The Retro: Olie Kolzig on shattered sticks, broken noses, and swollen testicles
Over the course of the 2017-18 season, theScore will run a series of interviews with former players in which they recall some of the greatest moments of their career. This edition focuses on Olie Kolzig, who won 303 regular-season games over parts of 17 NHL seasons, along with the 2000 Vezina Trophy.
What he remembers from his first NHL game:
My first NHL game was in 1989 in Hartford, Connecticut. I had a great training camp, and I was told I was starting in Hartford, facing Mike Liut. I felt really good going into the game, obviously really nervous ... and by the end of the first period, we were down 3-0. It wasn't the greatest start. (laughs)
It wasn't like they were bad goals against, but having said that, I don't think I made any big saves, either. But (Capitals head coach) Bryan Murray kept me in the net, I had a much better second period, and we closed to 3-2. They ended up getting one in the third period to make it 4-2, and we scored near the end to make it respectable. Overall, I got some good reviews.
The second game was more memorable, though. It was at Maple Leaf Gardens. We were up 4-1 about halfway through the second period; I was playing really well. I grew up in Toronto, so I watched a number of games at Maple Leaf Gardens. So I was feeling good. And we ended up losing the game 8-4 - and two days later, I was on my way back to junior. (laughs)
When he realized he belonged in the NHL:
There were a lot of fleeting moments where I thought I belonged before reality checked back in. But I would say (the turning point) was the 1997-98 training camp. The previous year we traded Jim Carey to Boston for Bill Ranford. And Bill and I had a great training camp together; we were probably equal, but he was the experienced veteran, so he was the starter going into the season.
We were in Toronto for our opener, and I think we were up 5-0 or 5-1 after the first. During that period, Bill had taken a shot in the groin. He was complaining about it, and after the intermission, he couldn't go back out; his testicles had started to swell up a little bit. So obviously I went in.
Despite having a great training camp and that the last time I was in Toronto was years ago, I still had a little bit of doubt. But I had a great game, I ended up preserving the lead, and we ended up winning 7-1. And I think from that moment, I exorcised a lot of demons from Toronto. And because Bill was out for a while, and I continued my great play from training camp, the rest was history.
The best trash talkers he encountered:
Sean Avery might be on everybody's list, at least for modern-day goalies. Kevin Kaminski, my teammate in Washington, was pretty vocal on the bench and on the ice - stirred up a lot of crap. Joe Reekie, a defenseman on my team, was quite a talker; he'd make you laugh quite a bit.
Matthew Barnaby was also good. And I played with Barney in Rochester the year that we went to the Calder Cup finals. But in the Eastern Conference finals in 1998, he was on an all-time roll. He was obviously trying to get me off my game, and despite us being friends, he didn't hold back.
I think with guys like that, it's originality. Anybody can say the given lines, but when you're original and you're not crossing the line ... there's a few guys who cross the line, and brawls start because of that. But if you're original and you make the other guy think, that's a real talent. Barney definitely had that.
His most memorable referee story:
I tended to get along with most officials. I found if they were on your side, you'd get the benefit of the call most of the time.
A real bad one, and it wasn't meant to happen, but ... it was in Pittsburgh in the early 2000s. We were just getting smoked. And I remember Ryan Malone had a breakaway on me and scored; it was near the end of the game, and I ended up on my back.
I turned around to fish the puck out of the net with my glove, and without even looking, I just threw the puck toward center ice. And at the same time, Pat Dapuzzo - who was an absolutely great guy, an official most players got along with - he happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. And I absolutely smoked him with the puck. I think I broke his nose, and he left the game.
I think I got a lot of grief from linesmen probably for the next month or two, but I reached out to Patty and made sure that he knew it obviously wasn't intentional, and he knew it wasn't. That's probably the most interactive I've been with an official.
His biggest save:
Probably Game 6 against Buffalo in the conference finals. It was overtime; there was a two-on-one, and I forget who took the shot, but it was probably from the top of the circles, and I made a right pad save, and the rebound went to my right, and I can't remember who was coming down but the puck ended up right on his tape.
