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Brother Rice Eddie Olczyk Broadcast Journalism Class Visit 2014

The Standard: Awesome Eddie

Each year the journalism industry grows and encompasses more and more of our daily routine.  Journalism is not exclusively writing newspapers.  These days a journalist can capture, record, write, speak, and share the news in more ways than one.  One of those ways is through broadcasting.  Broadcast journalism comes from multiple media sources including radio, television, and the internet.  Eddie Olczyk is known for many things, and on Monday, March 10, he came to speak to the journalism classes at Brother Rice about those things, and how he became successful in what he does.

Eddie Olczyk has spent sixteen years in the NHL as both a player and a coach.  Today, he is part of the action in a different but equally exciting way.  After playing professional hockey for over a decade, Olczyk knew his days on the ice were limited.  He says he was never the fastest skater in the rink, but what made him a good player was his ability to get where he needed to be in strategic ways.  But even the best strategist knows when his time is up, and Olczyk’s play clock was winding down.  It was time for a “new gig,” and he wanted something that would keep him close to hockey and still provide a challenge.

Being a professional athlete, it was not in Mr. Olczyk’s nature to give up, or sit idly by while opportunities whisked passed him like a rival pair of skates on the ice.  So what did he do?  He started asking questions.  If there is one thing I learned from hearing Eddie “Edzo” Olczyk speak, it’s that you can’t live your life wishing you did more, or that you asked another question.  Being the proactive go-getter he is, Olczyk wasted no time expressing his interest in broadcasting.  He knew he loved hockey and that someone once told him he “had a face for radio,” so when he got a call from a local radio station asking him to commentate an upcoming playoff game, he couldn’t say yes with enough vigor.

A good journalist knows that radio is a strong place to start for any branch of a beginning career.  Being on the radio forces you to be descriptive, to “communicate and paint that picture” for the audience, as Olczyk puts it.  Ask Eddie Olczyk if he was nervous about his first time announcing a game on the air, and he’ll smile and tell you that he still gets nervous today.  Although it was his first time analyzing a game from a place other than the ice or the living room, Olczyk knew that what he wanted to do was tell the story, not be the story.  It was his job to give the listeners a mental image of the game, which meant using the best descriptive language he could conjure up.  English teacher Mrs. England smiled proudly when Olczyk recalled his lessons in grammar and speech at Rice that helped him to be a better voice on the radio.

Eddie Olczyk has spoken at our school on several occasions, most recently from the south gym in October when he brought the Stanley Cup with him.  Sitting with him in a much smaller room, speaking about the development of his career rather than the familiar speech about abstinence from alcohol and drug use was a welcome change.  It is true that he has always taught to say no and to be your own person; this goes along nicely with the attitude of living without regrets or “what-ifs.”  After retiring from the NHL and gaining some key experience as a radio analyst, Olczyk progressed to Chicago’s own Comcast Sports Net, where he was the “color guy” (the one who elaborates and gives detail after his or her partner gives the play-by-play), for many games played by the Blackhawks and other teams.  Olczyk says that his years as a commentator were not unlike his time as a coach or player.  Being an announcer meant working with a team just like when on the ice, only now the goalies and left wingers were replaced by producers and audio technicians.

After Comcast, Olczyk’s travel schedule really filled up.  NBC came calling, which meant Olczyk would be working with a nationally known organization, analyzing games in dozens of new locations.  One of his most recent destinations was Sochi, Russia, where he covered more than fifteen hockey games for the 2014 winter Olympic Games on live television for an estimated 21 million viewers around the globe.  When we asked how he was accommodated at the games, he exclaimed, “I must’ve eaten 500 peaches while I was there!”  Olczyk recalled the food was good, but that he avoided any mystery meats and ate a lot of salad instead.

For all of his accomplishments and experiences, Olczyk says, “The one thing I’m most proud of (is that) I have a family.”  He shared a story of when he was a young boy, coming off the ice after a game.  He was always very close with his father and as part of his Polish family tradition, he would acknowledge his dad with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek.  But on this particular day, surrounded by friends and teammates, he was embarrassed to greet his father in the customary way.  Olczyk remarks that he felt something was wrong between him and his dad the next day because his dad refused to acknowledge him on the ice.  To this day he continues to do this with his own children, as his dad did with him.  A husband and loving father of four, Olczyk concluded by reminding us to always be your own person, no matter what others might think or say.  As he gathered his things and prepared to leave, he said “Remember where you were, where you are, and where you’re going.”

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