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Sterling Prepares for Next Chapter

By WLC Staff, 03/02/21, 11:00AM EST


Since 2013, forward John Sterling been a member of the Washington Little Caps club. Now approaching the end of his eighth and final season, the Centreville native is the longest active tenured player in the club. When he departs in the spring, he will have played on every team in the club’s ladder; PeeWee, Bantam, 15u, 16u, and 18u. John was a member of the 2019-20 18u team that won 25 games, beat three top-20 teams, won a PVAHA Championship and came within a Championship game loss of a trip to Nationals. This year he is a team leader on and off the ice. Next weekend, he and his teammates will again work to extend their season at the USAH Southeast District Championship. And most importantly, John is a model student-athlete, with distinguished track records in academics, character, and excellence on the ice.


Connor Dubberly (current teammate)
John Sterling (aka Sterls) has been my teammate and close friend since I joined the Washington Little Caps u14 year. This is now our 5th consecutive year playing together and every year we’ve spent time on the same line. On the ice and in the rink, John loves to have a good time— always laughing, smiling and chirping some teammates, but when we hit the ice for practice or a game he's all “warrior mode” as our former coach Matt Thomas would say. He pushed me to be a better player and if I made a mistake he would let me know and never in a negative way. I could always count on giving him the puck and getting into the O zone because of the wheels he has. Also, I could always count on having to drag him out of a fight in front of the net after a whistle and always shooting high glove side. Sterls is a fast, heavy, and hard playing forward. His playing style could take him as far he wants in this sport. He never has a “nerf stick” as our Coach Matt Thomas would also say. Off the ice, Sterls always has a positive attitude. My favorite memory was when we were at our District Tournament u14 year. That weekend my dad and I booked a handicapped room by accident, so there was an alarm system button outside the door that when you pressed it, it set off a loud alarm on the inside of the room. Sterls made this a normal routine in the morning and at night to come by and set off the alarm in my room. So the final night of the weekend, I had a jar of cookies and I said, “You can have the jar if you don't set off the alarm.” This was a big mistake; he told the entire team and all my teammates descended upon my room. This turned into a full in chocolate chip cookie war, cookies being thrown everywhere, all because of Sterls. This showed me how much he loves to have fun. He's truly one of a kind—highly skilled and competitive, but also a good friend.

Drew Naylor (current teammate)
Sterls was someone who stuck out to me right away from the moment I stepped on the ice with him at tryouts. Not only because of his talent, skill, or insane speed, but also because of the competitive nature he brought from the start. I love lining up against him in practice because I know he’s going to give nothing but 100% every rep. This has been my first season with him and he became a brother right away. We give each other whacks and slashes lining up for face-offs or drills in practice which just makes the competition even better. Sterls’ leadership, hard work, and experience with the Washington Little Caps has provided someone for the team to look up to this year. Wherever hockey or life takes him I know he’s going to find success.

Duante Abercrombie (current Head Coach)
John Sterling was the first player to make an impression on me during his U16 tryout. His consistently relentless pursuit of the puck was something that I still share with players about how to make a great first impression on a coach, and I would come to find out that this wasn’t a show he was putting on at tryouts. This was who he was on a nightly basis. Sterls is about as passionate of a hockey player that you will find—he absolutely loves his teammates, and wants to win. This drive to win also follows him away from the rink. One of my fondest memories with Sterling would have to be our team paintball outing his U16 year where he and I enjoyed many splatter- filled encounters on the muddy fields that cool Saturday morning. I will for sure miss watching Sterls fly down the wing multiple times a game, and competing in the corners against the biggest players midget hockey had to offer. Players more than twice his size. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to be his coach these last three years, and I wish him nothing but the best in your hockey career and beyond.

Marquise Cotten (current Asst. Coach)
It was a fun time seeing John grow over this season into a real leader and  player that everyone wants to be around,  Whenever we needed a jolt of energy he was always able to give the team a boost to raise the compete.  Sterling always has a smile on his face and a joke ready, but at the end of the day he is a great hockey player any coach would be happy to have.  

Zachary Murray (former teammate)
John always has a smile on his face, he is the heart of the team and radiates positivity. We called each other “fighting buddies” because one game up in Marlboro I started some pushing after the whistle and ended up on the ice under two of their players. Sterls came and jumped on top, ripping guys off of me—he is the type of kid you’d want to go to war with. We both hit the showers early that game, as I recall. Also I’ve never seen anyone crank out push-ups like him… the kid is an animal.

