Roslovic’s signing another win for the Columbus hockey community

Columbus is a hockey city, and there are many ways to measure how much it’s grown in that regard since the Blue Jackets brought the game’s highest level to the city in 2000.

There could be no greater testimony than the fact that three players from central Ohio — all graduates of the AAA Blue Jackets’ junior program — walked for the team over the past year Jack Roslovic, Sean Kuraly and Carson Meyer.

While the Blue Jackets also have one of the most diverse rosters in the league when it comes to international players, few if any teams in the NHL can boast such a local connection in their rosters.

But there’s so much more that can happen for Roslovic as he continues to develop the game in his hometown.

LIVE STREAM: Watch Roslovic and CBJ General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen speak to the media about the signing at 1:00 PM ET

“The city is growing,” said Roslovic. “Hockey is growing. It’s still not where it can be – where I think it should be. It’s one of those things that you recognize and people know you’re from here and people enjoy that. Parents see that and their kids see it and that’s what expanding the game is all about.”

And now that he is today signed a two-year contract extension that the 2023/24 season will last, Roslovic can continue to be a big part of that growth. That’s what he’s focused on since entering a trade with Winnipeg earlier in the 2021 season, not to mention a goal he takes very seriously.

“I loved Winnipeg, I loved what they did for my career, but I always wanted to come home and make a difference whether I play here or not,” he said. “Now that I have the chance to do that for four years now, it’s going to be a really good experience and even more of an outreach where you have to try to help as many people as possible.”

While Roslovic has already made a notable impact on the ice, he has done the same in the community as things have opened up amid the COVID pandemic, work that has enabled him Named the team’s Community MVP for the 2021/22 season.

He founded Rosie’s Gear for Goals in 2020 to support aspiring Central Ohio hockey players by equipping them with the gear they need to succeed while building a strong community around the sport to help the players to achieve their goals on and off the ice.

Roslovic has also partnered with 614 Hockey to create the Jack Roslovic Collection benefitting Rosie’s Gear for Goals. Since its inception, the foundation has provided $70,000 in hockey equipment and hockey scholarships to youth in the Columbus area.

Video: CBJ@DET: Roslovic scores hat trick in 300th NHL game

Additionally, last week he worked at the Mid-Ohio Food Collective while donating to the food bank the $5,000 grant he received from the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation to be named community MVP.

“It’s more about using hockey as a vehicle to make it a better community and a better city,” he said. “What better way to do that than at the highest level in town?”

Ed Gingher, president and founder of the AAA Blue Jackets, has seen firsthand the impact someone like Roslovic can have since Kole Sherwood played for the team in February 2019 as the organization’s first product.

While Rick Nash’s success led to an explosion of youth hockey in the city — and No. 61 jerseys on the backs of seemingly every other kid in Columbus — the local ties of players like Roslovic, Kuraly and Meyer make them popular roles models in the community.

“It’s definitely real and the best part is having these young players see these guys on the rink,” Gingher said. “They train here, they skate here, they eat here, they play golf here. They’re available in the community and they appreciate that. And they’ve had these great role models like Rick, but it’s different when the kids are from Columbus or Dublin or Powell, it feels different.

“You’re seeing more 96s in youth rinks across the board and I think you’re going to continue to see that this is a very popular number as we still have some kids who wear 61s.”

Of course, none of this would be possible without success on the ice, and Roslovic has asserted himself over the past two years as someone who can play a key role on one of the NHL’s youngest and most exciting teams.

He has 34 goals and 79 points in 129 games with the Jackets over two seasons, hitting a breakout season in 2021 and following that up with career highs of 22 goals and 45 points last year. Saving his best for last as well, he reached a new level and scored 10 goals in his last 10 games of the season, including his first hat-trick as a Blue Jacket, which included the crucial overtime goal in an April 9 win in Detroit .

“I think I’m getting into the prime of my playing career and of course I want to keep growing,” he said. “It’s definitely not going to stop there. It’s definitely encouraging and it’s a great feeling to know I haven’t peaked yet.”

Both sides are betting on Roslovic continuing the upward trend and he will do so with the support of an entire community behind him.

“The convenience here has always been great, being able to see family, have friends come to the games, talk to them, not just at work but outside of work,” he said. “It’s great to have a good, successful group of friends here pushing each other and just a great team and a bunch of good people surrounding you.

“It’s Midwestern culture, and I think Columbus has a lot of that. Just nice people and people who are always willing to help.”

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