Former Jet Eddie Olczyk back in Winnipeg for book signing

Former Winnipeg Jets Eddie Olczyk (16) and Thomas Steen (25) joke around during a practice for the NHL's Heritage Classic Alumni game in Winnipeg on Friday, October 21, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Over his 16-year career in the NHL, Eddie Olczyk had a lot of memorable moments, including winning the Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers in 1994.

For Winnipeg hockey fans, though, Olczyk is best remembered for an infamous speech at the 1995 “funeral” for the original Winnipeg Jets, in which he promised the Cup – one day – would find its way to Winnipeg.

Olczyk, now a well-known hockey broadcaster in the U.S., will be back in Winnipeg this weekend to sign copies of his new memoir, Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life, and he says he remembers that moment clearly.

“I still get chills when I hear that,” Olczyk told 680 CJOB.

“I hear that quite often from some of my former teammates, who call me on the phone and play that little clip for me, just to get a rise out of me.”

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Olczyk’s NHL journey took him from his hometown Chicago Blackhawks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, and two stints in Winnipeg with the Jets – initially in 1990 and again in 1995.

He ended his playing career where it started, with the Blackhawks, and then briefly served as head coach of the Penguins before becoming a colour commentator.

In 2017, he was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, and his experience fighting the disease was the inspiration for his book.

“I was a relatively healthy guy up to that point,” he said.

“The first thing I thought of was how long do I have to live? I’m very scared. How do I tell my kids?”

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“It’s just one of those things where my life came to a screeching halt.”

READ MORE: Ex-Maple Leafs, Jets forward Eddie Olczyk diagnosed with colon cancer

The process of writing the book, he said, helped him cope with his situation, and while the memoir is definitely aimed at hockey fans – as well as aficionados of his other love, horse racing – if one person touched by cancer can relate, he’s done his job, he says.

“If I can help one person get through a battle in their life, to inspire them to get through their day… then it was well worth the 16 months of paper.”

Although it’s been decades since Olczyk’s time playing in Winnipeg, he says he still has fond memories of the city and was thrilled to be invited back to take part in the alumni game during the 2016 Heritage Classic.

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“Winnipeg accepted us. Jets fans accepted us, and in a small town with huge hearts and a huge hockey fanbase… I relished that, representing the team, representing the community.

“You become a part of the fabric of the community. You become entrenched in it.

“I always knew, even back in ’96 when the team left, that the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba was always an NHL home, always an NHL place.”

“Just, unfortunately. the economics of the time didn’t work out.”

Olczyk will be signing copies of the new book at McNally Robinson Booksellers on Sunday at 1 p.m.

After that, he said, he’s heading over to Bell MTS Place to catch two of his old teams – the Jets and Blackhawks – in action.

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RAW: Winnipeg Jets Alumni Eddie Olczyk – Oct 22, 2016

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