By Jonathan Bombulie
When the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins picked up Reagan Rome at the trade deadline, they thought they were getting a dependable defenseman who would add some depth for the stretch run.
They may not have known they were picking up one of the poor man’s Sutter brothers.
Like the six Sutter brothers, who went from the small town of Viking, Alberta, to the NHL, four Rome brothers have gone on from the small town of Nesbitt, Manitoba, to play professional hockey.
“There were a few broken items in the house and a few broken bones. A lot of scraps between the four of us,” Rome said. “But it’s all in good fun. Nobody ever got hurt that bad. Just a part of growing up. Very fond memories of my childhood.”
Three Rome brothers — Reagan with the Penguins, Aaron with the Portland Pirates and Ashton with the Worcester Sharks — are currently playing in the AHL.
An older brother, Ryan, played three years in the lower minors before retiring in 2005.All four brothers were born almost exactly two years apart, from Ryan in 1979 to Ashton in 1985.
“I think my parents were trying to have a girl, but they ended up having four boys instead,” Rome said. “After the fourth one, my mom said, ‘This is it.’”
The two youngest brothers are NHL draft picks who went straight to the AHL out of junior hockey. Reagan, on the other hand, has had to claw his way to this level.
Coming out of Junior A hockey in Saskatchewan, Rome played for four ECHL teams before earning AHL call-ups to Cincinnati two years ago and Manchester last season.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I love the game so much that I keep playing,” Rome said.
He finally thought he was getting his big break this summer when Manitoba signed him to a two-year deal, but he hurt his shoulder in training camp and played just seven games for the Moose.
Rome reported to Reading of the ECHL, fully expecting to be traded.
When the word came he had finally been dealt to the Penguins, he was thrilled. He had just been airlifted into the middle of a Calder Cup chase.
“For my career, it can be nothing but a good thing,” Rome said. “I had a couple of sleepless nights, I was so excited. I’m happy to come to a winning team with a good tradition. I hope I can do my job here and help win a championship.”
A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who tends to play a more rugged game, Rome surprised perhaps even himself in his first three games in a Penguins uniform.
In a 4-2 Penguins loss at Norfolk on Wednesday night, he scored the first goal of his 25-game AHL career.
In the game before that, a 3-2 Penguins overtime win over Albany on Saturday, he was credited with assists on all three of his team’s goals.
A subsequent video review gave one of the assists to Stephen Dixon, but Rome wasn’t complaining.
A first impression had already been made.
“It gives me a little bit of confidence,” he said. “I’m playing with some pretty skilled players. I just try to move the puck. Anything that transpires into a point is just gravy.”