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Hockey, Not Figure Skating, Worked Out for Roman Schmidt

By Becky Olsen, 07/16/20, 11:00AM EDT


Schmidt first got on the ice in figure skates but has found his calling in hockey

Photo by Rena Laverty

For Roman Schmidt, his first foray into hockey came on figure skates, courtesy of his parents, Derek and Liza.

“I actually started skating when I was 2, but it was in figure skates,” Schmidt explained. “My parents were figure skaters and skated at high levels, but I really didn’t enjoy it.

“We were living in Ottawa at the time and my dad would always be watching the Senators games. I would go in and watch it with him and I just loved it. For my 7th birthday, I asked for hockey gear and that is how I started playing.”

Photo by Rena Laverty

There was something about hockey that really pulled him into the sport.

“I can’t explain why I like hockey, but it really interested me,” said Schmidt, who was born in Midland, Michigan. “I loved watching Senators games and I would usually get tickets for my birthday and Christmas to go to games. I loved watching Erik Karlsson play. It was always exciting to see how he could change the game.”

With Karlsson as an example, it may be no surprise Schmidt ended up as a defenseman. He didn’t start out as a blueliner, but found his true calling a short time later.

“I started out as a forward and it was OK,” Schmidt said. “I then played defense for one year before playing forward again. In my second year with my team, I realized that playing defense was an important part of the team and we needed some help back there.

“Most people will tell you that you can see the ice, but for me, it is all about stopping the other team. It always feels good when you can stop the other team, especially if there is a 4-on-3, or a 5-on-3. If you stop the team and make a play, it’s very enjoyable.”

Growing up, Schmidt was usually the tallest guy on his team, and it wasn’t always easy for him. He has really learned how to use 6-foot-5, 209-pound frame during his first season with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

“When I was growing up, my coaches were always telling me to use my size and make plays,” Schmidt said. “This year, I think it has been my best year as a player and following this rule. In minor hockey, I was always the tallest guy and it seems that I would get called for penalties first if I tried to hit someone. Now, I can go full out and hit guys as there are players who are bigger than me. I’m also using my reach and learning how to poke the puck away.”

The other big part of the transition for Schmidt was adjusting to the pace of the play, especially in the USHL.

“For me the biggest one was the speed,” said Schmidt. “It was definitely faster than playing in midgets. The guys are bigger, so you are not towering over them. It was an adjustment learning how to deal with that. It took me four to five games to get the speed down. Then, you finally started to get comfortable and learn how to make plays.”

He credits much of his development and improvement in his game to associate head coach Dan Hinote.

“Coach Hinote has really helped me by showing me tricks and pointers on how to do things but also do things with more efficiency,” said Schmidt, who finished with seven goals and 17 points in 48 contests. “He has introduced the 'D' on how to close in on players, how to be aggressive and go in and use the body to get the puck. It’s more than just being a player; it’s learning how to be a better and efficient player.”

One part of that development has been watching video. It may seem small but for Schmidt it has been making a big difference.

“It really helps,” he said. “You get to see yourself and where you are at. It is definitely a different view of the ice. It’s a great overview of what you are doing right or what you are doing wrong. It helps so much in your development.

“We watched a lot of individual video on the season on our defensive game. It really allows you to break down and find the areas that can help you improve so you can excel.”

One of his favorite games from his Under-17 season was a complete team effort which resulted in a 6-0 win over Russia.

Photo by Rena Laverty

Photo by Rena Laverty

“The first time we beat Russia in Russia,” said Schmidt. “It felt so good especially after we had lost to them in the U17 World Challenge finals. I think that we deserved to win that game [in Russia] as we battled hard.

“As a team, we were prepared for that game. We played well defensively, and we bought into the game plan from the coaches. We had an unbelievable start to that game. It was a total team effort by the goalie, the defensemen and the forwards. That is what happens we play together.”

For Schmidt, he knows that his work is never done, and he already has big plans to help him improve before his second season with the NTDP. His summer plans focus on one thing — cardio.

“The big thing that I plan to do is work on my endurance and conditioning,” he explained. “We are playing longer games and I’m a bigger guy, so I really need to focus on my cardio. Sometimes last year, it was hard to last the whole game. I want to be able to make an even bigger impact this year, even if the game goes into overtime, I want to be ready to go.

“I will be doing lots of running this summer. I’ve been going to the track at least three times a week and doing cardio workouts. Right now, since we have no ice, I’m working on my strength and conditioning.”

And with each step this summer, one thing will never change and that is how much it means to him to wear the red, white and blue.

“It’s so cool, even in practice to be able to wear the USA logo,” said Schmidt. “I remember seeing the jerseys on TV but to see them up close and to be able to put them on, it’s a huge honor. It’s so special to be able to represent the country. I will always cherish the opportunity.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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