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
“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
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.