From Belgium, with size
The son of two basketball pros, from a country not known for its hockey, Belgian-born Métis Roelens has chosen to make his mark on the ice instead of the hardwood
David Brien
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April 28, 2017
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Standing 6-foot-4 and tipping the scales at nearly 200 pounds, with a shock of white blonde hair, Métis Roelens tends to turn heads wherever he goes. But throw on an extra two inches of skate blade, give him a stick and a puck, and he’s sure to leave you in awe.

By now, though, the Blizzard du Séminaire Saint-François forward is used to the attention, and he’ll be getting plenty of it this week at the 2017 TELUS Cup in Prince George.

The 16-year-old always been a little different than the other kids. In his native Belgium, most of his friends would dream about one day playing soccer or tennis professionally. But never hockey.

What made Roelens stand out even more were his bloodlines. His father, 6-foot-10 Olivier, played professional basketball in Belgium for 14 years and played off and on internationally.

His Canadian-born mother, 6-foot-1 Cynthia (Johnston), is a basketball legend at Bishop’s University; she was a two-time RSEQ MVP, three-time CIAU All-Canadian and five-time RSEQ all-star between 1987 and 1991. She also played professionally in Belgium for 14 years – where she met Olivier – and represented Canada at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games.

So, coming from a basketball-inclined family, in a country that is not necessarily hockey-inclined, how does one develop a passion for the ice rather than the hardwood?

In February 2006, the Roelens family visited Montreal for a pair of Canadiens games, and six-year-old Métis tagged along. On the way home the clan stopped into Saint John, N.B., to visit Cynthia’s relatives, and put Métis on the ice for the first time.

“That’s when my love for hockey really started,” Roelens says. “We flew back to Belgium and I was obsessed with the game, so I asked my father to sign me up in a league.”

The game came naturally to Roelens, and after only three years he and his parents realized the level of competition in Belgium just wasn’t enough for his development.

“My father began making 30-minute cross-border drives to take me to Lille, in France,” he remembers. “There were more players there, and better teams for me to play on, so we made those trips for three years.”

But when Cynthia found out in 2012 that a historical house on Île d’Orléans that had been in her family since the late 1800s was to be sold, she took ownership and moved the family southeast of Quebec City.

That’s when Roelens really began learning to play hockey the Canadian way. After captaining Académie Saint-Louis to a provincial championship in 2015, he made the Blizzard roster last year.

“He’s definitely a player who’s had a positive impact on our team,” says Saint-François head coach Martin Laperrière. “He’s always had a high hockey sense and a great shot, but he needed to work on other little things, especially considering his size.”

After recording just six points in 33 games last year – although it was enough to be selected by the Gatineau Olympiques in the fourth round of the QMJHL Entry Draft – Roelens took his coach, teammates and opponents by surprise with a 42-point regular season this year, averaging more than a point per game.

“It’s all about confidence, but it’s definitely helped getting used to my body and learning how to use it,” he says of his coming-out season.

While most big-bodied teenagers take longer to develop and to get used to their size, it was a fairly quick process for Roelens. For that, he can thank his parents and his natural-born athleticism.

“Just being their kid has helped me as an athlete,” he says. “But the most important thing is that they watch carefully what my siblings and I eat. Probably more than other families, so that’s been a big help in my development.”

Between his parents, two hockey-playing brothers and two sisters involved in soccer and horseback riding, Roelens has had plenty of help at home, even if he didn’t realize it at the time.

“I’ve never really given it thought, but being the oldest may have helped me become a better leader since I was always setting the example for my brothers and sisters,” he says.

“He comes from a tight-knit family and that’s how he is with his teammates, too. He’s not necessarily the most vocal guy, but his play and attitude make him a respected teammate that brings a lot to the team in terms of leadership,” says Laperrière.

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Morgan Bell
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427 / 403-669-1261 (mobile)
mbell@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

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