In the past year, the Blackhawks have parted ways with general manager Stan Bowman, coach Jeremy Colliton, longtime play-by-play voice Pat Foley, star winger Alex DeBrincat, up-and-coming players Brandon Hagel and Kirby Dach, and a host of front-office personnel, all while the fates of franchise pillars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain murky at best.
Add local institution Eddie Olczyk to the list.
A source said that Olczyk is not expected to return to the post he’s held for 16 seasons.
Olczyk’s contract expired on June 30 — the same day the Blackhawks let go a number of lower-profile staffers — and negotiations stalled over the past couple of weeks. Olczyk, who also serves as TNT’s lead game analyst, is expected to be picked up by another team and continue his dual local/national workload.
A team source said Blackhawks leadership was “blindsided” by the news once it was published by The Athletic. The source said the Blackhawks had offered a “multi-year contract extension” and believed they had a verbal agreement “weeks ago.” The deal offered Olczyk a higher rate on a per-game basis but did not include all 82 games, because of Olczyk’s national duties with TNT and NBC’s horse-racing coverage.
The Blackhawks disputed that the director of broadcasting Trevor Bray has been reaching out to former players to check their availability to serve as color commentator on NBC Sports Chicago broadcasts next season, saying Bray was not contacting anyone to take over Olczyk’s role, only to serve as fill-ins for when needed.
Olczyk, a Chicago native who was drafted by the Blackhawks third overall in 1984, has been calling Blackhawks games alongside Foley since the 2006-07 season. He spent the past season working with a number of play-by-play voices as Foley eased into retirement, with Chris Vosters landing the job full time going forward.
The Blackhawks have been trying to get younger and, for lack of a better word, hipper (more active on social media, for example) with their broadcasts under president of business operations Jaime Faulkner and CEO Danny Wirtz. However, Faulkner told The Athletic in February that she expected Olczyk (along with the radio team of John Wiedeman and Troy Murray) to return.
“Eddie’s part of our future; John and Troy are staying with us,” she said at the time. “So now, it’s figuring out how to fit all the other pieces in.”
Now, Vosters will need a new color commentator, with Patrick Sharp and Adam Burish among the names believed to have been contacted by Bray. Studio analyst Caley Chelios called a number of games, as well, and could be an option. Olczyk’s son, Nick, made a favorable impression during his auditions on both TV and radio, and could be another possibility.
Broadcast utility man Colby Cohen is entering the second year of a five-year contract, and called some games this past season, as well, but the Blackhawks prefer him either in the studio or between the benches during games.
(Photo: Jon Durr / USA Today)