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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

Quigley Floor Remarks on Hockey Legend & Voice of the Blackhawks, Eddie Olczyk, and His Battle With Cancer

Feb 27, 2018
Press Release
Quigley: Eddie Has Used His Platform to Speak Out About Colon Cancer and the Need for Earlier Screenings & Research for a Cure

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Hockey Caucus and a member of the Deadliest Cancers Caucus, spoke on the House Floor about former professional hockey player and head coach, Eddie Olczyk, and his current battle with colon cancer. You can watch the Floor speech here or read the remarks below.

Mr. Speaker: I rise today to pay tribute to a legendary Chicagoan, Mr. Eddie Olczyk, former star player and current voice of the Blackhawks.

A native son of Chicago, Eddie has exemplified the heart, grit, and character of the city we both call home.

Eddie first made his way into Chicago’s collective heart as a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team at the young age of 17. From there, he went on to play 16 seasons in the NHL and later coached the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2012, he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Eddie currently works as a broadcaster for both the Blackhawks games and nationally as a color commentator for NBC Sports—he is the best in the business. And, those outside of Chicago may know Eddie from his time covering horseracing for NBC.

Today, Eddie is facing another battle—though this one is off the ice. Last year, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

As Eddie describes it, sometime last summer he began feeling pain in his lower abdomen. Initially, the pain was intermittent and he thought nothing of it, but when it persisted for several days, he decided he should get things checked out. It was then that his doctor found a tumor, and he was quickly scheduled for surgery to have it removed.

For the past six months, Eddie’s been undergoing chemotherapy and just completed his 11th treatment. Thankfully, he has only one more treatment to complete.

Clearly, Eddie knows what it means to be tough. But to really be tough, men in particular must know that it’s ok to say something when things don’t feel right.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women are at risk for developing colorectal cancer in their lifetime. Colorectal cancer is currently the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

In 2017, it’s expected to cause over 50,000 deaths. That’s particularly important for men who don’t want to consider the dangers of colon cancer. This doesn’t have to be. When detected early, treatment for colorectal cancer is effective, especially when polyps are removed before they become cancerous.

More young men are being diagnosed with young-onset colorectal cancers than ever before. According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, 11 percent of colon cancers and 18 percent of rectal cancer diagnoses occur in those under 50.

Young men—even those in their 30’s and 40’s—must be aware of the risks for this disease and advocate for their health. Talk to your doctor if you’re feeling pain and get screened regularly.

Back in his playing days, Eddie would have been nervous what a coach or teammate would have thought had he complained of pain. But, in part to voices like his, the sports culture is changing and more athletes are speaking up when something is wrong. We should all learn from his and their example.

After he was diagnosed, Eddie felt like his pride took a hit. Like many others who have faced cancer, he was concerned that he was letting people down and he began to question his mortality.

But, as he went through treatment and reflected on this ordeal, Eddie started to recognize that it was ok to be scared. He’s used his platform to speak out about colon cancer, about the need for screening, and for research for a cure.

He knows it’s important to emphasize that there’s nothing wrong with people getting colonoscopies at an earlier age. He knows that if he can help just one individual get a checkup sooner, he will feel like his battle with cancer was worth it.

Eddie has many people to thank for their support. Most importantly his family—his wife Diana and four children: Eddie, Nick, Zandra, and Tom. The entire Blackhawk organization, especially john McDonough and Jay Blunk, and his broadcasting partner, Pat Foley.

To Eddie and to all fighting cancer—stay strong and know we’re with you.