House of Steel
Lekkas brothers have lived lives on ice
ELBURN—There’s a whole lot of hockey talent in Elburn.
Much of it is courtesy of one household.
The Lekkas brothers of Elburn have long shown an affinity for hockey, having all participated to various degrees. Even when not participating, the chill of the sport was always around.
“Hockey was always on TV in the house, always that instead of MTV,” said Stefanos, who graduated high school in Springfield this past December and has donned the goalie mask for the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues and currently for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
Older brother Stelios, a sophomore in the medical program at University of Illinois-Chicago, also participated in cross country at Kaneland and played hockey before shoulder surgery put his ice career on the backburner. Youngest, but not least, is eighth-grader Evan, who attends Kaneland Harter Middle School and is currently playing “AAA” level with the Chicago Young Americans this spring.
“There was always 110 percent support for each other. Our house was definitely a hockey home,” Stefanos said. “I think it was great my parents (Angelo and Lisa) followed it.”
Angelo, principal of Genoa-Kingston middle school, is able to view the sport as a bonding experience for any family, not just the Lekkas’ of Elburn.
“Hockey is a very family-oriented sport,” Angelo said. “Due to the long distances and overnight trips, families and players spend many hours together in rink lobbies and hotels. Very strong bonds develop. The relationships they build last a lifetime.
“Each of the boys drove their decision to play and the level to which they take their game,” Angelo said.
Stefanos, who was named team MVP in Springfield at the conclusion of the last season, was called up to Sioux Falls and got thrown into the fire on ice, having to step into goal in the middle of the April 5 regular season finale against the Omaha Lancers. Stopping 12 of 12 shot attempts in the 3-2 loss, the netminder was cognizant of the level of play.
“Every level you move up, the players that move up with you are better,” he said. “You’re playing for an opportunity and trying to go to college for free.”
The Stampede, facing the Waterloo Black Hawks this week in the USHL playoffs first round, led the league in attendance with over 127,000 fans in 2013-14 at the Sioux Falls Arena.
“Springfield is the capital, and it’s a good team, but hockey is big in Sioux Falls. They get a lot of support there and the arena is packed and the whole town rallies,” Stelios said. “I’ll always try to give him a shoutout on Facebook after a game or call him.”
The Tier 1 junior hockey level club has accented the strides Stefanos feels he’s made in the two years since suiting up for the Chicago Mission U16 club in Midget-level hockey.
“I’m just mentally able to handle adversity better and whatever comes along,” Stefanos said. “I just try to go out every day and stick with what works.”
Stelios had to make a decision after shoulder surgery stopped his forward momentum and championship run with the “AA” level Northwest Chargers of Hoffman Estates, Ill., but can still be supportive and offer experience.
“I still wanted to play, and it kind of sucks to stop,” Stelios said. “I talked it over with my parents, who played a big role, and it was tough at the time, but it ended up being the right decision.”
The current UIC Flame student can point at his mask-donning brother as taking the passion to a new level in the family.
“Hockey is definitely our No. 1 sport. I’m not as crazy as my brother about it, he was only hockey. We would watch it all the time on TV, but we still have our stupid shows we watch,” Stelios said.
Now with Evan coming up through the ranks, the elder brothers can relive a bit of what they went through, and even issue perspective.
“Evan’s getting up there now, and it’s cool to see and to see him go through some of the same things I went through,” Stefanos said. “I’ll do anything I can for him.”
“He’s a real hard worker, and it’s going to turn out all right for him,” Stelios said. “He’s very focused.”
With the brothers having spent countless hours in chilly ice arenas, pride for the hockey accomplishments don’t need to thaw.
“I’ve been very fortunate to spend hundreds of hours with each of my kids coaching them on the ice,” Angelo said.
Stefanos and the Stampede began the first round of the Western Conference semifinals in Waterloo, Iowa, on Friday, losing 7-4 to Waterloo. Saturday saw the the Stampede lose 6-3, they now travel back to home ice tonight at 7:05 p.m.
When not picking
up the stick, the brothers are also musically inclined.
Stelios plays piano,
Stefanos plays trumpet
and Evan plays violin.