SteveOleksy

Photo: Kyle Mace/Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Photo: Kyle Mace/Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Photo: Kyle Mace/Sweetest Hockey on Earth

On January 20, Steve Oleksy was waived by the Washington Capitals. He had been called up less than a year before, after years toiling away in the AHL and ECHL. In his first shot in the NHL, the minor league veteran became punching fan favorite and a serviceable third pairing defenseman. The Caps soon signed him to a three-year, one-way deal. He played 61 games, scoring three goals.

This year, though, the Caps have gone through 13 defensemen. Once John Erskine came back from injury, the Caps had no desire to keep Oleksy’s inflexible contract. Caps head coach Adam Oates said the team hoped, for Oleksy’s sake, that he would be picked up by another NHL squad. He wasn’t. On Sunday, Oleksy returned to the Verizon Center for the first time since being sent down. His Hershey Bears played the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL Showcase, an ostensibly neutral site game created to introduce the American Hockey League to big-league cities.

“The fans really showed me a lot of support,” Oleksy told me after the game. “To come back here and play in front of them was a great feeling. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. The guys were great to me during my time here.”

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Michael Latta Ribs Steve Oleksy About Birthday

We all had a sad when Steve Oleksy was sent down to Hershey a few weeks ago, but maybe we underestimated the entertainment value of his and Michael Latta‘s friendship. They’re both adept at the Twitter and they both love to joke around.

Yesterday was Oleksy’s 28th birthday, so naturally Latta did something special for his broseph.

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Steve Oleksy Tweets Thank You Message to Fans (Photo)

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A few minutes past noon, word surfaced that defenseman Steve Oleksy cleared waivers. Binky, who scored 19 points in 61 games with the Washington Capitals over the last two seasons, reported to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. But not before tweeting out a special thank you message to fans.

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Remembering Steve Oleksy’s Time in Washington

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Oleksy as a kid. (Photo credit: Steve Oleksy)

When you examine the Washington Capitals roster and pore over every player on defense, Steve Oleksy feels like a name that belongs. After signing with the organization as an unrestricted free agent in 2012, Oleksy worked his butt off in Hershey and earned a call-up to the Caps in the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

During that year, it appeared that Oleksy, receiving 17:16 of ice time per game, solidified himself as a solid third pairing NHL defender. When Oleksy was playing, he tilted the ice in the Caps direction. Plus, he was a physical defender that would stick up for teammates and even chip in with some clutch offense. Did we mention he was physical?

Even after getting sporadic playing time this season under Adam Oates, Oleksy still has better possession stats than John Erskine and Connor Carrick. Yet, we’re here.

Monday morning, Renaud Lavoie of Journal de Montreal broke the news that Oleksy was placed on waivers. At 12pm tomorrow, Oleksy could be claimed by another NHL team and gone from the Caps organization forever. That would be a total bummer.

In his short time in DC, Oleksy has managed to become a fan favorite. He showed heart on the ice with humility and humor off of it.

Here are some of my favorite moments.

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Photo credit: Steve Oleksy

In 2004, after graduating from from L’Anse Creuse North High School in Macomb, Michigan, Washington Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy seemed destined for a career in baseball.

The Chesterfield, Michigan-native played two sports all his life: hockey and baseball. During his freshman year at Macomb Community College, Oleksy played on the Monarch’s baseball team. Later, he earned a scholarship to Oakland University near Detroit. Oleksy even attended an orientation there, before that little voice inside his head nagged him that hockey was his true calling.

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Steve Oleksy Scores Goal, Gets Really Excited

On December 8, Steve Oleksy scored his first goal in 273 days, after seven games as a healthy scratch. Now, 25 days later, he’s got another, a game-tying tally against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was a typical Oleksy goal: seemingly accidental.

“It’s a good feeling when you don’t get many,” Oleksy told me after the game. “That’s the way it goes. Especially at this level I’m not really known for the goal scoring touch from the blueline. You go through spells where you don’t pop any in. It’s important that you’re getting looks. I’ve had some good looks over the last couple games. It’s nice to finally have some go in.”

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Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

Washington Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy has been scratched for the last seven games. From the press box he watched dudes like Tyson Strachan and rookie Patrick Wey get jerseys instead of him. On Sunday, Oates gave Oleksy another chance as the Caps readied to play their second game in as many days.

Oleksy responded in a humangous big way.

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Eric Fehr Scores Goal Using Steve Oleksy’s Stick

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Al Koken shows off Fehr’s sticks during the Wednesday’s CSN broadcast.

Eric Fehr has bounced around the lineup a lot this season, all the way from the first line to the press box. Another thing undergoing constant shuffling: his stick.

“I’m still looking around, still looking for the one that’s gonna work for me,” he told me Wednesday. “I’ve been working on a few things.”

What’s curious, though, is the specific stick Fehr settled on: when he scored his first goal since October 10 on Wednesday, the 28-year-old was using Steve Oleksy‘s stick. A power forward and a stay-at-home defenseman don’t have much in common, of course, but Fehr liked Oleksy’ stick after a cursory test of his teammates’ weapons.

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Steve Oleksy’s First Magazine Cover

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Cover photo from Macomb Now Magazine’s Facebook page

A few weeks ago, Steve Oleksy played his first game in Joe Louis Arena. As a native of Chesterfield, Michigan (a stone’s throw from Detroit), playing at his local NHL rink was a big deal for Oleksy.

“It’s pretty wild,” Oleksy told to The Macomb Daily’s Fred Costello after the game. “To grow up being a Wings fan, and to see so many games from the other side of it at Joe Louis watching from the stands, it was a great experience. I never thought I’d be playing a real game here. It’s definitely something that gives you the sense that all the hard work has paid off.”

Another sign of that hard work paying off: Oleksy appears on the cover of Macomb Now Magazine‘s winter issue alongside Red Wings defenseman Dan DeKeyser. For two hometown kids, this is a big deal.

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That Sucked: Pens Blank Caps 4-0

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:( (Photo credit: Rob Carr)

Ian Oland birthday card of the night. (Photo credit: Brouwer Rangers)

Ian Oland birthday card of the night. (Photo credit: Brouwer Rangers)

A few years ago, the Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry was the NHL’s top draw. Led by the league’s best players, the teams spawned epic playoff series and fantastic regular season games. Eventually, though, Sidney Crosby got hurt and Alex Ovechkin got stale. For the past couple seasons, Caps-Pens has been a bit hollow.

This year, however, Ovi vs. Sid is relevant again: Crosby came into the game tied for the league lead in points, Ovechkin was tied for the lead in goals. Wednesday, the Caps were just one point behind the Pens for the Metropolitan division lead. With NBC in town, the good old days of the late ’00s were back — even if Brooks Laich didn’t give a crap.

Unfortunately, the game was less Snovechkin and more 2009 Semifinals game seven.

Paul Martin put the Pens up early through a screen that make Braden Holtby look foolish. Rejected Gossip Girl character Beau Bennett stretched the lead to two on a two-on-four — yes two-on-four — for Pittsburgh midway through the first. The second frame was utterly boring until ya boy Sidney Crosby unleashed an Ovi shot from the Ovi spot on the power play to put the Pens up by three. James Neal added another in the third.

Worst. Pens Blank Caps 4-0.

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