By Glenn Hibdon
GTR Sports Writer
Tulsa Oilers Captain Adam Pleskach takes pride in the fact that he’s always there. The 31-year-old winger is always prepared to suit up, take the ice and battle the enemy. And he does it in a modest way. No need for glory or gaudy statistics. Those things just naturally seem to gravitate toward him.
Now in his seventh season with the ECHL Oilers, Pleskach has made his mark on the team and the league. Although Tulsa experienced a slow start to the 2019-20 campaign, Pleskach displayed his value last season by leading the Oilers to the Western Conference championship and a berth in the playoff semifinals.
“I pride myself in being durable,’’ said Pleskach, who finished second in the ECHL with 75 points a year ago and was selected first-team all-league. “I’m taking better care of myself now. I watch what I eat and go to the gym regularly. I haven’t missed a game since coach (Rob) Murray has been here. I take pride that I’ve been available every night.’’
Winner of a team Ironman Award (no games missed due to injury) in four of his five eligible seasons in Tulsa, Pleskach learned the hard way how difficult it can be watching from the sidelines. During the 2016-17 season he tore a groin muscle and missed two months on the ice. Although it was a dark moment in his career, brighter days lay ahead.
Pleskach led the league in goals (38) and power play goals (14) last season and recently played in his 400th game with the Oilers. He holds the team ECHL records for goals in a season (41 in 2014-15) and in a game (four in 2016-17).
“Last year we had a really good mix in personalities, players who filled their roles,’’ said Pleskach. “We had guys who put points up every night and pulled their weight. It was the best group of guys I’ve played with in terms of guys who wanted to do well and win games.
“I played with (Stephen) Perfetto and (Alex) Dostie and (Jared) Thomas. I was surrounded by really good guys who made it easy for me. You don’t always have guys come down (from parent clubs) who have the team’s interest at heart. They think they might be too good to be here. I didn’t see any of that. They came down and saw we had laid the ground work for success and they bought into it.’’
Pleskach said the top overall season of his career was truly the result of teammates with chemistry who contributed. It all goes back to growing up in rural Beausejour, Manitoba, and playing with three older brothers.
“When you turn five and you can put on a pair of skates, you start playing hockey (in Canada),’’ Pleskach said. “My brothers were all good players and they taught me things. They taught me that there are bigger things in life than yourself, like being part of a team and not an individual. They were good leaders.’’
While young Pleskach learned from siblings on the ice, he was still the baby of the family and protected by his mother.
“She would come down on them (his brothers) if anything happened to me because they were older,’’ he said.
Even so, Pleskach acquired the toughness he needed to play the game and succeed, both mentally and physically. He continued to grow in the game and played collegiately at American International University, eventually earning a degree in economics. His first pro season came in 2012-13 at Evansville where he played 10 games with the Icemen.
Through Nov. 1, Pleskach had suited up for 410 games with the Oilers, collecting 154 goals and 163 assists for 317 points. No matter the future, the consistent point-producer has already fit into the franchises’ pantheon of all-time greats.
Married to wife Jocelyn, a special education teacher at Jenks Elementary, Pleskach has purchased a house and plans on making Tulsa home following his retirement from hockey. He has no definite plans on a subsequent profession, but said he wouldn’t mind if it was related to the sport in some way.
“I want to keep playing as long as it makes sense for my family,’’ said Pleskach. “I knew playing at this level I didn’t want to bounce around cities. I know a lot of people in Tulsa and I want to make it my home. I always wanted to make it to the next level, but I think I’m too old now. There are a lot of good players out there. I went up one time (playing a single game with Manitoba of the AHL in 2016-17), but there is no clear cut answer (as to why he didn’t stick).’’
As team captain and one of the Oilers’ elder statesmen, Pleskach said he’s set his sights on helping Tulsa’s younger players advance. Almost half of them have signed NHL contracts and require just a little seasoning to make their dreams come true.
“I’d love to see them move on. I’d love to be a part of that,’’ Pleskach said. “I want to see them reach their goals and I want to see guys receive a second chance. One of the biggest things slowing a lot of the young kids in being successful is learning the professional lifestyle and realizing they’re not in college anymore.’’
Another secret Pleskach wants to teach is how to win and do it consistently. The Oilers mastered that target late last season and must relocate the formula this year.
“You can score all the goals in the world, but if you’re not playing in June, what’s the point?’’ he said. “We’ve got to find a way of putting a full 60 minutes together because if you don’t come to play in this league, other teams will beat you. We’ve got to find the chemistry of how to play together.’’
When the Oilers do put all the ingredients together, Pleskach wants to be there. He’s hoping it comes this season and he’s healthy enough to enjoy the taste of champagne.
“I’ really feel good physically and I feel like I’m at the top of my game,’’ Pleskach said. “I know I still have a lot to contribute. If it’s checking, I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever I’m needed to do to win games, to win a championship. I wouldn’t be doing this now if I didn’t want to win. We’re not here to get rich.
“We set the bar last year by getting as far as we did in the playoffs. Anything less than getting to the finals this year would be disappointing. The key is consistency. We’ve got to be consistent no matter what.’’
For Pleskach, the most consistent Oiler of all, eating his vegetables and keeping the doctor away might be the most important item in a possible championship run.
By Glenn Hibdon