The Pittsburgh Penguins made a simple two-way transaction over the summer, signing former Washington Capitals and Hershey Bears defenseman Steven Oleksy to a contract. Though he currently plays for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, the Penguins are fortunate to have him on their roster.
The 29-year-old comes from humble beginnings in small-town Michigan, going by the nickname “Binky” as he grew up and fought challenges and obstacles.
“When I was younger, I was sick and I was in the hospital quite a bit,” Oleksy told the blog Russian Machine Never Breaks in 2013. “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.”
“Binky” went on to become a four-year letter winner at his high school in hometown Michigan, and he went on to play college baseball for Macomb Community College before he decided to turn back to hockey and play on AA teams around Michigan.
After that, Oleksy joined the junior league Michigan Metro Jets, before moving up to the NAHL and eventually making it to the NCAA, where he played for the Lake Superior State Lakers. Eventually, he turned to the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL and worked his way up until he was eventually loaned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The defenseman was playing such phenomenal hockey that he had gone undrafted and signed a deal with the Hershey Bears, which ended up leading to his first NHL deal with the Washington Capitals. In his first game, he recorded an assist in Washington’s win over the Boston Bruins.
However, he would then be waived and sent back to Hershey, where he would serve as a captain. Each year he would try to make the team, Washington would ship him back down and eventually cut him, but he never stopped trying. Eventually, when signed with the Penguins, Oleksy became an alternation for WBS, though he sees that being a leader is more than one guy wearing a letter.
“Collectively making decisions is a lot more satisfying than one or two making a decision for everybody,” Oleksy said. “Not everybody is going to wear a letter, but everyone can lead and contribute.”
What makes Oleksy a gem in the eyes of Pittsburgh goes beyond his skill level and leadership. He is a class act, getting involved in charities, the organization and especially with the fans. He is grateful for all of the opportunities he has gotten and continually works to keep moving forward; he has also founded the Eastside Elite Hockey League and stills serves as the president.
Not to mention, he is a solid defenseman who knows how to start up a play and even wisely defend. Also, he kid they call “Binky” is one tough customer, whose fighting ability is phenomenal. He can drop the gloves with any guy and walk away with his head held up, still standing.
Oleksy was a fan-favorite in Washington, and still to this day, holds as my favorite hockey player. I believe he is a fan favorite in Pennsylvania too, and hopefully, the Penguins give him a call-up soon (he currently is returning from injury). The kid deserves it; he’s a solid defender, influential and motivational voice in the locker room and a hard-working leader.