FULLTILT LEGENDS: EDDIE OLCZYK AND THE BLACK ACES
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a marathon, not a sprint. It is a 2 and a half month war of attrition. It is the time of year where top line goes against top line and more often than not, they cancel each other out. It is a time where the “foot soldiers” are the difference between winning & losing, between being on the wrong end of the handshake line.
Depth plays a huge role in the playoffs as injuries mount and slumps cannot be tolerated. It is the depth players – also known as The Black Aces – that help elevate teams from pretenders to Stanley Cup champions. The 1994 Rangers were no different.
The Black Aces
The 1994 Rangers’ Black Aces consisted of veterans Ed Olczyk, Mike Hudson, Mike Hartman, Doug Lidster, Peter Andersson, Alexander Karpovstev, Nick Kypreos, and veteran backup Glenn Healy. Most of the Black Aces had been major players in other stops of the NHL careers. Olczyk had been a top performer in Chicago, Toronto & Winnipeg before coming to New York. Lidster had been a mainstay on the Vancouver blueline for a decade. Kypreos had developed his pugilistic skills with Washington & Hartford. Healy had made a name for himself with the Rangers most hated rival – the Islanders. Meanwhile, Hudson, Andersson, Karpovstev & Hartman were fringe players trying to make whatever contributions they could whenever they given the rare opportiunity.
This group was the group that was usually the first on the ice and the last off at practice. For some, being on the Black Aces was a byproduct of not being a favorite of Head Coach Mike Keenan. For others, it was a way to hang on to that NHL dream and a chance for a ring. They played when injuries struck and contributed mightily. It ‘s been widely reported over the years that the morale of the team was held together not only by the leadership of Captain Mark Messier but that of the Black Aces and their designated “leader” Eddie Olczyk.
It was not uncommon to see & hear Olczyk, Lidster or Kypreos leading the team onto the practice ice. During warm-ups you could hear the chanting “Heave Ho!, Pull Together, Heave Ho, Pull Together!” to get the troops up and ready for practice. They knew their time in the lineup would be limited, so they had to make the most wherever they could.
The Black Aces member that saw the most competitive action was goaltender, Glenn Healy. Healy provided the Rangers with a proven quality backup behind starter Mike Richter. In 29 games, Healy sported a record of 10-12-2 with a GAA of 3.03. Not spectacular numbers but on a powerhouse Rangers team, that was good enough. Up front, Olczyk appeared in 37 games & Kypreos appeared in 45 while both managed only 8 points each in limited action. Hudson, in his only season in New York, played in 48 games notching 11 points while Hartman played in 35 games managing only 2 points.
On the back end, Lidster contributed 2 points in 34 games & Andersson (before being traded to Florida) appeared in 8 games registering 2 points. Alexander Karpovstev, while not a part of the Black Aces during the regular season, found himself there after struggling during the post season. Karpovstev’s struggles were what elevated Lidster from Black Ace status to being a major contributor in the Conference Finals & Stanley Cup Finals.
Where are they now?
Eddie Olczyk – Also known as “Eddie O” & “Edzo”. He played 1 more season with the Rangers before returning to Winnipeg. He made additional stops with the Kings and Penguins before returning to the Blackhawks for 2 seasons before he retired in 2000. He is currently the lead analyst for the NBC Network on all (NHL & Olympics) hockey telecasts. He is also the analyst for the Chicago Blackhawks. Briefly was the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins (2003-2006) compiling a record of 31-64-8. Most recently has been rumored is a candidate for several NHL head coaching opportunities in Washington, Vancouver & possibly Carolina. He is also a noted horse racing aficionado. He was elected to the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
Glenn Healy – Played 3 more seasons with the Rangers before ending his career after 4 seasons in Toronto. Is currently an in game analyst and studio host for Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) for TSN.
Nick Kypreos – “Kipper” played 2 more seasons with the Rangers before going to Toronto for 2 seasons. He was forced into retirement after suffering from post concussion syndrome after being knocked out and smashing his face on the ice in a pre-season fight with Ryan Vande Busche of the Rangers. Currently he is a “hockey insider” on CBC and host a radio show on The Fan 590 in Toronto.
Doug Lidster – He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 1994 but returned to the Rangers the following season ad played 3 more years for the Blueshirts. In early 1999, he signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars and went on to win his second Stanley Cup ring with Dallas later that spring before retiring. He is currently the Canadiens Women’s National Hockey Team assistant coach.
Mike Hartman – He played 3 injury plagued years with the rangers before bouncing around the IHL & ECHL for several more seasons. He retired in 2003-04. He is currently a motivational coach & speaker.
Mike Hudson – Only played one season in NY. He bounced around the NHL with stops at St Louis, Pittsburgh, Phoenix & Toronto for a season apiece before spending 3 seasons playing in Europe. Retired in 1999.
Petr Andersson – He played parts of 3 seasons with the Rangers before being traded att he trade deadline to the Florida Panthers in 1994. After the 1994 season, he left Florida to play in Europe, which he did for 3 seasons. He played for Farjestads BK & Dusseldorf EG & Malmo Redhawks. After retiring in 2005, Andersson was named General Manager of the Redhawks. He stayed as GM for three years before becoming an Assistant Coach and also Head of Scouting Department for the team. Ironically, his son Calle was drafted by the Rangers in 2012.
Alexander Karpovstev – He played 5 more seasons with the Rangers before moving on to Toronto for 2 seasons, 4 seasons with Chicago, a season with the Islanders and another with the Panthers. He also played for 3 seasons in Russia in the RSL. Tragically, “Potsie” was on the doomed flight that killed the entire Lokomotiv KHL hockey team on September 7, 2011. He is survived by his wife Janna and daughters Danna & Stacy.
Every hockey team has their Black Aces. They can be comprised of youngsters trying to crack the lineup to wise, sage veterans willing to put their egos aside to lengthen their careers and hopefully get one last chance – or a first chance – to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Just like a starter though, the Black Aces need to have the right chemistry to make things work. The 1994 Rangers were fortunate enough to have the right mix of veterans & youngster – both in and out of the lineup – to end a 54 year curse. In the words of Eddie-O & the Black Aces –“HEAVE HO!! PULL TOGETHER!!