Rangers buzz: Ed Olczyk still gets love from New York fans for role in 1994 Cup
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LOS ANGELES - Ed Olczyk grew up in Chicago and played his first, 1,000th and last NHL games for the Blackhawks, whose regular-season games he now covers as an analyst.
Yet for the past two decades, he has been an honorary New Yorker, and suspects he always will be.
"It doesn't matter, whether I'm at the airport or even when I was out at Belmont the other day, I had four or five people say, 'Thank you for '94,' " NBC's lead NHL analyst said as he watched the Rangers practice at Staples Center for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night.
"Forever is a long time, but it's probably going to be like that forever."
Olczyk actually played a relatively small role for the Rangers' 1994 championship team -- 37 regular-season games and only one in the playoffs. But that hardly seems to matter to fans, for whom every '94 Ranger remains special.
"I'm proud," he said. "I only won one championship. To have it be with an Original Six franchise . . . You're going to be married to that team forever."
Albert has to step back
Unlike in two of the past four Finals, Olczyk will not have to worry about fans suspecting he is biased in favor of the Blackhawks, his former team and the one whose regular-season games he calls.
That conflict evaporated in overtime in Chicago on Sunday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
But Olczyk's partner for Game 1, Kenny Albert, knows some Kings fans will perceive bias in his call because he is the Rangers' lead radio play-by-play man.
"You do think about it," Albert said Tuesday. "You definitely are aware when it's the team you're associated with, because professionally, you want to make sure you do call it right down the line."
Some Flyers fans weren't so sure about that in the first round, when Albert worked two games with Rangers TV analyst Joe Micheletti, but Albert was encouraged by praise for his neutrality from fellow broadcasting pros.
Albert will call Game 1 because Doc Emrick -- whom Albert called "the best ever to do hockey" -- had a death in his family. Come Game 2, Emrick will be back on NBC and Albert will return to radio, speaking directly to Rangers fans.
No. 20 for ESPN's Levy
Bellmore Kennedy alum Steve Levy is marking his 20th year working the Final for ESPN alongside Barry Melrose, who joined the network shortly after being fired by the Kings in 1994, one year after taking them to the Final.
So Melrose started his Final streak with the Kings in '93 and Levy with the Rangers in '94. "Now it's come full circle," Levy said Tuesday. "Symmetry at its finest."
The annual Cup Final assignment has special meaning for Levy, a longtime hockey maven. "This is my favorite two-and-a-half weeks of the year, because we get to be full-on hockey guys," he said.
The experience has changed dramatically in the decade since ESPN last had rights to actually show the Final games. Most years, ESPN's entire Cup Final contingent is Levy, Melrose and their cameraman / producer.
"We used to travel with hundreds of people," he said. "We had the hour pregame show. We were everywhere in the building, on the street, 10 reporters, we had it all.
"Now it's really down to me and Barry holding a microphone in the stands."
Lundqvist is Smythe favorite
The online sports book Bovada released some information regarding the Final that we present here strictly for entertainment purposes.
For example, the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP not surprisingly is Henrik Lundqvist at 5-2, but the next three choices all are Kings: Anze Kopitar (4-1), Drew Doughty (4-1) and Jonathan Quick (11-2).
The odds of a Rangers sweep are 14-1; the odds of a Kings sweep are 8-1.
The odds of one team or the other sweeping are 11-2, a long shot compared with a seven-game series at 2-1.
The over/under on points in the series for Martin St. Louis is a Rangers-high 4.5. Kopitar's over/under is a Kings-high 5.
What are the odds of a New York tabloid using the headline "The Kings of New York" during the series?
Yes is 3-1. No is 1-5.
20-year 'Wait Is Over'
Credit John Kreiser and his publishers at Skyhorse for excellent timing in releasing his new book, "The Wait Is Over, The New York Rangers and the 1994 Stanley Cup," just in time for the Rangers' latest turn in the sports spotlight.
The book offers some new interviews with people in and around the Rangers' Cup-winning team -- notably general manager Neil Smith, who wrote the foreword -- with material collected from media reports of the time.
Do not expect an ambitious, definitive look back at that chaotic, iconic season, but it is a quick read that should give Rangers fans a pleasant way to pass some of the long hours between games over the coming two weeks.