Ollie the Goalie is Golden!

Growing up as a Washington Capitals fan, it won’t feel right seeing their long time starting goalie Olaf Kolzig wearing another NHL sweater this coming season. Selected 19th overall by the Capitals in 1989, this 38 year-old who has become one the most beloved athletes in Washington, had his breakout season in 1998 by winning 33 games and having a sparkling 2.40 GAA. Kolzig’s popularity among the fans soared when he got hot in the spring time and was a major component to the Capitals gaining a birth in the Stanley Cup finals which they eventually lost to the Detroit Red Wings.  This 6 foot 3 225 pounder nicknamed by the fans “Olie the Goalie,” first got my attention during the playoffs in 1996 in what was a marathon game between the Penguins and the Capitals. I remember not knowing much about it and seeing him sparkle in making 62 saves on 65 shots. Even though the Penguins finally prevailed on a Petr Nedved goal, in the fourth overtime period, I was intrigued about whether this goalie, who that spring posted a 1.94 GAA in a five game loss, was for real. Throughout the years there were lots of #37 Capital jerseys at their home games, and Kolzig who signed a lucrative four year pack in 1998, quickly became a workhorse in goal. Life was great for Kolzig who in 1999/2000 led all goalies by playing in 73 games and an astounding 4370 minutes. More impressive to me then winning the Vezina Trophy the following year was his generosity and determination to help make a difference to the not so fortunate. Wanting to do something in making a difference, Kolzig, who is also called Godzilla started a program called Ollie’s All Stars which consists of the goalie buying 10 sets of regular season seats and giving them away to various Washington charities. A strength of Kolzig besides for his strong puck handling skills was his consistency as he was always assured of winning over twenty games. This season, Kolzig showed signs of aging and after getting off to a rough start he found himself for the first time since taking over as the Capitals number one goalie, being platooned with Brent Johnson. Despite finishing this season with a respectable 25 wins, and still being a popular figure in Washington, Kolzig knew when management brought in Cristobal Huet at last year’s deadline, that his long tenure in Washington was over. “It’s unfortunate, because they have a good team here now,” Kolzig said. “”Not be a part of that is going to be tough, but at the same time as an athlete, you have to know when to move on.” I really admire the fact that Kolzig, who had the misfortune of being on the bench for all seven games of the Capitals first round loss against the Philadelphia Flyers did not complain publicly when they were still in the playoffs. Instead of going to the papers and maybe saying how the Capitals weren’t showing him the proper respect for all he did in the past, Kolzig though not happy with the situation accepted being the backup and rooted his team on against the Flyers. “For me it was really disappointing the way it ended,” he said.  Rumors started flying about Kolzig the day after being eliminated as he removed his locker name plate right after that last game and didn’t show up for a team meeting the next day. “I wasn’t there for the meeting because I didn’t want to have to face the media,” he said. “I wanted to avoid (reporters) as long as I could. It got blown out of proportion.”

Washington has lost a popular figure both on and off the ice, and here is hoping that Kolzig gets what he deserves next year and that’s a chance to end his career with a Stanley Cup.

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