Eddie Olczyk will never forget the call he received over the summer. The lead analyst for NBC Sports’ NHL and horse racing coverage remembered the moment doctors told him he had colon cancer. The Stanley Cup champion joined The Jim Rome Show Thursday and discussed the phone call that changed his life forever.
“August 4 at 7:07 p.m. I saw the house phone ringing. And I saw that it was the doctor’s office, and I knew it wasn’t good,” Olczyk said on CBS Sports Radio. “Knowing I just came off of a five-and-a-half hour surgery, having 14-inches of my colon taking out, and a tumor taken out the size of my fist, and not knowing what the growth was, but just having that feeling.
“And everything just stops you dead in your tracks. And it took me a while to answer that phone, because I just knew I was going to hear cancer, and treatment and chemotherapy. What I needed to hear on the other end, is ‘Edzo I’m here to cure you, not treat you.’ And that’s what I needed to hear.”
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming to Olczyk and his family. It’s also something that the 51-year old isn’t accustomed too.
“All I wanted to do was be a hockey player and play in the national hockey league,” Olczyk said. “I didn’t know how you got to the league. I didn’t know how you got drafted. I didn’t know any of that. But I always had people tell me back in the mid-70s, you will never make it. Because you are from Chicago, because there’s not a lot of NHL players from Chicago, and you’re American. Not a lot of American born players make it to the National Hockey league—it’s all Canadians.
“So I had people tell me I’d never make it. I tried out for the 1984 US Olympic hockey team when I was 16-years old and everybody told me I will never make it. You’re too young, you’re only sixteen. The team in 80, won the Miracle on Ice. They’re looking for older guys. Somehow I made it. I made it to the National Hockey League.”
Olczyk’s run of defying the odds continued in the NHL, where he lasted 16 years and won a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers. It continued when he was named the lead hockey analyst for NBC, the first American-born broadcaster to have that job.
Overcoming those odds has prepared him for his most important battle, his fight with cancer.
“I haven’t had one person tell me I wasn’t going to win, I wasn’t going to beat this,” Olczyk said. “And when you think about life, and life’s circle, to have all those things happen to me over my lifetime, and achieve those goals just because I was lucky enough and given a gift. But all of the sudden I’m going through this battle, and I have everybody pulling for me. And it means the world to me and my family.”