U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Olczyk: “It means so much to me and my entire family”

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On Oct. 15, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame will induct its three newest members — Lou Lamoriello, Mike Modano and Ed Olczyk.

For the latter, the induction will celebrate much more than his days with the ‘Hawks, Leafs, Jets, Rangers, Kings and Penguins.

Olczyk has been instrumental in promoting the game in a number of ways — as a player, coach and broadcaster — something CSN Chicago encapsulates in its lengthy tribute to one of the most influential people in U.S. hockey history.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece, entitled An American Hero:

There’s no doubt Olczyk’s standout amateur career with Team USA and the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, to go along with his stellar professional career in the NHL with Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Winnipeg, the New York Rangers (where he won a Stanley Cup championship in 1994) and Los Angeles — pouring in 342 goals, 794 points in 1,031 career games — have earned him a rightful place in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, but Olczyk’s honor goes beyond that.  He’s a teacher of the game who wants to bring the sport of hockey to the forefront in the eyes of all American sports fans.

“I’m sure somebody can make the case that there are other people who have done more for hockey in the USA, but this guy’s got to be near, if not right at the top of that list,” said longtime Blackhawks play-by-play announcer and Olczyk’s on-air partner at Comcast SportsNet, Pat Foley.

“When I was told he was going into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, I said ‘as a broadcaster?,’ added Foley.  “First of all, he’s that good, but second of all, he’s got a presence…he’s a teacher…he watches the game like a coach and he’s really good at passing along the rights, the wrongs, and how to do things properly.  Anybody who listens to him leaves smarter than when he showed up in terms of how to play the game of hockey and how to coach it.”

Prior to his days as an analyst, Olczyk was the head coach in Pittsburgh from 2003-05, a stint that included the first games of Sidney Crosby’s professional career. From there he proceeded to make his mark in the booth, serving alongside both Foley and, later, with Mike “Doc” Emrick on NBC.

But perhaps Olczyk’s proudest achievement was growing the sport he loves in the country he calls home. The rise in youth hockey enrollment and the strides USA Hockey has made at the junior and the u-18 levels are not lost on him.

“From the national exposure that the game is getting now, I take pride in being a part of the NBC team of bringing NHL games to people and the more people watch it, the more they want to continue to watch it,” Olczyk explained. “We’re in a fast food society.  We see it, we want it, we want to try it, and we want to go there.

“So, I take great pride in that aspect of it.”

To read more of CSN Chicago’s Olczyk interview, click here.

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the postseason yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.