Eas­ton’s Nick Olds went to West Vir­ginia to earn his de­gree, but that didn’t mean he had to give up his love of hockey

The Kent Island Bay Times - - SPORTS - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

Maybe the Na­tional Hockey League was a boy­hood dream Nick Olds vis­ited from time to time. But it never crys­tal­ized into an in­ten­tion or goal.

As a youth he could have played for a travel team across the Bay Bridge, but pre­ferred home ice and friends.

He played with atoms, mites, squirts, pee­wees, ban­tams and midgets in the Eastern Shore Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion. Four sea­sons at Eas­ton High fol­lowed, the last two form­ing ar­guably one of the pro­gram’s more glo­ri­ous stretches that in­cluded a com­bined 25-4 record and the War­riors’ firstever state-fi­nal ap­pear­ance in Olds’s se­nior year, when he cap­tained the team.

There was the in­vi­ta­tion to play at Hockey Night in Bos­ton, where tal­ents from the U.S., Canada and Europe had their chance to show­case their stuff and pos­si­bly hook the at­ten­tion of a col­lege coach from hot­beds like New Eng­land and the Mid­west, or maybe even a ran­dom pro scout.

But Olds wasn’t shoot­ing for the big time on ice. He never con­sid­ered the no­tion of get­ting a phone call from a pro­fes­sional team will­ing to take a chance, per­haps start­ing him on a string of mi­nor league stops to places like Drumheller, Flin Flon and Moose Jaw.

No, the goal was pur­su­ing a de­gree, with the idea of play­ing the game he loved since first lac­ing his skates in Eas­ton’s Jamie Webb de­vel­op­men­tal league. Hard work and aca­demics were never a prob­lem. But hockey of­fered an es­cape.

“There’s just some­thing about when you step out there it’s a whole dif­fer­ent world,” Olds said. “When I step on the ice ev­ery­thing else that’s go­ing on in life doesn’t mat­ter. It gives me a time where I can just be my com­plete self and not have to worry about any of the ex­ter­nal fac­tors in life, or the tough times, or the tough times in school. I can just go out and I’m com­pletely free while I’m on the ice more than any­thing.”

More than any­thing, when it came to hockey, the Eas­ton na­tive sim­ply wanted to play.

That came to the sur­face dur­ing pre­sea­son prac­tice his fresh­man year at West Vir­ginia Univer­sity. The school’s Di­vi­sion I club coach liked what he saw, and told Olds there was a spot for him on the team, though he prob­a­bly wouldn’t get a lot of time. That prompted a thanks, but no thanks. He didn’t come to Mor­gan­town just to chase pucks. He was al­ready jug­gling a full class load and ROTC, and wasn’t overly con­cerned how one team ranked com­pared to an­other. He set­tled on the Di­vi­sion II squad, where he’d play, not watch.

“I was sur­prised be­cause I knew Nick loved hockey,” said for­mer Eas­ton head coach Matt Spiker of that early de­ci­sion. “He was a great player; a great leader. He’s the kind of player that all coaches want.

“But he went to col­lege for a rea­son,” Spiker added. “He went to get his ed­u­ca­tion. He said that was his first pri­or­ity. I had him come and talk to the team one time (in 2013) over Christ­mas break, and he ex­plained to the team how hard it was to be a player, work­ing on col­lege. He said he had to get his pri­or­i­ties straight, and I com­mend him for it.”

Olds al­ready had his pri­or­i­ties on the ice.

It was about play­ing the game — one that had greater speed and phys­i­cal­ity than the high school game — and not just part of it. It wasn’t about cherry-picking at the post in hopes of set­ting a club sin­gle-sea­son or ca­reer record for goals or points. And it wasn’t about see­ing how many op­po­nents he could take out with spec­tac­u­lar hip

Nick Olds achieved both his goals while at West Vir­ginia Univer­sity, earn­ing his de­gree in crim­i­nol­ogy and play­ing four years of hockey.

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