Olcczyk began a half-year chemotherapy regimen after an August diagnosis of Stage 3 colon cancer days before his 51st birthday and had surgery to remove a tumor the size of his fist. He told WGN-Ch. 9’s Julie Unruh he views the ordeal in transactional terms.
“I’m trading in, hopefully, six months for 50 more years,” Olczyk said. “That’s my goal. Like, that’s the thing, for as hard as it is and as hard it’s going to be, that’s what I’m doing.”
Hugely popular in the Chicago area where he grew up and still lives, Olczyk first made a name for himself as a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic hockey team at age 17. He went on to play for the Blackhawks and five other teams over a 16-season NHL career, coach the Pittsburgh Penguins two-plus seasons and get inducted in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Olcyzk recently has worked locally alongside play-by-play man Pat Foley on Blackhawks telecasts, and nationally as NBC Sports’ top hockey color commentator.
He also contributes to NBC’s coverage of major horse races, speaking from his home with host Bob Costas during last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Classic broadcast.
Olczyk has said in earlier interviews he intends to reclaim some normalcy to his life as the ups and debilitating downs of his medical treatment cycle allows.
Last month, on back-to-back days, he called a Blackhawks game in St. Louis with Mike “Doc” Emrick on national cable’s NBCSN and a Blackhawks-Oilers game from the United Center with Foley for WGN.
“My life is complete … when everybody else around me is fine,” Olczyk said. “It’s always been that way. I felt like I let everybody down initially. That’s the first thought I had when I got sick. I’m glad it’s me and nobody else in my circle because I wouldn’t be able to live if it was somebody else.”
By Phil Rosenthal