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Hastings native Derek Stepan earns spot on Olympics team

Moments don’t get much more dramatic than the few that unfolded late Wednesday afternoon.

Every Stepan near and far was glued to their television set, impatiently waiting for the end of the NHL game between Detroit and Toronto. At the end of the game, the rosters were going to be announced for the 2014 men’s Olympic hockey team, and Derek Stepan had a good chance to make the team.

They just had to wait for the game to get over to find out for sure.

Of course, the game went into overtime.

And of course, the game went into a shootout.

“That was the longest overtime and shootout I’ve ever watched in all my days,” said Derek’s father, Brad.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, little boys and girls wearing Team USA jerseys took the ice. On the backs of their jerseys were the names and numbers of each player that had made the team.

Slowly the boys and girls turned around then, clear as can be, was the name Stepan. He made it.

“We didn’t know until they turned around,” said Derek’s mom, Trish Coakley. “We saw it just like everybody else.”

“To see that kid turn around and have his name on the back of that sweater was an unbelievable feeling,” said Brad Stepan. “What an honor for him. All the sacrifices and all the things he’s had to do to get there – it’s pretty remarkable.”

Coakley was watching the game with her husband, Chris, and her daughter Josie Stepan. When they saw the Stepan last name, they could barely contain themselves.

“I don’t know how to put it into words,” Coakley said. “We called Derek right away. Then of course our phones started to go crazy. It was fun to talk to all the family members who were calling. Then there was this adrenaline rush. Is this really happening?

“It still doesn’t seem real yet. I guess I’ve said that with a lot of the stuff that has happened with him. It’s just unreal.”

The Coakleys will be traveling to Sochi, Russia, for the games. They fly out in early February and hope they don’t return until after the gold medal match on Feb. 23.

The United States opens the tournament with a game on Feb. 13 against Slovakia. Games are also set against Russia on Feb. 15 and Slovenia on Feb. 16.

“This morning, I was making some travel arrangements, and it was hitting me that Derek is going to the Olympics,” Coakley said. “I can’t believe it. I’m happy for him. He’s worked really hard.”

 Brad Stepan is the current head hockey coach at Rosemount High School. He said it doesn’t appear likely that he will be attending the games.

Josie Stepan won’t be able to attend the Olympics. She’s a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will be continuing her studies during the games.