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Oleksy tells students to ‘dream big’ PHOTO GALLERY and VIDEO

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LCN grad honored to have jersey retired by school

Steve Oleksy cherished his four years at L’Anse Creuse North.

And now he’ll forever be a fixture inside the halls of the high school.

The school retired his No. 61 jersey that he wore as a member of the Washington Capitals this season, in a ceremony inside the gymnasium Tuesday afternoon.

“Like I said in my speech, the most important decisions of your life happen from your freshman year to your senior year and even a couple of those middle school years,” Oleksy said after spending a lot of time meeting with students and faculty signing autographs and posing for pictures. “To be here at LCN when I was making those decisions and being surrounded by a ton of positive role models it definitely helped mold my future.”

Oleksy’s mom, dad, brother, grandmother and uncle were able to attend the 30-minute ceremony.

“You never think in your whole life that a day like this is ever going to happen,” Oleksy said. “Then to come and walk in and see how many people were here and all those that have supported you along the way is special. A lot of people did a lot of work to make this day so special. It’s an incredible feeling.

“It’s nice to have my family here as well,” continued Oleksy, who just turned 28 in February. “They’ve been there for every game throughout my career. My parents never missed a game until I moved to Idaho and my grandma made a lot of them. To share this with them means a lot and to have so many of those people still around to share in this is great.”

Oleksy, a right-hand shooting defenseman, made his NHL debut two seasons ago with the Capitals, appearing in 28 games, totaling a goal, eight assists and 33 penalty minutes.

Last season he played in 33 games with the NHL club and had two goals, eight assists and 53 penalty minutes.

“I feel so welcome every time I do come back here,” said Oleksy, whose mom still works for the school district. “I’ve had so many teachers that made learning fun and helped me want to continue learning. And I had some coaches that made playing the sports fun and they challenged me.

“I’ve been challenged by coaches throughout my career, in good and bad situations,” Oleksy added. “This is the foundation for everything. To come back here, and to be honored at L’Anse Creuse North, it’s a great feeling, but it’s also great for all those involved, too.”

Each of the last two seasons when hockey is over, Oleksy has come back and helped coach the varsity baseball team.

“I’ve been pretty lucky to help out coaching when I’ve come back,” Oleksy said. “I never thought I’d be doing that. To be around those kids and see them be around the game they love and to be able to help out there has been a great experience.”

Oleksy, who isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, went undrafted out of Lake Superior State University in 2009.

Oleksy has spent a number of seasons in the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League and International Hockey League, playing in Las Vegas, Port Huron, Toledo, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Despite finding some decent success with the Capitals and seemingly having the backing of then-coach Adam Oates, Oleksy soon found himself a healthy scratch most of the time and then found himself placed on waivers which he cleared and headed back to the AHL.

“Last year, when we were down in Hershey, he was just a sponge with (Capitals assistant coach and defensive specialist Calle) Johansson,” Oates said prior to the Capitals’ game last season against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. “Every piece of information he got, he implemented into his game right away, and it really helped him keep rising.”

Oleksy has one year left on his deal with the Capitals.

“It’s a love of the game,” Oleksy said. “You can only control what you can control, which is how hard you work and your attitude. I stuck to the game plan and worked hard in practice. It’s tough any time you have to sit out. But, you have to have the mindset that you belong here.”

Oleksy has also run the Eastside Elite Summer Hockey League out of Mount Clemens every summer since 2008. The league consists of players from junior to NHL level and now has a women’s league.

“I tell everyone to dream big,” Oleksy said. “That’s been my motto and I carry that with me. There are going to be good and bad situations throughout life and sports. You have to use each and every situation as motivation.”

Send comments to chuck.pleiness@macombdaily.com and visit his blog at redwingsfront.wordpress.com

Last Updated: 5/13/2014 7:58:19 PM EST