by Jamie Palatini || AHL On The Beat Archive
The path to professional hockey is never the same for any two players.
In October, defenseman Steve Oleksy found himself with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads. Just six months later, the rookie defenseman found himself with an American Hockey League contract and wearing the "A" for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with a chance to clinch their first division title in a decade.
"It's definitely the road less taken … lots of detours, pretty bumpy," Oleksy said. "I'd say all of those terms apply to how I've gotten to where I am today."
Oleksy wasn't drafted and didn't play major junior hockey in Canada. However, the Chesterfield, Mich., native has worked his way through the ranks of U.S. roller hockey, the junior North American Hockey League, college and the lower minors to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where earned a professional tryout contract early in the season.
Oleksy's father and brother had played ice hockey, and the kids in his neighborhood were big street hockey players. It was on the hard top — not the ice — where Oleksy actually had his first big hockey experience.
"I actually played for the USA Roller Hockey Team for a couple of years. I played in the World Championships for two years, first in Bratislava, Slovakia, and the second time in Germany. There are quite a few that started out playing roller hockey and converted to ice hockey. Obviously, the further you get the more you focus on ice hockey. It definitely helps develop the skills. In the World Championships, we played against (Karel) Rachunek, (Ales) Hemsky, some big-name guys."