Everything Eddie Olczyk has done in his life has been done with a passion.
Family man, NHL player, coach and broadcaster, horse player, cancer survivor, author - and more - have all been attacked with the ferocity of a man on a mission.
Now, Olczyk has a new mission in life and it is among the most important that he has undertaken. Olczyk has become one of sports' most visible and vocal advocates for those battling cancer and their loved ones. After enduring and overcoming colon cancer and writing about his battle in a new book "Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life," the 53-year-old spends much of his time raising awareness, educating others and encouraging those who have the disease to keep fighting.
"You could say that my purpose in life now is to be a role model, be somebody in the community that was diagnosed with the disease, was able to go through the treatments and be cancer-free," Olczyk said. "I'm driven to want to make a difference and want to be there to support people."
Video: One More Shift: Eddie Olczyk
That makes Olczyk the perfect choice to serve as the NHL's league-wide Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador, a role he didn't think twice about accepting.
"It's an honor and very humbling," Olczyk said. "Just being associated with it is something that is very emotional and sensitive. The league and the teams just do a wonderful job being all-in with this initiative."
The Blackhawks will hold their Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Sunday when they face the Kings at the United Center (TICKETS). Olczyk will co-host the annual Purple Carpet event in the United Center Atrium at 3:45 p.m. and the first 10,000 fans to enter the arena will receive an Eddie Olczyk bobblehead featuring him with arms upraised and boxing gloves on his hands to signify his fight - and victory - over colon cancer. Olczyk will remain in the Atrium until 5:30 for photo opportunities with fans who purchase a signed copy of "Eddie Olczyk: Beating the Odds in Hockey and in Life" with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation. Olczyk will then head up to the booth where he will continue in his role as analyst for Blackhawks TV broadcasts.
During warmups, Blackhawks players will wear "Hockey Fights Cancer" sweaters which will then be autographed and auctioned off online to benefit various lock cancer-related organizations through the foundation.
"It's going to be with me the rest of my life and any time I get an opportunity to be a part of something that makes a difference in somebody's life or even for a day brings a little hope, then it was well worth being a part of it," Olczyk said. "I know there are and will be way more worse off people than Eddie Olczyk is or was but all I can do is continue to fight for the people that we've lost and continue to fight for the next person who is going to be stricken with this disease and fight for the people that are around them."
There isn't a day that goes by that someone - sometimes a friend or acquaintance and oftentimes a complete stranger - doesn't reach out to Olczyk and he will continue his support both in public and behind the scenes.
"You want to do it because you think you can make a difference," Olczyk said. "Even more so for myself, somebody who lived it and knows how important it is to have that support, whether you know them or not. I had plenty of help from people that I didn't know and our paths had never crossed but they just know me from what I've done in my hockey life or being a broadcaster or just being somebody in the community.
"We're all in this thing together and to be able to lend a hand or a hug or a voice, it means a lot to a lot of people," Olczyk continued. "It doesn't discriminate, the disease. I say it tongue-in-cheek, but if people say, 'Hey, if that old, broken-down hockey player and horse player can do it, well, I can do it.'"