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As a kid, Milos Roman's family made the trek to the Czech Republic to further his hockey career

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

The town of Kysucke Nove Mesto, nestled between the Javorniy and Kysucka vrchovina mountain ranges, lies close to Žilina in the northwest-central section of Slovakia.

When Milos Roman was a growing up there, the 16,500 residents were without a hockey-specific ice surface.

"So I'd travel every day after school to the Czech Republic, to Trinac,'' the 18-year-old, fourth-round pick of the Flames is explaining, on Day One of club's development camp out at Winsport. "I'd go with my brother. Back and forth.

"An hour to get there and an hour back after.

"I didn't watch a lot of NHL games on TV because they were too late at night. I had school, I had practices. But I loved hockey.

"We'd been figure skaters when we were younger. We played soccer, we played tennis, too, but we choose hockey. It was something we couldn't do in our hometown but that's what we wanted to do."

Milos Sr., a technologist, and mom Ludmila, who works in a retirement home, did the cross-border to-and-fro-ing. Every blessed day.

"My parents,'' says Roman, the youngest of three boys, "I owe them so much. They were tired but they made sure I got to hockey. They spent a lot of money and a lot of their free time to help me in hockey.

"My parents … they're the reason I'm here right now. I can't imagine any of this would be happening without them."

Roman played eight years in Trinac. Given his obvious abilities, he was recruited to attend a hockey school further afield in Slovakia but Milos Sr. and Ludmila preferred he continue his education home in Kysucke Nove Mesto.

So the connection with the Czech Republic continued.

Last season the opportunity to travel overseas and join the WHL Vancouver Giants ("A good choice") arose. The 6-foot, 195-lb. centre responded in an unfamiliar environment, collecting 32 points in 39 games and six more in as many playoff starts during his first North American season.

So he's already well acquainted with the other big-name WHL prospects at this camp, such as Dillion Dube and Juuso Valimaki.

"We played against each other. We were opponents there. Right now we are here with the same goal, teammates, and we will be trying to help each other.

"I'm very happy, very excited to be here. I'll meet new guys and learn new things. This week is about getting as much information as possible. I'll watch the guys who've been here before.

"A good opportunity for me, a new experience."

The back-and-forth of all those years to find a rink, grow his game, expand his horizons - that 54-kilometre drive that became second-nature to the family - has proven to have been more than worth the effort.

"When my name was called (on draft day), I was at home, watching with my family,'' says Roman. "It was very emotional. Everyone shared in it.

"That was first step. Right now, this, is the second step.

"I understand I have to be patient and put in as much work as possible.

"I'm here to improve, to be part of the Flames' organization and hopefully one day to be successful."

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