Connor Leslie (former teammate)
My last year with the Little Caps was the only chance I ever had to be on the same team as Sterls. Needless to say, he was one of the reasons why that season was such a memorable one. There is so much to like about Sterls both on and off the ice. He’s a great player who can always find the back of the net. He was someone that I knew could always challenge me day in and out at practice. Except for the fact that he led the league in missed nets with his “nerf stick” as Coach Thomas would say. I will always remember how much Sterls would stick up and fight for his teammates (the amount of fights and scraps he’d get into with other teams was pretty funny to watch). As for off the ice, his humor can make everyone in the room laugh. There are countless times I can remember Sterls having me dying laughing for probably the dumbest thing ever. He’s also one of the most likeable and friendly players to have on your team. Whenever you’re around Sterls you just always feel like smiling. Overall, Sterls is the definition of an amazing teammate and personally one of the best friends I’ve had throughout my hockey career.

Will Hopewell (former teammate)
When I first joined the Washington Little Caps organization, John was one of the first guys to make me feel welcome. Johnny was always such a happy and fun player to be around. From cracking jokes in the locker room to team dinners, Johnny was the life of the team. Not only is he an awesome person, but he is an exceptional player on the ice. John played with a sort of grit that is hard to find in other players. He hit the corners hard and always was one of the fastest players on the ice. During practices, Johnny was one of the guys I always was nervous about when he had a breakaway on me. He always had some fun little words to hand me if he scored and if I saved his shot, I returned the favor. We always enjoyed challenging each other during practices. It was a blast having him shoot against me because he always kept me guessing. He truly is one of the most skilled and fun players I have ever had the pleasure of playing with. Johnny is a player you want on any team. He supplies the energy, entertainment, and plenty of goals. Congrats Johnny on an excellent WLC career!

Brent Johnson (Club Goalie Coach)
Since the beginning of my Little Caps career, John has been a very noticeable character on the ice. He always comes to compete and has never shied away from the physical side of the game. His high spirits and dedication to his craft will be sorely missed. It has been my total pleasure!

Lyon Messier (former Head Coach)
John Sterling was 12 years old when I first saw him play. I was coaching in CT when we came down and played the Little Caps, John made quite an impression; I think he had 3 goals, 2 assists, and 12 mins in penalties. The passion John plays the game with I have only seen in a few people. His skating ability is unreal—he probably has 2-3 breakaways a game. The loyalty that he has given to the WLC is what I will always think about. Literally can’t think of a time where John didn’t come to practice or when he was injured and still battled through it. John Sterling is a warrior and a great person! I know he has a bright future whatever he decides to pursue. 

Derek Sanborn (former Asst. Coach)
I had the unique opportunity to coach John at both the 15U and 18U level.  John is a tremendous competitor both on and off the ice and it really showed with his development from 15 years old to 18 years old.  I got to see John mature from a scrappy player who found himself in the penalty box often to a well-disciplined warrior. He plays much bigger than his physical stature and was someone who wasn’t afraid to battle.  He always finds a way to make the game fun for him and his teammates.  I wish him the best of luck on his hockey journey.

Doug Plocki (Executive Director)
8 years, almost 500 games, it’s an amazing accomplishment.  It speaks to his commitment and determination as a player, and don’t forget the commitment his family has shown as well.  Sterls is a competitor.  He wants to win and plays with passion - always has.  From a feisty young kid buzzing around the rink to the imposing young man buzzing around the rink (he can still fly!), it has been awesome seeing him grow as a person and a player. 

Matt Thomas (Hockey Director and former Head Coach)
John Sterling is maybe the textbook definition of a ‘weapon’ in hockey lingo. There just aren’t a lot of players that can do what John can do on the ice. His lightning pace is matched only by his fearlessness and competitive spirit. The YouTube talent can mesmerize you… but I’ll actually remember him for how willing he was to adapt his game. I coached him at a time where his teammates needed all that, plus some things that didn’t come as naturally for him… attention to detail, habits, and discipline. It was a tall order for a kid who thrives on instinct and emotion, but John didn’t disappoint. And after a season of refining his game, it paid off; he was probably our best player at Districts—no small feat given the quality of his teammates, opponents, or the stakes involved. That depth of character is what I’ll always remember and appreciate about my time with John, and it’s the reason I know he isn’t done in this game.


John Sterling and all his departing 2002-born 18u teammates will be honored at a club-wide recognition ceremony on Tuesday, March 16 at 7pm in the feature rink at Ion International Training Center. Family and friends are cordially invited to attend.