Plaskey hopes to build Shrine Catholic hockey program at school he grew up in

By: Mike Moore | Royal Oak Review | Published January 18, 2011

 Shrine hockey coach AJ Plaskey talks things over with his players during a Jan. 12 practice in Oak Park. Plaskey, who grew up in the Shrine parish, is in his first year with the team after seven seasons with Royal Oak High.

Shrine hockey coach AJ Plaskey talks things over with his players during a Jan. 12 practice in Oak Park. Plaskey, who grew up in the Shrine parish, is in his first year with the team after seven seasons with Royal Oak High.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

OAK PARK — After 14 years of coaching, early mornings in cold rinks, late nights on team buses and countless moments planning and prepping, AJ Plaskey was ready for a break, ready to move on.

The long-time hockey coach had put in his time during the past seven years at Royal Oak High building the program back to respectability in the Oakland Activities Association.
But after the 2009-10 season, he prepared to walk away.

He felt comfortable stepping down.

Fast forward to a cold, January afternoon in Oak Park.

The sound of skates carving through ice echoes throughout an otherwise empty rink.
Pucks snap from one stick to the next, and the man in the middle of it all, a whistle around his neck, shouts instructions as one drill ends and the next is set to begin.

“I was ready to be done, but then you get away from it,” he says while never taking his eyes off the players in front of him. “Before long, you start missing it.”

Plaskey wasn’t away very long. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t away at all.

He just relocated.

Soon after stepping down with the Ravens, the head job at Royal Oak Shrine opened.
Plaskey, whose family’s been intertwined with the school and parish at Shrine since his early youth, saw the opportunity as a no-brainer.

“Shrine asked if I’d be interested, and really, it’s such a great challenge,” Plaskey said. “It’s an exciting time for me and for my family. I think my mom is more excited than anyone.”

Plaskey’s two brothers — both All-State football players — and two sisters attend Shrine. He went to the grade school, but studied at Birmingham Brother Rice in order to continue his hockey career.

Now his journey has come full circle, and the former Warrior is in charge of building a Knights program that’s in just its third year.

So far, so good.

“This has been the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” senior Evan Yee said during that Jan. 10 practice at Oak Park Arena, crediting all enjoyment to his head coach. “His knowledge of hockey is incredible. He’s helped us come together so quickly. He’s just been great.”

Plaskey is also keeping things realistic.

He knows Shrine is light-years from becoming a program like his alma mater, or even Royal Oak, for that matter. As the Ravens’ head man, he could roll four lines. Behind the Knights’ bench, he must find a way to get the most he can out of 14 skaters and just one goalie.

“There’s some programs out there we’re not ready to compete with yet, and we know that,” Plaskey said. “But if we continue to build this, and keep it going in the direction we think it can, we’ll be able to battle with most teams we play.”

Battle the Knights have, to a respectable 5-6 record at press time.

Baby steps are being taken now, but there’s a belief and confidence that hockey at Shrine will be more than relevant in the very near future.

“Kids are going to come to this team to play for this coach,” senior Spencer Bald said. “He’s going to get this program going. I have no doubt in my mind.”

“Being a part of this, at the place I grew up, means a lot to me,” Plaskey added. “I think one of the big contributing factors for me is the fact I know the type of kids Shrine produces, both athletes and students. I’d love to be a part of getting this program on the map.”