Ed Olczyk has carved himself a nice career in hockey, both on and off the ice.
He played in the NHL for 16 years with six teams, and earned a Stanley Cup ring with the New York Rangers in 1994. He later coached the Pittsburgh Penguins, and now is an analyst for NBC Sports, as well as with the Chicago Blackhawks.
But hockey isn’t the only sport that Olczyk is passionate about. He is a big horse racing fan. And what many people may not know is that it was horse racing that played a role in Olczyk starting his broadcasting career.
Olczyk will be part of NBC’s broadcast of the Travers Stakes, along with the Ballerina Stakes, today from Saratoga Race Course. It begins at 4:30, and will be on WNYT (Ch. 13).
Olczyk will be a reporter for the broadcast. He will be joined by host Tom Hammond, analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, analyst/handicapper Bob Neumeier and reporter Donna Brothers.
The man affectionately known as “Eddie O” caught the horse racing bug while growing up in Palos Heights, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
“As a 14-year-old kid, I used to go [the] old Arlington race course,” said Olczyk, who broke into the NHL in 1984 with the Chicago Blackhawks. “I’ve been hooked ever since. I didn’t have a lot of allowance money to go to the track back then. But once I turned pro in ’84, which was four years later, certainly things changed. For me, there was an affection for the animals, there was an affection for the game and the action.
“It’s intimidating at the start. I’ve been in it for a long time. I was able to travel and go to different tracks and, obviously, making a few more bucks. For me, it’s always been a passion and a hobby. It’s been a business, too, when you talk about handicapping and owning horses. It’s something I love. If I’m not at the rink or I’m not working hockey, I usually have a [Daily] Racing Form in my hand, or I have one of the racing stations on at the house.”
After winning the Stanley Cup with the Rangers, the start of the 1994-95 NHL season was delayed by a lockout. It was during that time when Olczyk started his broadcasting career, working on horse racing programs for SportsChannel New York (now known as MSG Plus) and Meadowlands TV.
“That was my introduction to television,” Olczyk said. “A lot of people don’t realize that my first actual TV job was working in front of the camera at the Meadowlands track. For me, if someone’s going to pay me to go to the track and pick horses, I was smiling. To use a phrase from my old partner in Pittsburgh, Mike Lange, who does the Penguins games, I was smiling like a butcher’s dog.”
Olczyk’s enthusiasm for horse racing is noticeable during NBC’s NHL broadcasts. He gets to read the promos for the races NBC is televising. He also was persistent with NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood about working on the network’s racing coverage.
Now, Olczyk is living the dream.
“Anybody that knows me knows my love and passion for horse racing,” Olczyk said. “Anytime that I get a chance to light the candle for horse racing during hockey, I’m allowed to do that. That’s a lot of fun. It’s great when you give out the trifecta in the [Kentucky] Derby a couple of years ago, or you give people the winner of the Belmont. But you also have to take the heat when your horse is still running from this year’s Kentucky Derby. I get texts when it’s great, and I get texts when it’s not. I love the consistency that everybody likes to have fun with me.”
Olczyk likes Wicked Strong to win the Travers.