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.”
Steve Oleksy (pronounced OH-lexi) is one of the team leaders for the Hershey Bears. This call up is his first shot at the NHL. He leads the Bears in penalty minutes, mostly due to fights caused by sticking up for his teammates. Off the ice, Oleksy is one of the most down-to-earth players you will meet. Very involved on Twitter, Oleksy is the founder and president of Eastside Elite Hockey, a summer hockey league that helps players stay in shape.
The Chesterfield, Michigan native will be a good addition to the Caps blue line. Oates watched Oleksy earlier this season as an assistant to Mark French during the lockout. Don’t be surprised to see Steve throw his body around. Despite being only six feet tall and weighing just 190, he is still a big force on the ice.
Their defensive depth was supposed to be a strength. The plan for the Washington Capitals was to have nine blueliners with serious NHL experience at their deposal, ready to jump into to a game at any minute. It didn’t work out that way. The pair of Karl Alzner and John Carlson has struggled, giving up a majority of the team’s goals against. The other D-men haven’t been much better. Tom Poti has played three games in two years. Mike Green is scoreless. And then there are the injuries. Jack Hillen went down after playing less than four minutes. Dmitry Orlov has been out indefinitely. The Caps have been forced to call up Tomas Kundratek.
So what happened to Orlov, one of the team’s rising stars? While skating for the Hershey Bears in the AHL Showcase at Verizon Center in November, the young Russian absorbed a hit up high from Emerson Etem. He didn’t appear to be favoring anything when he attempted to play one more shift that night, leading many to believe he suffered a concussion. In an interview with RMNB’s Ian Oland, Bears coach Mark French did not confirm or deny that Orlov may have received a concussion on the hit.
“The only thing we’ve said so far — as far as my understanding — is that it’s an upper body injury,” French told Ian. “It’s above my pay grade and above my qualifications to say any more. It’s certainly an upper body injury.”
“Our hope is that once we regroup as a team following the All-Star break he would be able to skate,” said the coach.
Photo credit: Tim Stough / Sweetest Hockey on Earth
A year ago Caps defenseman Tom Poti was considered washed up. After a pestering groin injury and a broken pelvis, which apparently is an actual thing that can happen to a person, his future as a pro hockey player was dubious at best. Fast-forward to January 2013. Tom Poti has recovered. He passed his physical in DC and got sent to Hershey on a conditioning stint. Poti proved himself capable on Sunday night, scoring a power play goal in 5-0 rout over the Whalers.
On December 6th, the Verizon Center hosted the AHL Showcase between the Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals. Due to the lockout, it was the first hockey game played in Washington since May 9th, when two current Bears were playing with the Capitals: Braden Holtby and Dmitry Orlov.
The Hershey Bears have long been considered one of the elite teams of the American Hockey League. The Bears have won eleven Calder Cups and had eleven of its coaches and players inducted into the NHL or AHL halls of fame. With its rich history and fantastic arena, the Bears have routinely churned out top prospects and cultivated a huge following, leading the AHL in attendance for the past six seasons. But how do they compare to the rest of the world?
While Dmitry Orlov is a defenseman who is known more for his offensive instincts, the 21-year-old Russian sure loves to hit too. Last season he crushed Blake Wheeler, Steve Downie, and Lars Eller all with devastating hip checks. And during Hershey’s second game of the season this year, he flipped a dude head over heels. Last night, during Teddy Bear Toss night at Giant Center, Orlov — apparently jealous of the fans — attempted to toss something over the boards too: Norfolk’s Jay Rosehill.
The lockout is miserable, but at least we get NHL stars participating in silly AHL promotions. Check out Braden Holtby (front row, second to the left) and Dmitry Orlov (back row, dude wearing the hardhat) doing their best to raise money for the American Cancer Society by showing off new pink t-shirts and sticks. The “Pink The Rink” shirts will be available for purchase at the Bears game on Sunday behind section 117, and the pink sticks they use during warm-ups will be up for silent auction behind section 119.
That’s great and all, but where can I buy that hard-hat Dima’s wearing?
Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov has been in North America for parts of just three seasons, but he’s already had four head coaches, two broken noses (okay, the same nose broken twice), and has suffered through a benching that spanned the Caps’ entire 2011-12 playoff run.
Now, during a season Orlov should have started in Washington, he’s back with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, experiencing his first ever lockout.
On the first day of the lockout, Leonid Vaisfeld, general manager of Metallurg Novokuznetsk, expressed his interest in bringing Orlov home. “[Orlov] has a two-way deal,” Vaisfeld told Sports.ru. “So it’s up to Washington if they want to send him to the farm to learn English or let him come here, where I think it would be better for Dima’s development. As far as I understand he just wants to play at home.”
Way back in February of 2011, Orlov negotiated out of his contract with his KHL team to start his professional career early in Hershey. Now, while some of his friends are making big-time money playing in the KHL, Orlov– whose family is still in Russia– is staying the course in Hershey, doing everything the coaching staff has asked of him.
RMNB caught up with Orlov on Saturday before Hershey hosted the St. John’s Ice Caps (for whom Orlov’s best friend Alex Burmistrov plays). RMNB’s Igor Kleyner asked him about the possibility of going home, how his English is progressing, and what it’s like playing under a Hall of Fame coach. We also talked about what it’ll be like to play against his former teammate and good friend Alex Semin.