Date: August 1, 2017

Korean-American hockey player enjoying ‘incredible ride’ with S. Korean women’s team

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By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News Agency

Korean-American hockey player Grace Lee has come a long way — both literally and figuratively — to join the South Korean women’s national team, just in time for next year’s Winter Olympics on home ice.

The 17-year-old native of Boulder, Colorado, holds dual Korean and American citizenship, which allows her to play for the country of her parents’ birth. She played her first game for South Korea in a friendly against Sweden on Friday at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul.

It’s the same venue that will host hockey action at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, and Lee said she can’t wait to be a part of the experience as South Korea makes its Olympic debut on home ice.

And just making the national team here was two years in the making.

In South Korea’s 3-0 loss, Lee played center on the top line, flanked by two of South Korea’s most skilled forwards — captain Park Jong-ah and Kim Hee-won. Lee showed flashes of skill and speed that made her a coveted player when head coach Sarah Murray saw her last year.

But it was actually in 2015 that Lee wanted to approach Murray about playing for South Korea. Lee’s school, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota, hosted the South Korean national team for friendlies in 2015. But Lee wasn’t available for action because she was sidelined with a concussion.

South Korea faced Shattuck-St. Mary’s, which also happens to be Murray’s alma mater, in 2016 again. Lee was able to play, and it was Murray who sought out Lee after a game.

“Sarah approached me, and she just asked if I had dual citizenship and if I was interested at all,” Lee told Yonhap News Agency after Friday’s game. “As soon as she said that, I was just, ‘Go for it.’ I got my transfer card from USA Hockey to (the Korea Ice Hockey Association). And then I flew over here a couple of weeks ago.”

Lee said she has enjoyed her time in South Korea so far, thanks in large part to “really supportive” teammates.

“It’s just been an incredible ride,” she said. “It’s just amazing getting to play for South Korea, especially with the teammates that I have.”

Lee isn’t here just to enjoy the ride. Murray threw the teenager right into the fire against Sweden, putting her on the first line alongside Park and Kim for some spark on offense and speed on defense.

Lee has already proven her worth in the United States. Lee, who started skating at age seven, scored 29 goals and picked up 28 assists in 56 games for Shattuck-St. Mary’s in the 2015-2016 season.

Murray said she wanted a fast line that could shut down the other team’s top unit and said she was pleased with her first line’s effort.

Lee said it has become “pretty easy to play with” Park and Kim because the three can complement one another.

“I think what I can do best is I can control the puck a lot,” Lee said. “Jong-ah and Hee-won are two really aggressive players. I am able to kind of slow the game down. We have a lot of skills in that sense because we’ll be able to do a lot with the puck.”

Lee allowed herself to look ahead to PyeongChang 2018 and mused on just how much competing there will mean to her.

“I have a lot of family (in South Korea), especially my grandparents here,” she said. “It’s incredible just to be able to come here and show them what I can do. We’ll represent the team the best we can.”

After PyeongChang, an Ivy League career awaits Lee. She received multiple offers from NCAA Division I schools, and she has elected to play for Yale starting in the fall of 2018.

Ice hockey squad raring to go

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By The Star Online

The Malaysian ice hockey team will be playing their biggest home ground game for the first time, representing the country at the KL SEA Games’ inaugural winter sports this August at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium in Empire City Damansara.

Although the team has been playing tournaments overseas including the Asian Winter Games, they never had the opportunity to play with the home crowd until now. While the venue was previously a challenge, it has been overcome with the new Olympic-sized ice rink.

“Before, we would practise in a smaller ice rink which affects dynamics,” said the team’s forward Aqfar Naeem Abulais. A team is typically made up of six members including the goalie for a full-fledged ice hockey game. With smaller-scaled rinks, the number of members gets lower accordingly.

National team goalkeeper, Tengku Muhammad Azlly hopes the KL SEA Games will help raise awareness for the sport.

 “Many are still unaware that Malaysia has an ice hockey team although it has been around for more than 10 years,” he said.

Ice hockey is a fast-paced contact sport employing tactical moves while maintaining balance and game sense.

“You need the ability to multitask and you need to master skating. Then, combine that with puck handling and communicating with your teammates while on ice,” Azlly said.

Having made great strides and proven their skills over the years, they are now less than a month away from competing at one of their biggest sporting events on home soil.

“Representing the country is a dream come true. After years of playing overseas, playing at home is going to be exciting,” said Moi Jia Yung, who plays defence.

Leading up to it, the team has been undertaking intense training, practising three times every weekday. Having to balance between school, work and training, the team needs all the energy and help they can get.

Besides active support from the Youth and Sports Ministry, and National Sports Council, the National Sports Institute has been helping the team prepare through sports science in three areas.

“Firstly, it is conditioning through gym sessions. Secondly, we look into nutrition; and thirdly, it is on psychology. You need to be strong not just physically, but mentally as well,” said team manager and SEA Games programme director Hisham Yahaya.

While the outcome is hard to predict, the team is giving no less than their best to place Malaysia on the map for ice hockey.

Our national ice hockey team will be playing against Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

Be sure to show them support this Aug 20 to 24 at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium. Admission is free.