Who is Eddie Olczyk? How NHL player and announcer got involved in Kentucky Derby broadcast

By now, Eddie Olczyk has gotten used to the big occasion.

The former NHL standout was a prolific goal-scorer during his pomp, netting as many as 42 goals in a single season while with the Maple Leafs. Now, he’s hoping to hit the target in an entirely new venture: horse racing.

Olczyk is a fixture in NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage, representative of the network’s “all hands on deck” approach to the Triple Crown race. Unlike many of the broadcasters flocking to the storied surface at Churchill Downs, however, Olczyk has already become something of a famous — or perhaps, infamous — figure in Kentucky Derby lore.

At last year’s iteration of the “Run for the Roses,” Olczyk gave himself a shot at glory. He initially picked Mage to win the Kentucky Derby, reiterating his selection to anyone who would listen off-the-air. When he finally took to the lectern on camera, though, he reneged. Olczyk instead gave Verifying his blessing, opting against his best wishes.

His hesitation cost him: Mage ended up winning the race while Verifying finished a distant 16th in an 18th-horse field.

Flip-flopping is commonplace in the world of horse racing, but to see such a phenomenon play out on live television makes for quite the watch.

With that, here’s what you need to know about Olczyk as he prepares for yet another year of presenting picks amid the mint juleps.

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Who is Eddie Olczyk?

Olczyk is a master of many trades within the sports world. The Chicago native, affably known by his nickname Edzo, enjoyed a lengthy career in hockey’s top flight. The third pick in the 1984 NHL Draft, Olczyk racked up 794 points in 1,031 games over the course of his 16-year career.

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Olczyk was a fairly prolific goal-scorer in his day. He posted five 30-goal campaigns and 10 20-goal seasons as a left-handed center.

After his retirement, Olczyk went into coaching and, eventually, broadcasting. He proved to be one of the NHL’s most beloved voices alongside Doc Emrick while appearing on the NHL on NBC, calling some of the most iconic moments in hockey history, including Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal.

Olczyk routinely lobbied with NBC higher-ups to allow him to offer his wits to the network’s Kentucky Derby coverage. He is, after all, an avid horse-racing fan.

After years of negotiations, NBC gave him the chance. In 2014, he covered a couple of Breeders’ Cup challenge series races. Soon thereafter, he was on the Kentucky Derby. And his mastery of all things related to the stakes began to come to pass.

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In 2018, Olczyk placed a trifecta wager on Justify, Good Magic and Audible. It ended up paying $141.40 for a $1 bet.

Olczyk isn’t a part of NBC anymore. The network surrendered its NHL coverage a few years back. Still, despite working for Turner Sports, Olczyk still is allowed to offer musings on his beloved horse racing on the first weekend in May.

“The landscape has changed, but I’m lucky that TNT and NBC were able to come to an agreement, and that NBC still wants me part of the coverage,” Olczyk said, per Associated Press. “Everyone around the league this time of year wants to talk Derby, and everyone want the Derby wants to talk hockey. I guess I’m the conduit that pleases both sides at this time of year.”

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