Former Sound Tigers gets to the NHL

Earlier this week former Bridgeport Sound Tigers defenseman, Steve Oleksy signed a three-year 1.6 million dollar deal with the Washington Capitals, he was playing for the Capitals AHL affiliate the Hersey Bears.

Oleksy made his NHL debut on Tuesday, March 5 against the Boston Bruins at the ripe age of 27. In his NHL debut Oleksy had one assist and+2 rating in the Capitals 4-3 overtime win and then on Thursday against the Panthers he had two more assists and another +2 rating in a 7-1 win.

He is the definition of a journeymen hockey player; he played four years at Lake Superior State University and then spent the next three to four seasons in the ECHL and IHL. He got a shot in the AHL in 2010-11 with the Lake Erie Monster but then it was back to the ECHL for him.

Last season with the injuries for the Islanders and Sound Tigers piling up the Sound Tigers on a recommendation by then coach and former ECHL head coach Brent Thompson gave Oleksy a PTO contract. (Photo Courtesy: AHL.com)

In 55 games with the Sound Tigers Oleksy scored two goals, had 12 assists for a total of 14 points and had a +16 rating. He also became of fan favorite with his actions on the ice, his embracing of the Sound Tigers and his active Twitter account @StevenOleksy.

By the end of the year Oleksy went from ECHL call up to wearing a ‘A’ on his jersey for the Sound Tigers.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve when he first signed with the Sound Tigers, when I was doing a story for Sound Tigers Illustrated on the success of the ECHL players that the Sound Tigers had signed, Oleksy, Kael Moullierat, Scott Howes and Jon Landry to name a few.

That was the first time I had gotten to meet Oleksy and instantly he became one of the guys that I rooted for to be successful.

Luckily for you guys I had saved my article that I wrote on my computer and one of his quotes really stood out to me, when talking about his career.

“I looked at it as a step too, I always say its not where you start, its where you finish,” said Oleksy. “Obviously we want to play at the highest level possible and that’s the goal and that what I’m striding for.”

Even though he was 26 and wasn’t drafted, he knew that he could make it to the next level and nothing was going to stand in his way.

The next game, after the article was published in Sound Tigers Illustrated, I was walking through the back of the arena going to fetch something, which was part of my internship duties, players were doing their normal pregame routine, kicking the soccer ball around, taping their sticks etc.

Normally I would walk through maybe say hi to a player if we made eye contact, but Oleksy called me over to him and told me how great of an article I had written.

I was elated here I am a 21-year old aspiring journalism student and not only had he read the article that I wrote but he took time out of his pregame routine to tell me how much he liked the article I wrote.

As someone that knows about hockey I understood the Islanders move to not sign him back after the season, they are overstocked at the defenseman position and they decided to bring back Landry instead, which was not a bad decision either.

As a fan of the Islanders and Oleksy I was upset to see such a good player and an even better person leave the organization where the fans had grown to love him.

So when I saw that the Capitals had signed him to an NHL contract I couldn't’t think of a more deserving player and person than I had even met in my two years with the Sound Tigers and the years before working with the Islanders as one of the Sparky the Dragons.

The Capitals next game is Saturday at the Coliseum against the Islanders, I’ll admit I hope Oleksy scores his first NHL goal against the Isles. But the Islanders will win 2-1.

So I think I speak for all Sound Tigers fans when I say good luck Steve, we knew you had it in you and we wish you all the best.

-Pete Paguaga
Follow @PetePaguaga
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