As if the rebuilding process for the Chicago Blackhawks wasn’t already producing enough turmoil for the fanbase with the on-ice changes being made, the Chicago hockey world was hit with a seismic news drop on Monday.
Eddie Olczyk is leaving the Blackhawks broadcast booth.
Olczyk, a Blackhawks legend on and off the ice, spent the past 16 seasons as the color analyst for the organization and established himself as not only one of the best broadcasters in town, but also on a national level with his work as the lead color analyst with NBC Sports and
TNT. Now it’s over for his time in Chicago and it all could have been avoided.
There are so many layers to this story that have already been uncovered and I’m certain that by the time this story goes to print (lol, when I click ‘publish’), there will already be more information on the subject that comes to light. Here’s what we know from both sides of the situation:
• Olczyk’s contract expired on June 30 and it was reportedly the understanding of the Blackhawks through the negotiating process that they had reached a “verbal agreement” from Olczyk to a contract extension.
• It was also reported that Olczyk’s extension had changed in the salary structure. Previously, Olczyk was paid for the full 82-game season, even though he would regularly miss Blackhawks games to cover his national broadcasting duties, which the team understood and supported Olczyk doing.
• While they would pay Olczyk for the full season, they would also be on the hook for the backup color analyst that would cover Olczyk’s national responsibilities. The change reportedly came with a per-game pay increase for Olczyk, but he would only be paid for Blackhawks games he covered. As reported by The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus, a team source told him the extension offered to Olczyk was a “lucrative, five-year offer.”
• From speaking with someone close to Olczyk’s camp, the money wasn’t the sticking point. Rather, the issue was over the contract term. The two sides did not meet on an agreeable term length and eventually Olczyk made the decision he was not going to get what he wanted and had to move on to another opportunity.
• Regarding the “verbal agreement,” that was never the case according to the same source.
Both the team and Olczyk have made statements on the situation.
From the Blackhawks:
From Olczyk, via NBC Sports Chicago:
It’s no secret that Olczyk didn’t want to leave the Blackhawks. I’d be very confident saying the Blackhawks did not want Olczyk to go anywhere. With these kinds of situations, sometimes no one gets what they want.
But the problem is that the Blackhawks are not in a position to let someone like Eddie freakin’ Olczyk walk away over terms in a contract negotiation.
The team is going to stink next season.
Alex DeBrincat was traded.
Kirby Dach was traded.
Brandon Hagel was traded.
Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalík were let go for nothing.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are glaring at the exit doors.
Pat Foley is gone.
Oh, and the team is going to stink next season, did I mention that?
If you are not paid to watch all 82 Blackhawks games next season, and you still do, you deserve a medal, ribbon, or a t-shirt. Something.
Not only is Eddie leaving, but his son Nick Olczyk, who was breaking through as one of the best young broadcasting talents around the league, is also rumored to be walking away. It’s unclear what may be next for Nick, but Eddie will remain the lead color analyst for TNT and has joined the Seattle Kraken broadcast team. The Kraken, by the way, employ Olczyk’s younger brother Rick as an assistant general manager.
Just like there is no truly replacing Pat Foley, there is no replacing a person who had the broadcasting chops, credibility, and likability in the city of Chicago and in the sport like Eddie Olczyk. With where the team is headed, one of the last remaining redeeming qualities of the on and off-ice product for the Blackhawks was Olczyk in the broadcasting booth and as a team ambassador. Much like Foley, Olczyk possesses the ability to be the biggest Blackhawks cheerleader while also being able to hold the organization’s feet to the fire when necessary. Equally, when Foley or Olczyk would speak publicly and candidly about the team, players, coaches, management, etc., people listened and people took those words to heart.
Now after a full season of auditioning Pat Foley replacements and honoring him with a farewell broadcasting tour, Olczyk’s departure comes with no fanfare, no farewell tour, no replacement auditions, nothing. Left in the wake of all this is a fanbase without one of their few remaining nice things, maybe the greenest local broadcasters in the NHL, and an incredibly emotional Olczyk speaking with ESPN 1000 hours after the news of his decision to leave Chicago.
I don’t know what clearer message you need to see from Olczyk that, while he says this was his decision, he did not want this.
The Blackhawks are figuring out who will replace Olczyk in the color analyst role and reports have been out there that they are reaching out to former players to gauge interest and availability. They also have in-house options like Caley Chelios and Colby Cohen. Unless they are bringing Marián Hossa into the broadcast booth, there is almost no way the person who replaces Olczyk will have a warm welcome. My best wishes to Chris Vosters in his first season as the new play-by-play voice of the team.
I feel your frustrations, Blackhawks fans. I’m there with you. This 2022-23 season has already been tough and we only just wrapped-up prospect camp. Hearing Olczyk on the broadcasts was going to be one of the few bright spots for many of us as the team embarks on a long and difficult rebuilding process. Now, that is no longer a reality.
“It’s a business.”
“It’s a business.”
“It’s a business.”
We hear it all the time in sports. While this may or may not have been a “business decision” from Olczyk and the Blackhawks, the only side that is going to experience a negative impact on “business” is the organization.
Be mad, frustrated, angry, whatever it is, feel it. This is going to be a trying season and I cannot force you to be on or off the ride. I’m on it for you, if need be.
You can do what you want as a fan with your money and time. If you are inclined to watch the Blackhawks this season, buy merchandise, and go to games at the United Center, all the power to you. If you have had it with the team because of the direction it is going, the personnel moves being made on the roster and around the broadcast group, and the off-ice scandals attached to them, I cannot blame you. The bottomline remains the same that without Olczyk, without Foley, without hope for the immediate future on the ice, there are few straws to grasp at this season.
This was avoidable and evidently nothing will be made easy for fans this year.
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