What would it be like growing up as the son of a well-known NHL Hockey player? Just ask Penn State sophomore Tommy Olczyk, who is one of the top players on Penn State’s men’s ice hockey team. Olczyk is the son of former NHL standout Ed Olczyk, who played 16 years in the NHL, helping the New York Rangers capture the 1994 Stanley Cup. Ed currently serves as a color commentator on NHL on NBC, NHL on NBC Sports Network and for the Chicago Blackhawks on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Tommy is enjoying a successful sophomore season for the Nittany Lions. He ranks second on the team in goals scored (4), and fifth in total points (7).
BTN.com caught up with Olczyk before the Nittany Lions matchup against Michigan State tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET on BTN/BTN2Go as part of our second Frozen Friday doubleheader of Big Ten Conference men’s hockey.
BTN.com: Take me through what it was like to find out that Penn State would be playing Division 1 hockey and then would be playing in the newly-formed Big Ten hockey conference?
Olczyk: There was always talk that Penn State would enter the Division 1 ranks. Then, thanks to a very generous donation from Terry Pegula, it came to be that Penn State was going to get a brand new arena and play in the Big Ten. It started a ton of excitement amongst everyone on campus and I was just happy to be a part of it.
BTN.com: What are your impressions thus far of the Big Ten hockey conference?
Olczyk: Well, we’ve had four Big Ten games thus far and each and every matchup has been exciting. It’s no secret that there are already plenty of great rivalries in this conference, and that is what’s going to make Big Ten hockey so great and exciting for both the fans and the players.
BTN.com: Your dad has a very well-known hockey background. How has that helped you growing up and with your skill-set in the game of hockey?
Olczyk: Anytime I ever had a question or anything about hockey, there is no one better for me to go to than my father. As busy as he is, he does a great job of helping me with my game and coming to see me play. He has always given me pointers and tells me what I did well and what I need to work on.
BTN.com: Do you have any memories of him playing professionally when you were growing up?
Olczyk: I have very few memories since he retired in 2000, but just being a part of the 1994 New York Rangers team that won the Stanley Cup… You can’t beat that. Sometimes I will throw in some old tapes and watch some of his games. It’s nice to to be able to watch those videos and see how great of a player he was in his prime.
BTN.com: Who is the most memorable NHL player you got to meet growing up as a kid?
Olczyk: I met Mario Lemieux when I was younger. My dad played with him and he coached him when he coached for the Penguins. That’s definitely the biggest name I’ll always remember.
BTN.com: Tell me something about yourself outside of hockey that the average person doesn’t know?
Olczyk: Well, the one thing that sticks out most to me is that a lot of times, people don’t associate athletics with academics. Maybe there is a stereotype that athletes aren’t intelligent. But school is something that’s always been very important to me. I have always taken my classes seriously and am currently working towards my masters degree in accounting. I have a 3.9 GPA after two-and-a-half years at school. That’s the best part about going to Penn State– I get a great education. As much time as I invest in hockey, I’ve always made it a point to do my best in the classroom.
BTN.com: What is your best memory as a member of Penn State’s hockey team?
Olczyk: To be honest, it has to be our first game of this season against Army. Even during warmups, not many seats were empty. Hearing the roar from our student section. Everyone was just so excited. And on top of that, we won the game during opening night at our new arena. I still get the chills just thinking about that one.