Nick Olynyk grew up in a hurry. That will happen when you live in 12 billet households, get traded three times, change high schools five times and move from one country to another.
Oh, and he also watched teammates get thrown in the drunk tank, underwent mid-season surgery, was listed and then dropped by a WHL team, and had agents pestering him.
All of the above happened as the towering net detective from Canora, Sask. played hockey from age 14 through 21.
Olynyk was the Vernon Vipers’ starting goalie when they bowed to the Nanaimo Clippers in the 2006-07 season championship series. Mark Holick was the head coach and the Vipers were led by the likes of Andrew Coburn, Mike Ullrich, Kyle St. Denis and Scott Zurevinski.
The studious 6-foot-4, 200-pounder has seen enough to write a book. It took him about a year and the book is out. It’s called The Junior Hockey Truth.
Olynyk is living in Austin, Tex., which he says is the Internet marketing capital of the U.S. He offers a free seven-page guide online, hoping it will entice readers to buy the more in-depth, pro edition book.
“It was released in May and I’m getting some good feedback,” Olynyk, an English major, told me in a phone interview. “On and off, it took me a year and I interviewed over a dozen people. I stuck to Canada. There is so much competition for players in Canada and Junior A is a very viable option in B.C.”
The book is a parent’s guide to scouting, education and their son’s career.
“Most Midget hockey parents don’t know what to expect when they send their sons off to junior hockey, and my parents were no different,” he writes. “That’s why I decided to write this guide. Junior hockey parents often think their sons just get drafted or picked up by a team like it is destiny or fate. This is wrong. Half of their sons getting scouted, earning scholarships and eventually playing pro hockey is deciphering where their sons should play junior and how to get there.
“Many parents are unaware of their sons’ options and often leave it up to chance that their son will get a scholarship instead of taking proactive steps to put him in the spotlight for one.”
Olynyk was often caught between major junior and junior A. He was briefly with the WHL Regina Pats after starring for Yorkton in Midget AAA. He spent 10 games with the Tri-City Americans and played for four junior A teams.
“Yet, I still managed to use my WHL and junior A scholarship money to finance my education and I graduated with a degree in English and professional writing from the University of Victoria in 2011, at the age of 24.”
He’s done his homework, put pen to paper and published a book designed to help parents and players make their journey through junior hockey a success.
“After playing in over half the provinces in Canada and parts of the United States, I’ve learned more about junior hockey than most players do in their lifetime,” writes Olynyk.
“With my scholarship, I earned a degree and I barely paid a penny for it thanks to hockey. Career finished, I’m passing my advice along to you through my book series, The Junior Hockey Truth. It has everything parents need to know before their sons play junior hockey.”
For many teens, leaving mom and pop for a new home and school is a stressful time. Olynyk paints a colourful picture of billet life, providing tips on how to make the experience joyful.
“Imagine that you’re being dropped into a stranger’s house for a winter. You don’t know who the people are. You don’t know what it looks like inside. Yet that’s where you must eat, sleep and live. You’re going to call it home. That’s billeting, and it’s a major part of playing junior hockey.”
Olynyk suggests opening communications with your billet early while establishing boundaries. Know your rituals, be respectful and become part of the family, he recommends.
Olynyk told me hockey matured him quickly as he learned to be responsible and accountable. Those lessons were invaluable when he attended university.
He touches on hockey groupies and hazing, while also writing about money changing hands.
“Not only have I seen near-pro salaries paid to players, but also I have received ‘scholarship’ money myself from organizations. Teams can be quite creative in giving players money for school without paying them.”
To check out more on Olynyk’s book, visit: www.juniorhockeybook.com.