O'Donnell: Renewed Olczyk set to float above Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
ON THURSDAY, EDDIE OLCZYK WILL BE riding on an NBC float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
He might as well be floating.
It will mark the first time that "Edzo" will be appearing in a Manhattan parade since the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994.
On that memorable spring day, Marv Albert estimated that 1.5 million people were cheering along the winding route.
Olczyk, 53, will again hear the cheers, only this time with an even more profound sense of thanks.
He is 19 months beyond being declared cancer-free.
He is 27 months past the harrowing date -- Aug. 4, 2017 -- when he was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer and began a relentlessly draining seven-month regimen of chemotherapy.
Now, between NBC, NBCSN and NBCSCH, he is working 115 hockey telecasts this season.
"Eddie O" has also ascended to the role of lead handicapper on all national NBC thoroughbred racing presentations, augmenting Jerry Bailey, Mike Tirico and Randy Moss.
And, he has an excellent new autobiography out titled, "Beating the Odds -- In Hockey and In Life" (Triumph Books, $28, triumphbooks.com), crafted with Canadian sports writer Perry Lefko.
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On so many fronts, Olczyk is surviving and thriving.
"Of course I'm blessed and I'm grateful, but I've passed through so many phases in my life," the Northwest suburban Niles native told The Daily Herald.
"The trickiest one right now is something that's been going on for the last five months or so and that's a form of survivor's guilt.
"After being around so many people who are battling cancer in one form or another and hearing so many stories about other people doing the same thing, I'm hit sometimes with the question of why I've made it this far and some of the others haven't."
His introspection is detailed in his book.
It's well-paced, varied and filled with such insightful and empathetic overview -- from hockey prodigy to Stanley Cup champ to fading veteran to natural broadcast talent to son, husband, father, ace horse racing analyst.
And cancer survivor.
There are happy moments, like the Cup and his family life and the surreal day when he invested $168 in a Pick 6 at Hollywood Park, nailed it and got a gross return of more than $500,000.
And there are more daunting ones, like being traded five times and the cold and calloused methods of Mike Keenan as Olczyk's head coach during that championship season in New York.
"The book had its stops and starts," Olczyk says.
"Perry actually first came to me with the idea about 10 years ago.
"He was a horse racing columnist in Toronto who also dabbled in hockey and I had played for the Maple Leafs."
"We got going about five years ago and then I let it drop.
"When the cancer was diagnosed, my attention turned back to it, when I was well enough, because suddenly I thought I had a bigger story to tell, something that might be more meaningful to anyone going through what I went through.
"In the end, my greatest hope is that this book might offer even a little inspiration and a little hope to someone who is just fighting to make it through another day, another treatment.
"I still go every three months for a scan and every three months I feel the same worry in anticipation of the trip.
"But now I also know I have something that not only tells my story, but more importantly tells the people who mean so much to me and the people who might need just that little extra reason to fight on how important they all are to me."
Eddie Olczyk -- "Beating The Odds -- In Hockey and In Life."
It's a poignant and flowing power play.
STREET-BEATIN': While the NFL plumbs new depths of gridiron swill with the Bears-Giants Sunday (Fox, noon, Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman), antique dealers will be engaged immediately afterward when Tom Brady tries to stay out of the way of the New England defense as the Patriots host Dallas (Fox, 3:25 p.m., overexposed Joe Buck, Troy Aikman). ... "Sunday Night Football" should do a fantastic number as Jimmy Garoppolo and the Forty-Niners face Aaron Rodgers and visiting Green Bay (NBC, 7 p.m., Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth). ... Among the 16% of markets getting CHI-NYG is Puerto Rico, which seems like an awfully mean-spirited gesture toward a commonwealth still on the mend more than two years after Hurricane Maria. ... The Bulls handling of the Luol Deng farewell was well done. One of the great passions of the consummate global citizen remains Arsenal F.C. -- a vestige of his fleeting youth in South London's Brixton district. He also long had a phobic fear of squirrels. ("But only in closed spaces," Deng was always quick to add.) ... In the wake of last week's breakaway about the upcoming retirement of Jimmy de Castro from Entercom/Chicago, kooky rumbling that "retiring" ESPN AM-1000 flameout Jim Pastor is headed for a new scholarship in Philadelphia. (Cue "Gonna Fly Now" under a video montage of 10 years of bad Nielsen Audios.) ... Billy Casper Golf is ending its role as overseer of Rob Roy in Prospect Heights. Some informed squeaky linksters are also insisting the legacied layout will be transitioning from the River Trails Park District to the Wheeling Park District. ... The laudable "Cradles to Crayons" will be the "Bears 100 Community All-Pro" at Soldier Field Sunday. Saying it's the perfect charitable affiliation for a Matt Nagy-Mitch Trubisky offense would be so gratuitous. (But thank you Elliott Harris anyway.) ... And with the bang-bang White Sox contracts to Cuban natives Yasmani Grandal and Jose Abreu, can The Don Dinero/Minnie Minoso Pavilion be far off at Illinois Taxpayers Rate Field?
* Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.