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Opinion

Columbus native Roslovic a humble hometown hero

NOAH K. MURRAY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES</p><p>"He's just a good guy, a really nice guy. He's genuine about it. It's not a false humility," said Roslovic's mother, Jane.</p>

NOAH K. MURRAY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

"He's just a good guy, a really nice guy. He's genuine about it. It's not a false humility," said Roslovic's mother, Jane.

COLUMBUS — A story about Jack Roslovic, the person, that flows out of Jack Roslovic, the hockey player.

It’s January 2017 and Roslovic has just captured a gold medal with the United States World Junior team. One of the first texts he sends is to a former coach back home in Columbus, Ed Gingher. He has a question.

“I’m going to be in Columbus tomorrow. Are any of the kids on the ice?” Roslovic wanted to know. Gingher, who runs the Columbus Blue Jackets AAA program, couldn’t believe it.

Sure enough, there was Roslovic, the very next day after the biggest moment of his young career, sharing in the glory with a bunch of young players from Ohio who had just watched the hometown hero celebrating on television a day earlier.

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COLUMBUS — A story about Jack Roslovic, the person, that flows out of Jack Roslovic, the hockey player.

It’s January 2017 and Roslovic has just captured a gold medal with the United States World Junior team. One of the first texts he sends is to a former coach back home in Columbus, Ed Gingher. He has a question.

"I’m going to be in Columbus tomorrow. Are any of the kids on the ice?" Roslovic wanted to know. Gingher, who runs the Columbus Blue Jackets AAA program, couldn’t believe it.

Sure enough, there was Roslovic, the very next day after the biggest moment of his young career, sharing in the glory with a bunch of young players from Ohio who had just watched the hometown hero celebrating on television a day earlier.

"There’s not a lot of guys that would do that. At 19, 20 years, that’s special," Gingher told me Sunday night as we chatted in a suite overlooking Nationwide Arena.

On the ice surface below, a few minutes later, Roslovic and his Winnipeg Jets teammates would skate out. It was the second NHL game for Roslovic, 22, in the non-traditional hockey market he was born and raised in. He made his debut here late in the 2016-17 season, but was still in the minors last year when the Jets made their annual trip to Columbus. This time, he’s a regular.

"It’s hard not to be excited. He’s a great kid, a special kid, and it makes it all the better when you know the quality of person making their dream come true. I know he doesn’t take it for granted. There’s a lot of little kids watching him today, dreaming and hoping they’ll be the next Jack Roslovic out there," Gingher said.

It’s a crowded, chaotic scene inside the suite. Roslovic had approximately 100 family members, friends, and former coaches, teammates and colleagues at the game cheering him on, with many coming and going throughout the night.

And while he wouldn’t have much of a night on the stat sheet — 11 shifts, 7:09 of ice time with one hit and one takeaway — that really wasn’t the point for his supporters.

"We are very, very blessed," said his mother, Jane. There have been many highs this season — Roslovic’s first-ever NHL hat trick against Anaheim last month would be right up there — but a trip back home is always at the top of the list.

No matter how much success he has in the greatest league in the world, his mother doesn’t expect him to change one bit. That’s not how he was raised.

"He’s just a good guy, a really nice guy. He’s genuine about it. It’s not a false humllity. He’s always been that way, always been caring," said Jane Roslovic.

Another good friend watching over him Sunday was agent Ken Robinson, a Columbus native. He can’t hide the big smile on his face.

"I’m happiest for Jack because he gets to do this in front of his friends and family. I’m proud of Jack every time he gets to play. It doesn’t matter where it is. Jack’s just doing a great job. I know it’s been a tough year, persevering, but he’s becoming a better player for it," said Robinson.

Roslovic remains a humble, soft-spoken athlete who is ready to take on whatever role coach Paul Maurice believes is best to help the team win. That’s included a stint on the top power play unit for a few games last month, playing on the second line at times, and now moving from centre to wing in essentially a fourth-line role.

He remembers his NHL debut in the rink he grew up watching pro hockey, but says those two years seem like a lifetime ago.

"Things have changed from then. It’s just the whole comfort thing. Light years ahead of what it felt like two years ago. It wasn’t too long ago, but what we’ve been through already, what I’ve been through, it’s big strides," Roslovic said following the morning skate.

"I think just the confidence at the NHL level. Being able to have that ability to say you’re a player, and that you can play. And just being able to use all those assets that got you here and use them to the best of your ability."

He’s up to seven goals and 10 assists in 64 games this season but believes there’s much more offence to offer down the road. But that isn’t something he’s worrying about now. It’s all about the greater good of the team, something that was re-enforced at a team dinner Saturday night in Columbus to kick off this road trip, with several new faces in the fold following the trade deadline,

"It’s always good on the road, the road’s a place where the guys can bond, you’re away from your families so not everyone’s going home," said Roslovic, with the notable exception of himself in this case, of course.

Yes you can go home again. And Roslovic wouldn’t want it any other way,

"Our roster, we got a good one. We’ve got to get it set for what we think will take us the distance. In terms of playing with anyone, it’s like I’ve always said, the depth on this team is really good, there’s not going to be a bad player to play with up and down the lineup. I’m just excited to play with whoever I play with," he said.

And that goes for his legion of Columbus-based supporters who were thrilled to see the Jets skate away with a big two points Sunday night.

"Jack gets it. He understands the responsibility he has to pay it forward. He’s a special kid that way," said Gingher. "We’ve all talked locally for a number of years. And now it’s real, and real consistent. Guys like Jack were lucky enough to have (Ohio) guys like Connor Murphy (currently in his sixth NHL season) and Sean Kuraly (in his third NHL season) show him the ropes. And now the responsibility is on Jack to show the younger kids as well."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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Updated on Sunday, March 3, 2019 at 11:35 PM CST: Edited

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