He took a shot and I just reacted, came across and got my right toe on it to make another save; he had a wide-open empty net. And I want to say that a couple of minutes later, we went down and Joe Juneau put the overtime winner in to get us into the finals.
The most underrated player of his era:
Alex Semin. The guy was considered a great player, but I don't think people realize how good he was. I think legitimately he was more talented than (Alex Ovechkin). He had a snap shot ... the way he changed the angle, it was heavy. He was a very hard player to stop.
Unfortunately, I don't think he had the drive or the motivation that Ovie had. As a result, people didn't get to see the true Alex Semin.
The time he lost his mind in the dressing room:
I think it was '96, '97, sometime around then. Jim Carey had become the No. 1 guy, and at that point, I was given numerous chances to take over that job. And for whatever reason, whether it was self-inflicted or the team didn't play well, I just never grasped the spot.
We were in Edmonton; we had struggled in Calgary the night before, so I got the start in Edmonton. And we were down 2-1 with (less than) two minutes left in the second period, and they scored on a power play where the puck was ramped by my own player about 10 feet in front of me, and went right over my shoulder and into the net.
We came into the locker room, and I didn't think anything of it at the time. Obviously you don't want to give up a goal that late, especially when it's a one-goal game. And I remember our coach, Jim Schoenfeld, he was very emotional and upset because we gave up the late goal. And he said to Jim, "Ace, you're going in. I need one of you two guys to stop the puck."
Schoenie went back into the coach's room, and in the old Edmonton locker room the coach's room is right across from the medical room. And I was always known for having a bad temper, and I think things just boiled over on my part. A, I didn't think I deserved to be pulled, and B, with everything that happened in my career, it just looked like another failed opportunity.
So I went berzerk in the locker room. There's a big cement pillar that's off to the left before you go into the medical room, and I just teed off on it with my goalie stick. I think the biggest piece I had left of my goalie stick was a 2-inch piece of the knob. And I went into the medical room and ranted and raved, saying "If you think it's so easy, why don't you go into the net, you big red-headed blank-blank-blank?"
And it dawned on me right then and there that the coach's room is right across from the medical room. And as I said it, Schoenie walked into the coach's room, and at that moment I thought I had played my last NHL game.
To Schoenie's credit, he said, "Hey, Olie, listen. I know you're emotional. I just need to get our guys going. Just take it for what it is and we'll get through this." I couldn't believe it; I had dodged a huge bullet. And from that point on, I really tried to steer my emotions in the proper channels, because that could have been the end of my career.
What he remembers from his last NHL game:
My last NHL game was a lot more pleasant (than the first). It was a win at the Bell Centre when I was playing for Tampa. I went there for one year at the end of my career. The season was ... from a personal standpoint, it wasn't great. I tore my biceps tendon and got put on the shelf in November and was done.
From an organizational standpoint, there was new ownership, new coaching staff, it was Steven Stamkos' first year. Barry Melrose was our coach to start, but he was fired 16 games in. There was a lot of dissension, a lot of stuff that shouldn't have had anything to do with hockey.
We were on a bit of a losing streak, and I remember on the bus, Marty St. Louis came up to me and said, "You think you can win this game for us? We need it." And I said, "Yeah, I love this place. It's my favorite place to play." And I think we won 4-3.
It wasn't my best game by any stretch, but given the circumstances, the situation we were in with the team and that just having that conversation with Marty on the bus ... and again, it was my last NHL game, and it happened to be a win in my favorite building. It definitely stuck out.
The best player he ever played with: Alex Ovechkin
The best player he ever played against: Mario Lemieux
The player with the best slap shot: Al Iafrate
The player with the best wrist shot: Jaromir Jagr
The hardest guy to move from in front of the net: Dave Andreychuk
His favorite coach: John Brophy
His favorite road arenas: Bell Centre, Madison Square Garden
Born: April 6, 1970, Johannesburg, South Africa
Drafted: First round (19th overall), 1989, Washington Capitals
Teams: Washington Capitals (1989-2008), Tampa Bay Lightning (2008-09), Toronto Maple Leafs (2009)
Awards: Vezina Trophy (1999-2000), First-Team All-Star (1999-2000), King Clancy Memorial Trophy (2005-06)
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
Other entries in this series: