From minor pee-wee hockey to the NHL, Hamiltonian Steve Staios takes us through his 18-year career and beyond.

Growing up around the area of Main Street West and Haddon Avenue South, former National Hockey League player Steve Staios began his hockey journey playing in a minor hockey league for the Hamilton Huskies at Wentworth Triple rink. It was not until Staios was seven years old when he began playing hockey; over the years, he managed both soccer and hockey as two main sports until he devoted his undivided attention year-long to the ice rink at 15 years old. 

Staios was drafted into the Ontario Hockey League by the Niagara Falls Thunder; a year later, he was drafted into the NHL. With that being said, the transition was definitely not an easy one to endure. 

“The transition from the OHL to professional hockey was a steep curve for me. I got injured in my first year. I tore my [anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament], so I got reconstruction knee surgery. So, it was off to a pretty tough start. I played in the minors for three seasons and then I found my way to pro hockey,” said Staios. 

“The transition from the OHL to professional hockey was a steep curve for me. I got injured in my first year. I tore my [anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament], so I got reconstruction knee surgery. So, it was off to a pretty tough start. I played in the minors for three seasons and then I found my way to pro hockey,” said Staios.

Despite Staios bouncing around several teams within the league during the beginning of his career, it was not until he ended up in Edmonton with the Oilers where he found his home, spending about 10 years of his life there. Staios also had an opportunity to play for two more Western Canadian teams, the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. 

Steve Staios on the ice as an Edmonton Oiler.

As an Oiler, Staios’ trip to the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals was arguably his greatest moment but also greatest disappointment. 

“In 2006, the team we had was a close-knit team. We qualified for the playoffs as an 8th seed. We weren’t expected to do a lot, but then we went on a magical run into the Stanley Cup Finals,” said Staios. 

“In 2006, the team we had was a close-knit team. We qualified for the playoffs as an 8th seed. We weren’t expected to do a lot, but then we went on a magical run into the Stanley Cup Finals,” said Staios. 

Losing their starting goalie Dwayne Roloson in game one to a series-ending injury created a massive challenge for the team. Despite that, the Oilers were able to force a game seven, where they unfortunately came short of being a Stanley Cup Champion. 

To put it short, the emotions during their run were “machine-like”.

“When you go on a run like with a team, as an individual, you become sort of a product of your routine and environment. These emotions become consistent. You have butterflies before the game, you have the vigour and energy of competing, and then you have the rest before the next game. The emotions afterwards were incredible. Whether you win or lose, all these athletes and teams go through it,” explained Staios.

Staios exclaimed such emotions are also of similar nature on the international level, to which he won two gold medals playing for the national team at the World Champions in 2003 and 2004

“One of the greatest memories is holding my two kids on the blue line singing the national anthem after winning a gold medal in Prague wearing a Team Canada jersey. It is the most incredible joy and feeling that I will never forget,” said Staios. 

“One of the greatest memories is holding my two kids on the blue line singing the national anthem after winning a gold medal in Prague wearing a team Canada jersey. It is the most incredible joy and feeling that I will never forget,” said Staios. 

Steve Staios (second from right) with his family after winning the gold medal at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

After Staios’ playing career ended with the New York Islanders, he was provided with an opportunity by then-General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs Brian Burke to take on a managerial role for the team. Staios was eventually hired as a player development advisor

During his three seasons with the Leafs, Staios transitioned from advisor to manager and then eventually to the director. But Staios’ managerial career took a turn when head coach Randy Carlyle was fired and Staios was placed behind the bench as an assistant coach. 

“It was incredible. Working for the Toronto Maple Leafs is something I didn’t set a goal to do, but it was unbelievable and a learning experience. Credit to the entire staff and leadership, getting to work with some incredible people,” said Staios. 

“It was incredible. Working for the Toronto Maple Leafs is something I didn’t set a goal to do, but it was unbelievable and a learning experience. Credit to the entire staff and leadership, getting to work with some incredible people,” said Staios. 

Staios’ time with the Maple Leafs allowed him to explore the different aspects of the organization from bottom to top, which helped him currently run the Hamilton Bulldogs. 

Toronto Maple Leafs interim head coach Peter Horachek (left) and assistant coach Steve Staios (right) on the bench with forward James van Riemsdyk (21) and forward Mike Santorelli (25) and forward Richard Panik (18) against the Washington Capitals during the second period at the Air Canada Centre (Jan 7, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario, CAN).

When Staios left the Maple Leafs to become the president of the Bulldogs, he received some mixed reaction from individuals attempting to persuade him to stay with the NHL team. Yet, being from Hamilton and persuasion from Bulldogs team owner, Michael Andlauer, he was convinced to put junior hockey “back on the map”. 

“We just haven’t had great success in junior hockey in Hamilton. I felt sort of an underdog and wanted to put junior hockey back on the map in my hometown,” said Staios

“We just haven’t had great success in junior hockey in Hamilton. I felt sort of an underdog and wanted to put junior hockey back on the map in my hometown,” said Staios

As Staios mainly had a background in playing as opposed to the business operations of the team, there was still a lot to learn as president and general manager of the team. 

President Steve Staios (left) with Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean (right).

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still some uncertainty regarding the 2020-2021 OHL season, as with the new provincial lockdown, the season has been delayed even further. Staios still hopes that with the rollout of vaccines and return-to-pay protocol, a season can be salvaged this year. With that being said, there is still great optimism within the team.

Images courtesy of C/O Hamilton Bulldogs, C/O Mark Mauno and C/O John E. Sokolowski (USA TODAY Sports)

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