The meaning of the moment was not lost on Roman Basran.
As the Vancouver Canucks’ new contracted practice goaltender, the Richmond resident and well-travelled stopper was understandably in awe. He entered the locker-room and sat where his boyhood idol called a professional home for eight NHL seasons and entered the Hockey Hall of Fame a year ago.
Barsan, 22, was an ardent Roberto Luongo fan. And to now be a guy facing vulcanized rubber when Thatcher Demko or Casey DeSmith are scheduled for a day away from the ice, it was simply beyond belief.
“Honestly, it was an unreal feeling to be in that arena and with an organization you grew up watching,” said Basran. “The amount of commitment I had to the Canucks growing up was unbelievable. I was a superfan when I was a kid.”
How big a fan? His family found out in a hurry.
“They basically started taking me to games when I was eight or nine years old and I kind of just fell in love with the Canucks,” recalled Basran. “It was Luongo right off the bat. It was the way that everybody obsessed over him. Every time he made a save, there would be chants and stuff.
“It was his style and flair. I had four of his posters and two jerseys and my whole room was painted blue. It was hilarious.”
Basran attended a Canucks’ practice at age 10 and met Luongo and the experience only heightened his playing ambition.
“A family friend, Bobby Singh, (B.C. Lions, NFL, XFL) is a buddy with ‘Red’ (Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton) and we met up. He got us into the building. You don’t really look at anything while watching. It’s just like, these guys are so cool when you’re that age.”
Basran played minor hockey for Seafair, Richmond, Delta and the Yale Academy, which led to a WHL bantam draft selection by the Kelowna Rockets, where he spent four seasons.
An OHL year with the Mississauga IceDogs, a U Sport stop in Ontario and an ECHL adventure with the struggling Wichita Thunder in Kansas rounded out his resume.
“A lot of injuries and players moving around and that team was pretty bad,” Basran said of the Thunder. “I was averaging 50 shots a game. The way I looked at it was no team averages that — not even the San Jose Sharks.
“It was a shi–y position to be put in it, but the way I handled it was kind of impressive.”
Here’s our weekly Canucks Q&A with the unstoppable stopper, who has had ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus knee surgeries at a young age and isn’t done playing:
Q: You faced a family tragedy. How did hockey help?
A: I lost my mom when I was 17. Hockey in Kelowna was my escape. It was very important for me and my family to look for something that would take away all the feelings you have when something tragic happens. Put it in the game you love. I used that as motivation. It was a huge learning process.
Q: How did Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark present this gig?
A: He wondered if there was a practice goalie out there and called goalie coaches. I also talked to R.J. (Ryan Johnson, assistant to Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin) and I was probably being pretty persistent on the calls. I kept calling them to make it happen.
Q: Clark is effective with big goalies. You a sponge?
A: I see what he wants and I’m trying to have it in my game. I have a decent idea of how he expects his goalies to be and what he expects in certain situations.
Q: Do players show little shot mercy in practices?
A: They definitely don’t take it easy. I’ve been hit in the head about 20 times already. Not 20, but a few times for sure. Sometimes, it’s by accident and sometimes you just have practices where you get hit in the head a lot. And I can hold my ground (in the crease). I’m a pretty big boy (215 pounds).
Q: Goalies mature later. Is this a means to an end?
A: Of course. I’m the youngest guy in the (Canucks’) room. That means if I’m making saves in practice, maybe I get a shot? My end goal is to play here one day. It’s a very unconventional route, but you never know.
Q: Why do you give back to the Punjabi community?
A: My great-grandfather instilled that within me. It’s important throughout our community and with little kids. I’m doing a skate at Rogers Arena the day after the Canucks’ Diwali Night (South Asian culture celebration Wednesday).
Any time somebody is coming up in the WHL or getting drafted or signed, I send a message on social media and reach out if they need anything. When I was in their shoes, guys would do that for me.
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