Friday, May 09, 2008

An Ode to Olie the Goalie

Through thick and thin, the Washington Capitals always had one constant in the past 18 years-- Olaf Kolzig. That will change next season, as Olie the Goalie has announced that he will not be back with the Capitals for the '08-'09 campaign. It shouldn't come as a surprise, though, as the writing was on the wall when Cristobal Huet came into the fold. Kolzig was the constant professional though all of the turmoil and it showed the real character he had as a person and a player.

And what an ending to an era this will be for the fans. Undoubtedly, Kolzig's #37 will be retired once he does, but Kolzig believes he has the ability to still contribute to an NHL team.

However, it's a time for Caps fan to genuflect on what Kolzig brought to the Capitals organization since he was drafted 1989. In fact, only Mike Modano and Joe Sakic have been with a single NHL team longer than Kolzig. He is fifth amongst active goaltenders in wins and became the 23rd netminder with 300 wins when he beat the Calgary Flames this March. Let's be honest, if not for that silly rule about not being able to give goalie's the captaincy, Kolzig would have had it on his sweater for a number of years.

Kolzig has seen it all, the lows of being on a last place NHL team, highs of getting to the Stanley Cup finals, the lows of losing in four-straight in the Finals, and the revitalization of the Capitals' team in the past few seasons. On top of that, his personal achievements include a Calder Cup ring, a Vezina Trophy, the Butterfield Trophy for Calder Cup MVP, and Hap Holmes Memorial Award for AHL goalie with the lowest GAA.

But it was never about personal gain for Kolzig. Much like another Capitals star, it's more about the team goal in winning the Stanley Cup than any personal award. So much, that he did what he did after the Huet trade because he thought it would give the Caps the best chance to win.

Kolzig was solid for most of his career, posting a .907 save percentage in his Caps career and a 2.70 GAA in 711 games with the Caps. In fact, the only time he started to really struggle was after the Lockout. The only time Kolzig posted a .900 save percentage was this past season and the first season after the Lockout, 2005-06, based on at least 25 games played.

For all the on-ice accolades Kolzig has achieved, off the ice, Kolzig has been just as busy. Kolzig is the co-founder of Athletes Against Autism and set up the Carson Kolzig Foundation, named after Kolzig's son who is affected with autism. Also, Kolzig-- along with former teammate Stu Barnes-- owns the WHL's Tri-City Americans.

In the end, Kolzig's career with the Caps didn't end in a Stanley Cup, it didn't end with him playing in Game Seven, didn't end with him going off into the sunset on his own terms. It will end with him being one of the most recognizable Capitals in the history of the team, being one of the top goaltenders to ever play with the Capitals, and being known as the constant professional regardless of the frustration that he may have had to endured.

I'm sure I speak for a lot of Caps fans when I say, thank you for everything you have done Olie-- it was been a great ride and we wish you the best.

1 comment:

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