Former New York Ranger Eddie Olczyk talks hockey and cancer

Former New York Ranger and NBC hockey analyst Eddie Olczyk. (Photo courtesty of NBC Sports)

Eddie Olczyk played five seasons with the New York Rangers and was part of their Stanley Cup championship team in 1994. However, his biggest battle came off the ice when On August 8, 2017, Olczyk issued a statement that he had been diagnosed with a form of colon cancer. He then underwent a surgical procedure to remove the tumor, among other treatment procedures. In March 2018, Olczyk announced he was officially “cancer-free.”

On Tuesday, Olczyk joined a group of Ranger fans on Zoom to talk about his days in hockey and experience in battling cancer. The New York Rangers Hockey Fights Cancer event was sponsored by Northwell Health and hosted by MSG’s Bill Pidto.

The NHL started the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative in 1998. Along with the NHLPA, HFC unites the hockey community in support of cancer patients and their families. The HFC will help the American Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, and Movember Foundation provide a better quality of life for patients, caregivers, and their families.

The Rangers held their Hockey Fights Cancer night on Monday. Items to benefit HFC can be purchased or won on an auction at the NHL shop.

Of the HFC initiative, Olczyk described it as “The greatest initiative that the NHL has ever come up with off-ice.”

One of the more poignant moments of the Zoom chat came when Olczyk talked about how much he had to battle the horrible disease. “It tests your will to live. It breaks you down and brings you to your knees at times.” Olczyk said. “For me, I went back to my hockey playing days, my faith, and my family. The side effects of chemo broke me down. I was ready to quit. A lot of people might not want to admit it but it is true. The disease drives you to a brink.”

Everything took so much of a toll on Olczyk but gave special credit to his wife for helping him get through it all.

The New York Rangers were very supportive of Olczyk during his fight with cancer

As Ranger fans know, “once a Rangers, always a Ranger.” During his battle with cancer, many in the Ranger family reached out to give support to Olczyk.

“JD (Rangers President John Davidson) reached out, many friends there, Coach Quinn,” Olczyk stated. “Many former teammates reached out, Leetchy, RickyRob, Mike Hartman, Glen Healy, Mark Messier and you go on and on. It helped me get through. It was a long battle but I am proud to say that I have been clean and clear through the last three years.”

Olczyk scored 342 goals and recorded 794 points in 1,031 career games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, and Los Angeles Kings. The third overall selection in the 1984 Entry Draft, he was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic hockey team and represented the U.S. in many international competitions.

At the end of the chat, Olczyk talked fondly about his time as a Blueshirt. “I look forward to going back to MSG. I was very lucky to be in the NHL and to be a very small part of a team that brought back the Stanley Cup to New York City for the first time in 54 years. There is not a time when I go back to MSG or the city when a Ranger fan comes up and thanks me, and that means a lot.”

Olczyk provides more details about hockey and his fight with cancer in his autobiography titled “Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life,” available at most retail book stores and online.