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Hockey: Hobart’s Joe Orosz doing little things for Illiana Blackbirds

Updated: February 21, 2014 6:32AM



ST. JOHN — Illiana Blackbird forward Joe Orosz has actually blown up two stereotypes in his junior hockey career, and that’s more than ok with the Blackbirds, who have had a successful season again this year in part because of Orosz’s sometimes overlooked contributions.

“He brings an element of work ethic and pride in what he does,” said Blackbirds coach Reid Simpson. “There is a certain player who has value because he simply shows up and works. What that brings to a team is invaluable.”

Which brings us stereotype No. 1: Because Orosz is a native of Hobart, known for its love for football, that work ethic should have been achieved in cleats, not skates.

And sure enough, as a Pop Warner football player, Orosz was a pretty good wide receiver. Even he admits that he had some pretty good hands.

“I actually played Pop Warner for two years and I enjoyed it,” he said. “They wanted me to play high school.”

So what led Orosz to turn down an offer most Hobart boys wouldn’t dare refuse?

“My dad told me to do what I love and hockey is what I love,” Orosz said.

The decision was a good one because Orosz had a major hand in the Blackbirds successful first campaign last year before a knee injury sidelined him during the playoffs. He was awarded the most improved player of the team award.

This season, Orosz has 12 goals and 20 points in 26 games played, one of the reasons the Blackbirds are in second place in the Great Lakes Division of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.

Which leads to stereotype No. 2 that Orosz has destroyed: Wide receivers have the reputation for wanting the ball every time it’s snapped. Orosz’s role with the Blackbirds is the exact opposite. Don’t let his almost one point per game average fool you. His job is to do the dirty work in the corners so his teammates can light the lamp.

“Time after time he wins the one-on-one battles and he goes to the net and makes the smart play and he doesn’t hurt you defensively” Simpson said. “That’s the type of player that can be successful at the higher levels.

“That’s what higher levels coaches are looking for. They’re looking for consistency and effort and that’s what Joe does.”

And that effort has led to Orosz scoring goals himself from time to time. Twice this season he’s had two-goal games, coincidentally in back-to-back games at the beginning of the year against Edina and Hudson. He also has been credited with two game-winning goals this year.

And Orosz’s 12 goals have come on just 22 shots.

But don’t think Orosz will go Gretzky on you anytime soon.

“Every team needs a guy who can grind it out and win the board battles so the more skilled guys can score,” Orosz said. “I’m perfectly fine filling that role.”

Getting to this point took some grinding off the ice as well after Orosz injured his ACL late last season.

“I’ve never seen a kid train as hard as he did during the summer to come back better than what he was,” Simpson said. “For a 19-year-old to make that commitment was just incredible.

“Right off the bat he was one of our most valuable players to begin the season. He’s a good kid to have around.”

After going against the norm and choosing hockey over football and working all summer to get back to his true love, Orosz is happy to be back around the Blackbirds. Football’s loss is hockey’s gain.

“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, coming to the rink and having that focus that we’re not going to lose,” Orosz said about this team. “If we do that, I’m pretty positive that we can do great things this year and surpass what we did last season.”



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