Giants’ Ro­man rid­ing out virus cri­sis with bil­let

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - STEVE EWEN sewen@post­media.com twit­ter.com/Steveewen

Mi­los Ro­man’s “ex­pe­ri­ence” with the Van­cou­ver Giants is last­ing longer than an­tic­i­pated be­cause of COVID-19.

The 20-year-old cen­tre has re­mained at his bil­let’s place in Tsawwassen rather than re­turn­ing to his fam­ily’s home in Slo­vakia. All par­ties in­volved agreed it was safer for him to wait out the pan­demic in B.C. for the time be­ing.

“It’s no prob­lem. He’s not a dif­fi­cult guy to have around. He fits right in,” said Ron Ewing. Ro­man has lived with Ewing and his fam­ily dur­ing his three sea­sons with the WHL team.

A 2018 fourth-round NHL draft pick of the Cal­gary Flames, Ro­man was one of Van­cou­ver’s three over­agers this sea­son, mean­ing Van­cou­ver’s 4-3 over­time road loss to the Prince Ge­orge Cougars on March 7 was the fi­nal game of his Giants ca­reer.

No one was aware of that at the time, of course. The WHL ini­tially put its reg­u­lar sea­son on hold March 12. The re­main­ing league games were called off for good March 18, and the play­offs and the Me­mo­rial Cup na­tional tour­na­ment sched­uled for Kelowna in May were both scrapped on March 23.

Teams are per­mit­ted to carry two Euro­peans. Van­cou­ver winger Michal Kvas­nica, a Czech, didn’t head home im­me­di­ately when the sea­son was can­celled, but the 19-year-old even­tu­ally re­turned to Europe.

Slo­vakia has been one of the strictest coun­tries re­gard­ing COVID-19. Three in­ter­na­tional air­ports were closed last month. They brought in manda­tory mask rules last month, too, and there are re­ports vi­o­la­tors could be fined by po­lice for non-es­sen­tial travel this Easter week­end.

Ro­man said to re­turn home right now he would have to fly into Vi­enna, Aus­tria, and then make the 80-kilo­me­tre jaunt to the border. He said his par­ents wouldn’t likely be able to meet him and con­trols at the borders have been tight.

Slo­vakia (pop­u­la­tion: 5.45 mil­lion) had 715 COVID -19 cases and two deaths as of Fri­day morn­ing.

“It’s a scary time,” said Ro­man, whose fa­ther works in a fac­tory and whose mom works in a re­tire­ment home. One of his two older broth­ers still lives at home.

“I’m wor­ry­ing ev­ery day about my fam­ily. You call ev­ery day. You stay in con­tact as much as you can. But ev­ery­one is still wor­ried. They go to work ev­ery day dur­ing the week and then they come straight home. That’s all they do.”

The Ewing fam­ily has been bil­let­ing Giants for five sea­sons. They were the bil­let home for winger Radovan Bon­dra, an­other Slo­vak, be­fore wel­com­ing Ro­man.

Bon­dra and Ro­man played to­gether for the Slo­vaks at the world ju­niors in 2017, and Bon­dra put in a good word for Ro­man with Ewing af­ter the Giants picked Ro­man in the 2017 CHL im­port draft. Van­cou­ver team cap­tain and de­fence­man Alex Kan­nok Leipert also bil­leted at the home this sea­son.

The Giants use the Lad­ner Leisure Cen­tre as a base. They have their own per­ma­nent dress­ing room and coaches of­fices there, and they prac­tise there al­most ex­clu­sively. Sev­eral mem­bers of the Giants live in the Lad­ner and Tsawwassen area, most no­tably team owner Ron Toigo.

“When we were start­ing to fin­ish the sea­son, we all knew that many of the worst parts of the pan­demic were in Europe,” said Ro­man. “I talked to my bil­let mom and she said right away that it wasn’t a good idea for me to go back un­til things started to set­tle down.

“I’m very thank­ful for all three years that I’ve spent with them. From the start, I needed a lot of help to do things. They’ve al­ways been there for me.”

Ro­man is still not sure where he’ll play next sea­son. The Flames have un­til June 1 to sign him to a con­tract or they lose their rights to him.

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