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Olczyk to speak Wednesday at Steubenville High School

QUESTIONS — Then-Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk has words with Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier after a 6-2 Lightning win over the Pens on Jan. 27, 2004, in Pittsburgh. At left is Lightning’s Pavel Kubina and in foreground is Pittsburgh’s Tom Kostopoulos. Olczyk was upset that the Lightning were running up the score on the Pens when they scored with 20 seconds left in the game. -- Associated Press

STEUBENVILLE — If you think Eddie Olczyk will share only a sport story Wednesday when he appears as part of the Herald-Star Speaker Series Presented by Eastern Gateway Community College, you would be leaving out a big part of his journey.

Hockey has played a major role in Olczyk’s story. Most people connect his name with that sport or with thoroughbred racing.

There’s good reason — he was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic hockey team, a first-round draft choice by his hometown Chicago Blackhawks, played 16 years in the National Hockey League and has been one of game’s premiere analysts for the past 15 years. He’s also played a big role in coverage of some of the biggest horse races in the country, including the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

Olczyk also is a survivor of Stage 3 colon cancer. His fight, which began with a diagnosis in August 2017, makes up a significant part of his book “Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life,” and it will be a part of his presentation, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Steubenville High School auditorium. Surgery and chemotherapy have major roles in his battle that stretched through March 2018, when he was declared free of cancer.

“I speak very candidly about that,” Olczyk said during a recent interview. “I was hurting, I was in pain and there was a part of me at a couple of different junctions when I was ready to quit. I just couldn’t take the side effects. I was just thinking about how I was going to get through today, yet alone how I am going to get through five months of treatments. Without the support of my wife, Diana, setting me straight and just realizing it’s one day at a time and you just have to go day to day, I couldn’t have made it.”

It’s a powerful part of the book, which was written with Perry Lefko. It details some pretty important lessons that were learned along the way.

“Ultimately, and I hope it’s portrayed that way in the book, even though I was cared for and didn’t want to die, I felt like I was a burden on everybody. You feel like you’re letting people down and you’re hurting your kids,” Olczyk explained.

“What helped me get through it is that I was very much at peace when I was going through my battle, even though I had all of those other things going on, because I’ve always let the most important people in my life know how I felt about them. That just helped me get through.”

That connection is important.

“I’m not talking about just family — I’m talking about teammates, friends, people who have had an impact on my life, and I tell them that my life is better with you in it,” he said. “I don’t know where I learned it, I don’t know why I learned it, but I think that really helped me get through.

“It goes to show you that when (Steelers coach) Mike Tomin or (Penguins coach) Mike Sullivan or your favorite coach or general manager tells you that a player is day-to-day because he has a bad shoulder or a bad leg injury — really, in the big picture, we are all day-to-day, when you put everything into perspective.”

It’s an important message, one Olczyk hopes will hit home.

“I think I make it very relatable, and if I can help just one person get through the day and they can relate, it was well worth for me to have pen to paper for 16 months to tell my story,” Olczyk added.

General admission tickets for the presentation cost $25 and are available at the Herald-Star office, 401 Herald Square, Steubenville, and at the Times Leader, 200 S. Fourth St., in Martins Ferry, during regular business hours. Tickets also are available at heraldstaronline.com and weirtondailytimesonline.com.

Masks will be strongly recommended for all those who attend the presentation.

A preferred ticket package is available for $50. It includes a copy of Olczyk’s book, “Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life,” which he wrote with Perry Lefko. and the opportunity to be among the first people to meet Olczyk after the presentation.

A VIP package is available, and includes admission to a private reception that will be held from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Froehlich’s Classic Corner; a selection of beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres; the opportunity to meet Olczyk and have a photo taken with him; a copy of the book “Beating the Odds;” transportation between Froehlich’s and the high school; and preferred seating for the presentation. The price is $150 for a couple and $85 for a single ticket.

For information about tickets and the availability of preferred and VIP packages, contact Diana Brown at the Herald-Star at (740) 283-4711.

Copies of Olczyk’s book are available for purchase at the Herald-Star. Contact Brown for details. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book as well as money generated from a basket auction prior to the presentation will go to local cancer centers.

Area high school and junior high school students will have the opportunity to attend the presentation at no charge, courtesy of the Wheeling Nailers.

Joining the Herald-Star, Weirton Daily Times, Eastern Gateway Community College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, WVU Medicine — Wheeling Hospital and the Nailers as sponsors for the event are the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, WesBanco, Dan Stephens State Farm, Froehlich’s Classic Corner and WTRF-TV. Special support is being provided by EM-Media, Steel Valley Regional Transit Authority and Steubenville High School.

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