“What’d you call me?” (GIF by jaybeagles)
Hockey players are accustomed to terrible nicknames; they’ve got a lot. The current iteration of the Washington Capitals includes Patsy (Aaron Volpatti), Crabber (Joey Crabb), and Carly (John Carlson). Now we know Steve Oleksy‘s too, though he won’t be happy with RMNB once his teammates read this. See: Oleksy’s lifelong nickname isn’t Stevie O (as head Adam Oates called him); it’s Binky. And we’ve got the story behind that.
“When I was younger, I was sick and I was in the hospital quite a bit,” Oleksy told me recently. “I called my pacifier my binky, and every time I started crying the nurses would tell my mom to put my binky in. She started calling me that, and then the kids at school caught on, and it just kind of grew with me.”
“That’s been my nickname my whole life growing up, and it’s stuck with me all the way through every level of hockey I’ve played,” he added. “People find out and it catches on. A lot of people back home don’t even know me by my real name, they know me by Binky. It’s kind of stuck with me through the years. It’s not something that I try to hide from.”
The rise of Oleksy — nickname and all — from an undrafted minor league player to getting big minutes with the Capitals is remarkable. He didn’t become a full-time AHL player until this season and was something of a role player even in Hershey. But thanks to a bruised-up Caps blue line and Oates’s insistence on a balancing right-handed and lefty shots, Oleksy has joined what is ostensibly the team’s top pairing– alongside Karl Alzner. He’s now getting more than 20 minutes of ice time a night. In nine games, Oleksy has scored four points, including his first NHL goal.
“As a hockey player you prepare for that,” Oleksy said of his playing time. “I don’t think you should be a hockey player if you don’t want to be on the ice every second of every game.”
“At every level you just play the game,” he continued. “That what I try to do here.”
Still, it’s significant change to go from playing in front of 200 fans in an old barn to starting next to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on national television.
“They’re teammates now; I look at them as teammates just like any other,” said Oleksy of his new colleagues. “They joke, they have a good time, they’re fun to be around. When you got a group of guys like that, it makes things a lot easier to play in that situation — you’re not so astounded.”
But back to Oleksy’s nickname, which he seems to have squashed before he got to the pros. It’s currently unknown in Washington’s locker room. According to Braden Holtby, even with the Bears most players didn’t know it.
“It never caught on,” Holtby said. “I think he kept that under wraps in Hershey pretty well.”
A few guys, however, did find out. Holtby was one of them.
“I knew about one time because I was at his house and on his computer it said ‘Binky’s Computer’ or something like that,” he said. “I was like ‘Who is that?’ One of the guys told me. It’s one of those nicknames where it’d be pretty funny if it caught on.”
Yes. It would be funny, but how could it possibly catch on?
Oh. Right. We made a shirt.
(From now until March 23rd, if you buy two RMNB shirts, you get free shipping. Just enter EASTER2013 during checkout.)
Additional reporting and shirt by Ian Oland. Thanks to Rachel O’Brien for the tip.