When defenseman Jordan Oesterle signed with the Detroit Red Wings after a stint with the Arizona Coyotes, he put his head down and went to work.
The Dearborn Heights, Michigan, native didn’t take the time to consider what it was like to finally live a lifelong dream: playing for his hometown team.
“It’s been, obviously, every kid’s dream and one of my dreams,” Oesterle says via telephone after practice.
“Obviously, he was special having family and friends there. But I’m in the moment. I haven’t really sat back and thought about it.”
Oesterle, captain Dylan Larkin, Moritz Seider and the rest of the Detroit Red Wings hit the ice against the Coyotes at Mullett Arena on Tuesday, January 17.
Oesterle was born June 25, 1992, a year before Scotty Bowman was hired as head coach. Bowman’s captain was Steve Yzerman, future hockey hall of famer. Now, Oesterle plays under Yzerman, who’s serving executive vice president and general manager. He admires the former captain as a player and executive.
“With the guys who Steve added in the offseason, those guys have helped tremendously with scoring goals and shutting down defense,” Oesterle says.
“Husso has been great,” he adds about 27-year-old Finnish goaltender Ville Husso. “We’re having a great season. Obviously, we’ve hit a lull here in December. We’ve lost three or four in a row, but everyone’s kind of tired of losing and with the aura of the Red Wings as a winning organization, guys are wanting to get that back and start winning.”
Oesterle doesn’t let the Detroit Red Wings’ legacy — which includes players like Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom or Pavel Datsyuk — add undue pressure, though.
“It was a long time ago,” he says. “That team’s hard to emulate. We all know how special it is to wear this jersey. We don’t take it for granted. It makes you enthusiastic.”
Hockey is in Oesterle’s blood. His older cousins played hockey and his father put him in skates at age 3. He fell in love right away.
“I loved playing hockey at the time, but I played all sports — soccer, baseball, a little bit of basketball and football,” he says.
“I think my passion was definitely hockey. When it came down to high school, I narrowed in on hockey.”
He opted to stay in state after not being selected in the NHL draft and played three seasons at Western Michigan University.
As a freshman in 2011-12, Oesterle helped WMU win the Central Collegiate Hockey Association championship. In 2013-14, he had 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 34 games, then signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers on March 31, 2014.
Oesterle finished 2013-14 with Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League. He started 2014-15 in the AHL and was called up by the Oilers and made his NHL debut against the Anaheim Ducks on February 21, 2015. He got his first NHL point in his third game, earning an assist against the Los Angeles Kings on March 3, 2015.
After playing 25 games in three seasons with the Oilers, Oesterle signed a two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1, 2017, and showed enough to become a full-time NHL player. He scored his first NHL goal against the Oilers on December 29, 2017. The following season, Oesterle had NHL career highs of six goals, 14 assists and 20 points in 71 games. He was traded by the Blackhawks to the Arizona Coyotes on July 12, 2018.
Oesterle enjoyed his time in the Valley.
“We used to do a lot of hiking,” he says. “I played a lot of golf, not during the season, but before and after the season. The food there is outstanding. The restaurants that Arizona has to offer are some of the best in the country. The weather there is awesome. It was definitely very enjoyable.”
After 27 years in hockey, Oesterle is still passionate about it.
“At the end of the day, you have to still love the sport and love the game. I still enjoy going to the rink every single day trying to get better and pushing yourself to be the best you can be. That’s what keeps me in love with the game.”
Arizona Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 17
WHERE: Mullett Arena, 411 S. Packard Drive, Tempe
COST: Tickets start at $168