A league source has confirmed that longtime NHL player-turned-broadcaster Eddie Olczyk will join the ROOT Sports TV booth for Kraken games next season alongside play-by-play man John Forslund, with whom he has paired on national telecasts throughout the years.
Olczyk, 55, a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and a brother of Kraken assistant general manager Ricky Olczyk, will be part of a new three-man booth alongside Forslund and current analyst JT Brown. Also, the plan is to have Olczyk fulfill his full national broadcast schedule with TNT, meaning he won’t be available for all Kraken games and might not begin the season with ROOT Sports.
Olczyk also will do additional work for the team and network, including video segments and profiles.
The Chicago Sun Times first reported that Olczyk would join the Kraken broadcasts after doing game analysis for his former Chicago Blackhawks squad the past 15 years. The team released a statement Monday thanking Olcyzk for his contributions.
“We are going to miss him as much as our fans will,” it stated.
The Kraken had yet to release a statement Monday confirming Olczyk’s hiring.
Talks with the Blackhawks about renewing Olczyk’s contract, which expired June 30, slowed in recent weeks. Multiple sources close to the situation said talks with the Kraken began last month, at which time it was decided the team would keep Brown if Olczyk were to join the broadcast.
Brown, also a former NHL player, joined the Kraken broadcasts last season with almost no on-air experience other than giving interviews, and team officials were said to be pleased with his progress and the audience connection he made.
Olczyk’s arrival should nonetheless bolster the broadcasts, which started off garnering high ratings last season before plummeting with the team’s on-ice fortunes. Numbers supplied by a broadcasting source show the Kraken’s games drew a 0.96 rating for the season on ROOT Sports — numbers inflated by a strong opening month when the team was still a novelty for local fans.
After garnering a dazzling 5.5 rating in the franchise opener against the Vegas Golden Knights and a strong 2.2 average through eight October games, the Kraken broadcasts declined to a 1.4 average rating in November and 1.3 in December. By January the ratings had dropped to a 0.7 average and bottomed out at 0.6 in February and March, respectively.
Sports Business Journal reported in May that the Pittsburgh Penguins drew the NHL’s highest local TV ratings among U.S.-based squads at 5.43, followed by the St. Louis Blues at 4.28, the Buffalo Sabres at 3.78 and the Minnesota Wild and Vegas each at 3.04. The Kraken finished ahead of 10 teams, including the playoff-bound New York Rangers (0.87) and Los Angeles Kings (0.4), who both play in much larger markets with a higher pool of potential viewers from which their ratings percentage was derived.
The playoff-bound Florida Panthers had a 0.46 rating, and the New Jersey Devils (0.20), Arizona Coyotes (0.16) and Anaheim Ducks (0.15) rounded out the bottom three. The report did not include figures for Canadian-based teams, nor the Carolina Hurricanes or Nashville Predators.
Olczyk for years also did NBC Sports national broadcasts of NHL games, many alongside Forslund and continued to do so for TNT in its new deal with the league starting last season.
After being drafted third overall by the Blackhawks in 1984, Chicago-born centerman Olczyk played 1,031 regular-season NHL games over 16 seasons with six teams, scoring 342 goals and adding 452 assists. He also played for Team USA at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo and coached the Pittsburgh Penguins for parts of two seasons beginning in 2003-04, compiling a record of 31-64-8-10.
Olczyk also publicly battled Stage 3 colon cancer starting in summer 2017. By March 2018, he declared himself “cancer free” and wrote about his ordeal in a book titled “Beating the Odds: In hockey and in life” co-authored with Toronto sports writer Perry Lefko.