Day: January 20, 2022

Maple Ridge man, former NHL player, to captain China’s Olympic hockey team

Maple Ridge’s Brandon Yip will captain Team China at the Olympics

By Niel Corbett – Cranbrook Daily Townsman

Maple Ridge’s Brandon Yip will be captain of the first Chinese hockey team to take part in the Olympics.

The former NHLer, 36, is the leader of the Kunlun Red Star, which is a proxy for the Chinese national team that competes in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

He’s surely had one of the most interesting hockey journeys in Canadian history.

Yip had an NHL career that spanned from the 2009-2010 season until 2013-2014, and saw him skating for the Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and two games in his last season with the Phoenix Coyotes.

He started climbing the hockey ladder with his hometown Junior B Ridge Meadows Flames, and kept moving up to star with the Junior A Coquitlam Express, NCAA Boston University and then was drafted in the eighth round, 239th overall by the Avalanche. He would play 174 regular season NHL games, putting up 29 goals and 56 points.

When his NHL career ended, Yip jumped to Europe, with a couple of stops in Germany’s DEL.

Since 2017-2018 he has played in Russian’s KHL, mostly with the Kunlun Red Star, which is based in Beijing.

He is Mr. Everything for the team – the captain, the first in the franchise to get 100 points, and the second to play 200 games. The latter milestones he reached in recent months.

His mother Gale said she and husband Wayne went to watch him play in a game in Shanghai in 2017, and it was pretty obvious the people were new to Canada’s national sport of winter.

As Brandon and the opposing team captain lined up at centre ice for a ceremonial opening faceoff, a dignitary was handed the puck to conduct the faceoff and officially start the contest. However, he didn’t know he was supposed to drop the puck.

“He hucked it across the ice,” Gale said with a laugh. “It’s a new sport over there.”

She and her husband are Canadian born, but their son is eligible to represent China under international rules because he has grandparents on both sides who were born in China. She said it was a memorable trip.

“It’s an amazing country, with amazing cities.”

The NHL will not allow its players to participate in the Games, which begin on Feb. 4 in Beijing, China, so the tournament teams are rosters of retired NHL players, European professionals, college players and minor pro players.

The Chinese team has been ranked 32nd in the world, and is at the bottom of the KHL standings this season. However, Kunlun coach Ivano Zanatta says the Chinese team will be the equal of teams like Norway and Denmark. Their chances of playing competitive games got a boost with the announcement the NHL would not participate.

Northbrook’s Jesse Compher ready to bring it to Beijing

Jesse Compher of the USA Women’s Hockey Team

By Dave Oberhelman – Daily Herald

The Glenbrook North graduate will get the chance to bring it on the world stage. The Northbrook native was announced as one of 23 players to make up the 2022 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team during the NHL’s Winter Classic in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day.

Opening group play Feb. 3 against Finland, the U.S. Women enter the Beijing Winter Olympic Games as the defending gold medalist, having won their second gold in 2018. The United States has medaled in every Olympics since women’s hockey was introduced to the Games in 1998.

The team will head to Los Angeles on Jan. 24 and fly to Beijing three days later.

A 5-foot-8 forward who played her college hockey at Boston University, Compher is among eight first-time Olympians named to the squad, along with Savannah Harmon of Downers Grove. Compher trains with the Clarkson University graduate when both aren’t wrapped up in national events and practices.

Despite the timing of the announcement, Compher said the players were notified of their selection in December. The final roster was whittled down from 27 players.

“It’s definitely very exciting when your dreams come true, but not only when they come true with you alone, but also when your best friends and teammates are by your side,” Compher said from Team USA’s training facility, the Super Rink at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota.

Usual suspect Kendall Coyne Schofield of Oak Lawn makes her third appearance on the Olympic Team and Megan Bozek of Buffalo Grove her second. Hilary Knight, a 2018 favorite from Idaho, is the fourth woman to make four U.S. Olympic women’s hockey teams.

“I’m honestly beyond excited for the experience and the journey over there in China, but I’m just happy to be a part of this program and a part of this team,” said Compher, sister of Colorado Avalanche forward J.T. Compher.

The United States won at the 2018 Pyeonchang Olympics by tying Canada in the third period of the gold medal game, then winning 3-2 in a shootout.

The rival squads faced each other six times in the Why Me Tour with dates in October, November and December, Canada winning four games with three of the six games going into overtime.

The last three scheduled games of the tour were COVID casualties, so the American women scrimmaged boys teams around Blaine, then practiced as a unit since Christmas.

“We looked good,” Jesse Compher said. “We’re just starting to come together, and I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey as a team yet, which is the most exciting part.”

A five-time Hockey East player of the week during her Boston University career, she was a second-team All-America selection in 2018-19 and a top-10 finalist for the 2019 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top collegiate women’s hockey player. In her final season with Boston University Compher collected 11 points on 7 goals and 4 assists in 9 games.

Compher has seen her USA sweater, but hasn’t been able to pull it on yet.

Having played in nine international competitions since she was 16, she knows what it means.

“I think that representing your country for sure never gets old. It’s a feeling that’s indescribable,” she said.

“I’m excited to be on this journey with my teammates and excited for what we will accomplish.”

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