Injuries happen, they’re a part of the game. When a Utica Comets player goes down and needs attention, it’s Roman Kaszczij who runs onto the ice to tend to him.
Kaszczij (pronounced CASH-gee), is in his first year as the head athletic therapist for the Comets, and like many who want to set out on a career in sports, his life has been a bit nomadic.
“I got an undergraduate degree in kinesiology at MacMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. While I was there I spent a year with their football team and their men’s basketball team,” Kaszczij said. “Then I left after three years when I graduated and started at Sheridan College in Brampton for a bachelor of applied health sciences and athletic therapy.”
When it was time to apply his education to the workforce, the bouncing around didn’t stop.
“I did a two-year internship with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL,” the 25 year old said. “That was a lot of fun because we won an OHL championship and made it to the Memorial Cup. Between those two years in Hamilton I did a season-long internship with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“When I graduated from Sheridan, I got hired by the Brandon (Manitoba) Wheat Kings of the WHL where I spent one year before coming to Utica.”
Kaszczij, who was hired this summer by (Comets general manager) Ryan “RJ” Johnson, has spent his whole life going by RJ to avoid confusion with his dad, Roman Sr. But when he was coming to the Comets, he found out quickly that he had to re-learn his own name.
“I got told right away that it was gonna be a no-no and that I had to find a new name,” he laughed. “I had a bunch thrown at me right away. I’ve heard Roman Reigns, Romer, Roms, Romy.”
When you go by a name for so long and it suddenly changes, there might be a bit of a learning curve. It was no different for Kaszczij.
“The first game this year everyone on the bench started yelling “Roman,”” he said. “I had my head in the clouds until I was like “no, wait. That’s me!”’
If he can’t figure out going by “Roman” then maybe “Sock Guy” can stick. Kaszczij wears a unique pair of novelty socks every game. His fancy footwear ranges from cartoon characters to dogs to super heroes. With all those socks it has to be tough to pick a favorite, right? Not so much.
“My favorite pair is the one’s we win in,” he laughed.
From innocent stingers to more serious injuries, Roman is tasked to keep his composure and provide the best possible care. More often than not, he helps a player to the bench for something that only needs a shift or two for a remedy.
But sometimes the injuries are far more severe and require swift attention. Like any medical professional, remaining calm and trusting his education is the most important phase of making sure players are tended to as best as possible.
“A big thing is staying up to date on current research and always trying to be more educated,” he said. “You might want to go into panic mode, but if I can try and stay calm it can hopefully help the player stay calm. You have to trust your skillset and be the level-headed presence.”
A lover of snowboarding, craft beer, and a good cup of tea, Kaszczij uses his (very minimal) time away from the rink to take in his hobbies and learn more about Utica. When he’s not treating to player and staff at The Aud, you might bump into him on the slopes of Woods Valley or enjoying a tea at Utica Coffee.
“I don’t mind that Utica is a smaller town. I do a little bit of exploring to see what it has to offer,” he said. “There’s lots of cool spots and some neat architecture.”
And in private, much of his time is spent playing guitar.
“ I try to remain pretty low key for the most part. Hopefully I’m not annoying my neighbors when I play.”
So far, nobody has banged a broom on the ceiling when he performs.