- Beijing’s emphasis has been on individual training rather than team strength.
- Skates scrape the ice, and a coach’s cry echoes through the arena north of Toronto: “Go! Move, move, move!”
Four teenagers race down the rink, breathlessly chasing a puck. The setting may be typical of Canada, but the players are all visitors, young Chinese who have come to learn the game. “Because it’s Canada, like, the best point to play hockey in the world,” said Bert Wen, a 13-year-old player for the Toronto Nationals AAA team.
All four of those players were born in Beijing and moved halfway around the world with their parents when they were nine or ten years old to play for Canadian junior teams. Among many others who have come to seek the ice time that China does not provide.
Beijing may have spent more than $4 billion on the upcoming Winter Olympics, but it is struggling to field a competitive national team, and opportunities for young hockey players are scarce.
“They are hungry for it,” said Sonya von Kaufmann, who has worked with the Toronto Maple Leafs and numerous figure skaters to improve their footwork while also running training camps in Shanghai. As the four players on the ice today, more and more of her young clients are Chinese hockey players.
“They have a real opportunity here in Canada, from East Coast to West Coast,” she said. “They can practice their skills on the ice every day. Over there, things aren’t the same.”
Moving to Canada 5 years ago was a quest for the Zhous to fulfill their son’s hockey dreams. So Jason and his mother, Fanny, packed their belongings and moved to Toronto’s outskirts.
“It’s a tough decision,” Fanny Zhou said, “to leave his daddy, his grandma and grandpa, and all our friends.” But, for me, his dream is the same as mine. So, as a result, I came here with him.” She now refers to herself as an “unusual hockey mom.”
Jason was nine years old, obsessed with hockey but “not very good at it,” despite skating and playing in China since he was four years old. Who is his hero? Gretzky, Wayne
He’s had to overcome obstacles here, first learning English and then adjusting to a faster and rougher game. “Sometimes people look at me and don’t think I can play hockey,” Jason explained. “Some of them don’t even realize that hockey is becoming popular in China.”
Source: CBC News