... The late Mike McCaskey worsened the loss by overruling some key subordinates to bring washed-up CBS drone Gary Bender in for two lamentable seasons. ... In 2001, Jeff Joniak emerged as the long-term beneficiary of Larrivee's bold declaration of independence.
• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.