Eddie Olczyk remembers the series as if it was yesterday. It was the spring of 1994, and his New York Rangers outlasted the New Jersey Devils in a thrilling, seven-game series to secure the Eastern Conference title.
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The Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Devils went home.
But Olczyk figured the latter would be back soon.
”You just knew it,” Olczyk said. ”With Lou Lamoriello in charge, and because of his leadership, you knew they were on the verge of something special. There was no question about it.”
He was right. And on Wednesday, the US Hockey Hall of Fame honored both for their accomplishments.
Lamoriello, New Jersey’s longtime general manager, who has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles and five Eastern Conference crowns, was named to this year’s induction class. Joining Lamoriello as part of the class that will be enshrined in the fall, is Olczyk, now an analyst for NBC Sports, as well as Mike Modano, who won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars.
”Without a doubt, it’s a great honor,” Olczyk said. ”To be in the same class as professionals like Mike and Lou certainly makes it a great day.”
Since Lamoriello took over in 1987, the Devils have secured nine division titles and won the Cup in 1995, 2000, and 2003. New Jersey, as a No. 6 seed this season, defeated the Panthers, Flyers and Rangers to advance to their fifth Cup final last month.
”The common denominators there are the defense, (goaltender) Marty Brodeur, and Mr. Lamoriello,” Olczyk said. ”He has proven over the years, through a lot of change, that he can keep the Devils in contention every year.”
Modano, who lost the Cup Final to New Jersey in 2000 as a member of the Stars, played in 21 NHL seasons. He finished with 561 goals and 1,374 points, and holds the record for most postseason points (145) by an American. His Stars defeated Buffalo in the 1999 Cup finals.
Olczyk was the third overall pick of the 1984 draft by Chicago, and played for 16 years with the Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, Jets, Rangers, Kings and Penguins.
”This is definitely one of the highlights of my career,” Olczyk said. ”Fortunately, for me, I’ve been very lucky to wear a bunch of different hats in this game, and I still feel like I have a lot more to give.”
Olczyk finished with 342 goals and 794 points in 1,031 games. His Rangers defeated Vancouver in 1994 to win the Cup. In 1985-86, with Chicago, he had 29 goals and 79 points as a 19-year-old.
”Eddie’s positive impact is felt through the entire organization, starting from the youth hockey level all the way to our players, coaches and front office staff,” Blackhawks president John McDonough said. ”He is a great ambassador for the game of hockey and the city of Chicago.”