Present day Rome rises in Kootenay

By Jeff Bromley

In the dying days of Ancient Rome, it was said that Nero fiddled while the city burned. Present day Kootenay ICE defenseman Aaron Rome might want to do some fiddling of his own come June of 2002. And the only thing that’ll be burning is himself, right up the scouting charts.

The Red Line Report, a private scouting list out of Lake Placid, New York that compiles a monthly list of NHL Draft hopefuls similar to the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau only the list includes players from Europe where the CSB doesn’t, listed Rome at the 36th spot in it’s first monthly report of the season. The list’s number one rated prospect is Medicine Hat Tiger defensemen Jay Bouwmeester who along with Rome are late-born players of 1983 (past September 15) which bumps them to the next draft year. The two also share the same birthday of September 27.

“I have high expectations of myself, like any hockey player at this level should have,” said Rome after being informed of the ranking. “I wasn’t expecting it but I think that it doesn’t really mean anything right now. It doesn’t mean anything yet but hopefully at the end of the year, maybe.”

Rome arrived in Cranbrook rather quietly and inconspicuously at a time when the pomp and circumstance of Mike Comrie’s short-lived stay in the Kootenay’s were dominating the headlines. On October 16, 2000 in the less-than-hyped trade that saw the unrealized potential in Jordan Wallin head to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for a defenseman that didn’t seem to get much of chance in the Bridge City, Aaron Rome got a chance to start over.

For Wallin the trade didn’t pan out as he’s currently out of Major Junior hockey. For Rome however, it was the start of something that many didn’t predict; Rome becoming a force among WHL blue-liners and having his stock skyrocket in hopes of being drafted into the NHL in June of 2002.

Also included in the list is teammate Andy Thompson, slotted in at the 53rd spot. Thompson’s stock has been rising and could go even higher as the NHL Draft nears, proving his worth as a 1st Round Bantam draft pick (7th overall) in 1999 was no fluke. Rome on the other hand, drafted in the sixth round, 93rd overall in that same Bantam draft, had been seemingly floated below the radar of NHL scouts. Or so many thought. Currently on a game by game basis at the Cranbrook Rec Plex, coffee, game sheets and donuts are at a premium in the media room. Meaning only one thing; the number of scouts in attendance is up significantly. Humbly, Rome thinks that obviously they’re not just there for him and even if they were, it wouldn’t change the way he plays on the ice. “We have a lot of guys that are eligible this year so there’s going to be lot’s of scouts turn out,” said Rome. “The Western Hockey League has so many scouts watching every game and you know in the back of your mind that they are there and you want to play well. In the end I just want to push myself to get better.”

Looking back at the beginning of last season in Saskatoon, Rome liked where he was but didn’t like the fact that it didn’t look like he was going to get a fair shake at playing time. After the trade Rome saw the possibility to prove himself night after night at this level and seized it. “I wasn’t getting the chance in Saskatoon and that’s unfortunate because it was a good place. But you move away from home to do one thing and that’s play hockey and I wasn’t getting the chance there.

“Coming to Cranbrook probably was the best thing for me, getting a shot to play. I got better as the year went on and they kept giving me more ice-time. I got more comfortable and gained more confidence and got stronger as the year went on.”

Seeing time in all facets of the game for the ICE including the number one power-play unit, the penalty-kill unit and averaging high minutes each game, the 6’1″, 205lb rearguard’s role with the club has risen right along with his stock. Still, Rome takes it all in stride, not getting too high or too low over things like rankings. “Being an eighteen-yr-old this year, it’s my third year in the league and I guess I just like to lead by example. I’m kind of a quiet guy, I just like to work hard and show what I can do on the ice.”

As it turns out, it looks like somebody has taken notice.