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Lessons from Eddie Olczyk in managing adversity

The former Blackhawks forward and NBC Sports color commentator tells the story of his hockey career and his battle against cancer in his new book, Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life.

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Anaheim Ducks v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

One of the many things I severely miss during the COVID-19 pandemic is turning on the Blackhawks game and letting Pat Foley and Eddie Olczyk drown out all of the worries, stressors and anxious thoughts I’ve been having throughout the day. The duo emit a pure love of hockey whenever they call a game together and they enchant us with their ability to make us feel a wide range of emotions just watching a sporting event. To me, that’s an indicator of a special talent.

When the news broke that Eddie was diagnosed with cancer, I remember being devastated with my family and few friends. However, Eddie’s message to the public from the start was that he was going to go to battle against cancer and do everything in his power to get healthy and back in the booth. At the time, my Dad was also fighting an uphill battle with prostate cancer and was worried that it was going to come back worse than before. Eddie’s message of hope and perseverance inspired my Dad to stay positive, to keep fighting all the demons circling in his mind and to force himself to not miss a day of taking the boat load of medications he was prescribed.

I was lucky enough to share the moment with my family when Eddie returned to the booth with Pat and got a standing ovation from the United Center. The Lucas family got a bit emotional watching together and it’s certainly a memory I will cherish for a long time.

If you’re looking for a new book to read, I highly recommend checking out Eddie’s book, Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life. The themes of perseverance and gratitude for those that empower you to push through your personal challenges are abundant and are especially meaningful nowadays in managing adversity created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 18 on Eddie’s return to the booth with Pat:

On March 22, just before the start of the second period of a game at the United Center between the Hawks and the Vancouver Canucks, I went back on the air with Pat Foley to update people on my condition. He told the audience that because of what I had gone through, he had gotten a colonoscopy, as had Troy Murray and a bunch of Pat’s friends. He said my ability to go public with what I had gone through was tremendously inspirational and also heroic, because anybody who has gone through chemotherapy knows how devastating a situation that can be.

Happily, I told everyone I was cancer-free. I reiterated as I had throughout my battle that it was a team effort, including the doctors, the entire Hawks organization, the National Hockey League, the people I worked with on TV, my family, my wife, my children, and my friends. If it wasn’t for my family, there was no way I could have gone through this. We all beat this. And I said I had done enough crying to last me a lifetime.

Pat was so pumped. “You beat cancer, baby!” he exclaimed.

Now that I was publicly revealing I was cancer-free, I wanted to reinforce to people who were battling cancer or knew someone going through it that they are not weak individuals. My message for them was to stay strong, believe they are tough, and believe they will beat it. I ended the interview by saying if I could inspire one person to stay away from this by going for a colonoscopy, then I guess it was well worth it. It tests your will to live.

This excerpt from Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life by Eddie Olczyk with Perry Lefko is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop.org, or www.triumphbooks.com/EddieOlczyk.