Monday, May 22, 2006

North Stars frontman Oleksy ponders options

Should he stay or should he go … to college?

That is the question facing Traverse City North Stars captain Steven Oleksy.

The 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman from Chesterfield Township has options heading into what could either be his final year of junior hockey or sophomore year of college.

Oleksy’s situation is somewhat unique, as the All-NAHL nominee played a year of baseball at Macomb Community College two years ago, which started the clock on his college eligibility. From the day a student-athlete begins his or her full-time D-I collegiate career – athletic or merely academic – they have five years of eligibility. The rules for D-III colleges are slightly less stringent, and Oleksy would have four years remaining at that level even if he played for the Stars next year.

“It’s something I have to think about,” he said. “I really love it up here in Traverse City. The fan support, the people from A to Z within our organization, the community – it’s a great place to live and play. I’d love to come back and try to help the guys give the fans an even better season than last year.”

Should Oleksy return to TC for 2006-07, he would pare his remaining D-I eligibility to two years, effectively excising himself from consideration among, who generally seek players with a minimum of three years left.

“If could do it differently, it would be that there was a (junior) team in Traverse City a year earlier, and I would have retained all four years of D-I eligibility,” Oleksy added.

Stars head coach/GM Scott Gardiner says the team would love to have him back, but the mission of the organization is to put players into college programs.

“If we can get him playing college hockey where he wants to be, then that’s what we have to do,” Gardiner explained. “Of course, we would welcome him back with open arms if that’s what he decides is best for him. We’ll support him unconditionally either way.”

Oleksy was a stabilizing force on the Stars blue line and in the locker room. He led all TC defensemen with 11 goals and 19 assists, which put him sixth among all Stars players in 2005-06. Six of his goals came on the power play, and three of them were game-winners. Oleksy is not averse to physical play, either, as he amassed a team-high 140 minutes of penalty time.

“He’s just rock-solid back there,” Gardiner added. “We preach hard work and heart around here, and that’s exactly how he conducts himself on and off the ice. He’s a been a great representative of our team – on the ice, off the ice, and in the community.”

Oleksy, who netted a penalty shot goal and added an assist for the Blue Team in Sunday’s Blue & White Game – a 3-2 White Team victory, was a standout baseball player at L’Anse Creuse High School in Metro Detroit. He earned All-District and All-Conference honors, and still holds the single-season home run record. He played at Macomb in 2004 and batted near the magical .300 mark with a pair of homers.

“I love both sports, but hockey is my first love,” said Oleksy, who has garnered interest from coaches in both sports at Wayne State. “I’m not sure I could do both sports and concentrate on school, though. If I had to pick – well, a hockey team is like a family.”

Oleksy and nearly 50 others, including 11 returning North Stars players, wrapped up what he called “a very successful” tryout camp on Sunday.

“It was a great mix of guys out there today, with our returning guys and some fresh talent. I think we meshed pretty well in just the few days we were together – both on and off the ice.”

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