- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Olie Kolzig, who spent eight years as the goaltending bridesmaid for the Washington Capitals before developing into one of the best in the NHL, was rewarded yesterday for his excellence on the ice and devotion to the organization and community.
The team announced that Kolzig had signed a five-year contract extension worth $31 million, effectively tying the goalie to the team for the rest of his career.
Fittingly, the announcement was made at the inaugural Olie Kolzig Golf and Tennis Classic at Springfield Golf and Country Club. The event benefits the Children's National Medical Center, one of the favorite charities of the goalie and his wife. Earlier this summer, Kolzig was presented with the NHL Foundation Award recognizing his efforts in the community; he turned the $25,000 check over to the hospital.
The signing continues the retooling of the team under the stewardship of principal owner Ted Leonsis. The long-term deal removes a potential source of worry for the goalie over a contract; last month the owner removed another possible worry point when he traded for defending scoring champion Jaromir Jagr, who should provide some of the offense which has been missing.
The last year of Kolzig's current contract, which would have paid him $3.5 million, was renegotiated as part of the new package. He will make $6 million for each of the next two seasons, $6,250,000 for each of the two seasons following that and $6.5 million for the last year of the deal.
The deal was worked out between the Caps and Kolzig's agent, Art Breeze, in less than 48 hours at the end of last week, exceptionally fast for a deal of such magnitude. The 2000 Vezina Trophy winner will now trail only Dominik Hasek ($9 million), Patrick Roy ($8.5 million) and Curtis Joseph ($6.15 million) in the pay scale among goalies.
"He made it clear he wanted to stay here and we made it clear we wanted to keep him," general manager George McPhee said. "Our first offer was very strong and the deal was done within a few phone calls after that. It was one of the easier negotiations we've had."
"I told my agent I wanted to remain in Washington and that I didn't want to play the whole season and wait for the free agent thing," the 31-year-old Kolzig said. "I wanted to get it taken care of."
Three years ago, Kolzig signed a four- year, $12 million deal and regressed one season after taking the Caps to the Stanley Cup finals. He had put too much pressure on himself, something he does not intend on doing again.
"I really learned from that situation," he said. "I knew eventually [the contract] would take care of itself as long as I do what I've done in the past on the ice. I'm just going to do what I can. I'm here to stop pucks, not score goals. But it was good to get it done before training camp, it's just one less thing to worry about."
Until the start of the 1997-98 season, Kolzig appeared to be a career backup. In eight seasons since he was drafted in the first round in 1989, he had a record of 14-36-8, although he had won championships twice in the minors. Then, 2:28 into the first period of the season opener in Toronto, starter Bill Ranford was injured. He finished the period but Kolzig was there for the start of the second. He hasn't left.
"I knew once the opportunity came I wasn't going to let it slip away," Kolzig said. "That night in Toronto when Bill got hurt, I said 'This is my time.' I haven't looked back since."
Since that night in Toronto, Kolzig has posted a record of 137-95-32 and is now 20 victories above .500 for his career after being 22 games under break-even at one point. He owns virtually every career goaltending record for the Caps and most single-season records as well.
"I'm the first one who says hockey should be called 'goaltending,' said coach Ron Wilson, who participated in the goalie's charity tournament yesterday. "We found that out in the past when we went to the finals, and that was largely due to how well Olie played. Without great goaltending you don't stand a chance. I'm just glad we got one of the best goalies in the league locked up with nothing to worry about."


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