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
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.