Penguins Notebook: Olczyk talks about first visit back to Mellon Arena
Thursday, February 15, 2007
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
With a delayed flight in and another out right after the game last night, former Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk only spent a matter of hours in Pittsburgh and at Mellon Arena, but it was an emotional chunk of time.
"It is hard," said Olczyk, who was fired as the Penguins' coach in December 2005 and returned to do color for the Chicago Blackhawks television broadcast. "It's the first time I've been in here. It will be 14 months exactly [today] since I cleaned out my office."
Not that he's keeping track or anything.
An hour or so before he went on the air, Olczyk talked passionately about his time as coach, which started with the 2003-04 season, and, before that, as a Penguins broadcaster and player.
Olczyk said he and former general manager Craig Patrick were thwarted last season by decisions made by Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer, including a reluctance to keep Marc-Andre Fleury on the roster because the young goaltender became eligible to earn $3 million in bonuses if he played in at least 25 games.
"After the lockout, the organization's plans changed," Olczyk said. "We aborted some things. There's no quick fixes. I'm not surprised [at the Penguins' success this season]. I think Craig and I had a lot of the same visions and a lot of the same ideas, but, unfortunately, I don't believe Ken was on the same page when it came to dispersing of funds.
"That's the hand that's dealt. There's no question I think about it -- what could I have done differently? -- and I take full responsibility. I walked out the same way I walked in, and that was with my head up high and with respect for Mario [Lemieux] and the game. People on the inside know what was going on. Unfortunately, it didn't happen as quickly last year as people would have liked, and the coach is the one to take the blame."
It's not Canada
Snow-covered roads, school closings and weather bulletins the past couple of days had a strong effect on some of the Penguins.
"It's pretty funny," said winger Colby Armstrong, who grew up in Saskatchewan, a province in the western Canadian prairies where winters are fierce but where school closings are unheard of.
"Never, We had to go outside for recess when we were little unless it was, like, 40 below. It took us 10 minutes to get our snow suits on and then we'd go outside for five minutes."
Armstrong said he had trouble finding a restaurant open for dinner Tuesday night.
"It was, like, what the heck is going on?" he said "The stores were closing. The whole city pretty much shut down because of the snow.."
Armstrong and winger Michel Ouellet agreed they are not used to snow remaining on the roads like it did yesterday.
"In Canada, they have that big truck, that plow," said Ouellet, who is from Rimouski, Quebec. "It's funny, you turn on the TV here and you see that school is canceled just because of a little bit of snow. We needed a lot, like 20 inches, to get the schools to close."
Time for Thibault
Therrien considered giving backup goaltender Jocelyn Thibault, a former Blackhawk, his 10th start of the season, but instead stuck with starter Marc-Andre Fleury because the Penguins had not played since Saturday and don't play again until tomorrow.
"It would have been too long of a break for Marc-Andre," Therrien said. "There's no doubt Jocelyn is going to play this weekend."
The Penguins have three games in three cities in four days, starting tomorrow at New Jersey.
Penguins defenseman Alain Nasreddine missed the game after the birth yesterday morning of a son, Alec.