Olaf Kolzig, Washington Capitals (retired)
05 | 14
Olaf Kölzig (born April 6, 1970), is a South African-born German former professional ice hockey goaltender, subsequently the goaltender coach and now player development coach for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League (NHL). With the exception of 8 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he played his entire 14 year NHL career with the Capitals.
Kölzig was born in South Africa but grew up in several cities across Canada; his family moved to Union Bay, British Columbia when he was a teenager. Kölzig never applied for Canadian citizenship, which, combined with his German parentage and German passport, allowed him to represent Germany internationally. He was the first African-born player in the NHL.
Kölzig was selected by the Capitals in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He spent several years in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Baltimore Skipjacks, Rochester Americans, and Portland Pirates (with whom he won the 1994 Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as MVP of the AHL playoffs, and the 1994 Hap Holmes Memorial Award), and the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with the Hampton Roads Admirals, after playing major junior hockey for the New Westminster Bruins and Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League (WHL). During Kölzig's time with the Americans, he had an on-ice fistfight with Portland Winter Hawks goaltender Byron Dafoe, someone with whom he went on to have a friendly rivalry in the NHL; so friendly that they served as each other's best man in their respective weddings. On November 29, 1989, Kölzig scored a goal with the Americans. During 2004–05 NHL lockout he signed with the German club Eisbären Berlin.
Kölzig played his first NHL game in the 1989–90 NHL season, only to be sent down to the minors for a few years. In 1995–96, he was brought up to be a backup for Jim Carey and remained so when the Capitals acquired Bill Ranford from the Boston Bruins during 1996–97. Early in the next season, Ranford suffered an injury and Kölzig became the starter, at least temporarily. Kölzig played well for the rest of the season, winning a total of 33 games and achieving a 2.20 goals against average. He remained the starting goaltender for the Capitals until the 2008 trading deadline, and holds virtually every franchise record at his position.
In the 1997–98 season Kölzig led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals. In the playoffs, he became only the tenth goalie in NHL history to record four shutouts in one postseason. The Caps were swept in the Final by the defending champion Detroit Red Wings.
In 2000, he won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie after going 41–20–11 with a 2.24 GAA and five shutouts. Kölzig also has the distinction of being one of four goaltenders to play a scoreless period during an NHL All-Star Game, having done so at the 2000 All-Star Game. He also played in the 1998 All-Star Game, in which he made 14 saves on 17 shots.
In February 2007, in the midst of a 19–19–5 season, Kölzig tore his medial collateral ligament (MCL). Prior to this injury, Kölzig had missed only 18 games and never more than four in a row.
In February 2008, the Capitals acquired goalie Cristobal Huet, who gradually took over Kölzig's position as starting goaltender. Despite this, on March 12 Kölzig became the twenty-third goalie to win 300 games. The Capitals qualified for the playoffs, and Huet started every game in their first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals lost in seven games. A few weeks after their elimination, Kölzig announced he did not intend to return to the team. At the time, he was the last remaining Capital to have worn the original red, white and blue uniform and the blue jersey from 1995.
On July 1, 2008, Kölzig became an unrestricted free agent and signed a $1.5 million, 1-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He served as the back-up goalie to Mike Smith. In Kolzig's return to D.C. he was loudly cheered and a video in tribute to his time with the Caps was shown. On January 28, 2009, it was announced that Kölzig would miss the rest of the 2008–09 season due to a ruptured biceps tendon in his left arm.
He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a 4th round pick on March 4, 2009 as part of a trade deadline deal for Richard Petiot. As he was at that time suffering from an injury that would see him out for the rest of the 2008–09 season, the end of which would also see his contract expire, his acquisition from Tampa Bay was largely seen as an effort by Toronto General Manager Brian Burke to "buy" the 4th round pick by taking on Kölzig's deadweight salary.
On September 23, 2009, Kölzig announced his retirement from the NHL. Later that year, Kölzig was named to the ECHL Hall of Fame at the 2010 ECHL All-Star Game in Ontario, California.
The Capitals have not issued Kölzig's number 37 since his retirement.
In 2005, he and fellow Tri-City American alumni Stu Barnes became part of an ownership group in their former major junior team, assuring the existence of the Americans in Kennewick, Washington for about ten years.
Kölzig is known for his service off the ice as well as his accomplishments on the ice. Along with fellow NHLers Byron Dafoe and Scott Mellanby, he founded Athletes Against Autism to "raise awareness" of autism and encourage more research, as well as the Carson Kolzig Foundation for Youth Autism in honor of his son, who is autistic. Because of his local and national service, he was awarded the NHL's King Clancy Memorial Trophy for humanitarian service in 2006 and was named one of the 10 Washingtonians of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine in 2000. He has 3 children.
Chris Beehler, Executive Director
P.O. Box 3411
Crofton, Maryland 21114