A wide smile, tireless work ethic and high-level leadership are all characteristics that teammates will miss from Rico Roman.
Roman announced his retirement July 13, 2022, following a decorated 11-year career with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, highlighted by six gold medals, including three in the Paralympic Winter Games.
“His attitude was infectious, he worked super hard in practice and pushed the tempo,” said longtime teammate Declan Farmer. “He really embodied the team-first attitude, and we looked up to him on and off the ice. We’ll miss him, for sure. He had a great career, and it was exciting for him to cap it off with a gold medal.”
Roman, of Portland, Oregon, started with the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team in 2010-2011 and played 123 career games. The 41-year-old helped the U.S. win a Paralympic gold medal at the Beijing Games this past March.
“He’s an amazing guy who would give you the shirt off his back,” said teammate Ralph DeQuebec. “He’s a hard worker who is very charismatic and a people person. Anytime a situation came up in the locker room, or there would be some adversity, he was the guy that came in and broke it up to make it a better situation. He definitely set the example.”
Roman, a retired Army Staff Sergeant, is a Purple Heart recipient who had his left leg amputated above the knee when he was wounded by an improvised explosive device while serving his third tour in Iraq in February 2007. He was introduced to sled hockey in 2008 by Operation Comfort, an organization dedicated to assisting injured U.S. service personnel at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
DeQuebec, also a Purple Heart recipient, is a bilateral, above-knee amputee. Like Roman, he was injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan for the U.S. Marine Corps as a Gunnery Sergeant in 2012.
DeQuebec said that Roman inspired him to play sled hockey.
“I was told that I was too old to play hockey, but I saw Rico win the gold medal in 2014 in Sochi, so I knew it was possible,” said DeQuebec, who made his Paralympic debut in 2018 at age 34. “He inspired me to hush the noise and I was privileged enough to be his teammate. He’s been a pioneer, especially for us veterans and you can definitely see it in his play.”
Farmer also appreciated the service of teammates like DeQuebec and Roman.
“This is the second time they’re representing their country,” said Farmer, 24, who played alongside Roman in the past three Paralympics and DeQuebec in the last two. “It’s an honor to play alongside them. They bring so much experience, leadership and wisdom, and it adds so much to the team.”
Roman, a forward, played in 13 career Paralympic games and served as an alternate captain during the 2022 games in Beijing. He tallied a goal and an assist in four games during the 2018 games in PyeongChang.
Roman also competed in five IPC World Championships, helping the U.S. win three gold medals and a pair of silver medals. In his last three world championship appearances, he contributed four points at each tournament.
Additionally, Roman played for Team USA in nine Para Hockey Cup tournaments, where he helped the U.S. win six championships.
“Just being able to call him a teammate,” DeQuebec said. “That experience of camaraderie and brotherhood … to build together, and what we were able to accomplish, I’ll cherish that forever. We’ll walk together forever as champions.”
The last one might be the most significant, as Roman helped the U.S. down rival Canada in March for the country’s unprecedented fourth consecutive Paralympic gold medal.
“I’m sure it means the world to have gotten a win in his final game ever,” Farmer said. “That’s something that every competitive athlete dreams about.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.