Captain Profile: Jackson Oleson

Earlier this month, we sat down with 2024-25 NYU Men’s Ice Hockey Captain Jackson Oleson.

Jackson hails from Stateline, Nevada and is entering his fourth season for the Violets. Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree in just two years at NYU, a result of his rare ability to carry an undergraduate course load while playing junior hockey prior to his time in New York. Jackson is now in his second year of completing a master’s degree. He played his junior hockey primarily in the NAHL, EHL, and USPHL Premier.

(Oleson carries the puck against Robert Morris University)

Jackson led our defensemen in scoring over each of the last three seasons, tallying 21 goals and 24 assists through 64 games played – setting a new scoring record among defensemen since NYU moved up to ACHA Division 1 in 2017.

Jackson served as an assistant captain for the 2023-24 season and was recently named captain for the upcoming 2024-25 campaign. We sat down with Jackson to get to know more about him on and off the ice:

First, what is your area of study? How did you decide on this? How did you manage to earn a bachelor’s degree in just two years?

“I did my undergrad in Applied Math, which I think was a great decision in hindsight given the breadth of its applications. It bought me some time to figure out a field in which I could narrow my focus while still making progress towards my degree.”

“When you are playing junior hockey, a lot of your day is spent at the rink for practice, workouts and film. However, once you get home for the day there is a lot of downtime. Some guys would play video games or watch Netflix. I decided to capture some of that time and take part-time college courses from different non-degree programs. I earned about 75-80 credits along the way, and when I went to transfer and become full time, NYU took all of them.”

Why did you pick NYU?

“There were a lot of variables that went into my decision to attend NYU. I have always been academically driven, and I found out that I was more of a math guy pretty early on. NYU has the best Applied Math program in the nation, so it was definitely a top choice. I had a lot of D3 offers for hockey, but none of them were from schools which I was interested in attending from an academic perspective, and especially not at the caliber of NYU.”

How old were you when you first started playing hockey? What made you fall in love with the game?

“I think I was learning to skate around the same time I was learning to walk… My dad had me out there before I could even form sentences. I know for a fact that he is the reason I am where I am today as a player. This one time when I was around 9 or 10, a few guys from the San Jose Sharks jumped out with our youth team and I saw how much fun hockey was for them and how good they were, but also how hard they worked at it. I think that’s when I really became obsessed.”

What has been your favorite on-ice memory so far? Favorite off-ice memory with the team?

“There are too many on-ice memories for me to pick one, but I think the best memories are when we have a nice hard-fought win. There’s a certain element of brotherhood that is brought out when the boys and I are out there going to war for each other, and it’s even sweeter to come away with a victory. I haven’t been able to capture that feeling anywhere else. As far as off-ice memories, I think the road trips are always the most fun.”

What are some of your personal interests outside of hockey? What is one thing about you that most people might not guess?

“People might watch my sorry attempt to play basketball or soccer and think that I only know how to play hockey but growing up in the Sierra Nevada mountains I have been skiing and mountain biking my whole life. The active atmosphere out there is contagious.”

During your first season in 2021-22, the team had championship goals and started very strongly before COVID halted the season. Since then, the team has had some growing pains, a coaching change, and now a lot of new faces. This year you are the only player remaining from the 21-22 team and the captain of a really exciting, young team: what are your goals for yourself and for the group?

“NYU Hockey has given me so much, from the ability to continue to play the game I love, to some of my best friends. I want to see this program flourish in the future and give other kids the same experience that I have had. All in all, I just hope I left it better than the way I found it. Oh, and one more thing: championship”

Assistant Coach Brian Zaffino, a former NYU teammate of Oleson’s for two seasons, added color on Oleson’s competitiveness and high standards for himself: “I loved playing with Jackson – we played as D-partners, and it was a ton of fun. I loved my first year coaching and getting to work with the younger guys but I wasn’t sure how to approach coaching Jackson. Just a few months prior when we were playing together, I think it was fairly obvious that he was the more skilled offensive player between us so I wasn’t sure how he would take it if I started critiquing him in practice. Our first day on the ice, maybe fifteen minutes in, he dropped his chest in a one-on-one drill. I didn’t say anything to him, and he got so mad at me. He wanted to be corrected more harshly than everyone else, if anything. He’s just an animal about wanting to get better and be perfect out there and he doesn’t have an off switch. It doesn’t matter if it’s hockey, playing cards on the bus, anything – if there are numbers involved, he wants to win and it’s contagious when you’re on the ice with him.

The Violets look to build on their 11-7-4 record in 2023-24. Jackson will be surrounded by a strong returning Sophomore group as well as Juniors Stellios Bizekis and Jack Kosinski. A strong First-Year class will round out a young team with high aspirations for the upcoming 2024-25 season.