So where are all the Asian hockey players? There was Paul Kariya
who's played since 1993 for the Louisville Blues, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, partial Japanese descent.
And........ that's right, nobody else. No, sorry to disappoint, I don't know when the train full of asian nhl prospects are going to be arriving. Nobody who's even of partial Asian background, Paul has been the only asian player to make an appearance of more than a few days in the NHL.
So while I can't offer any insight into why there aren't more Asian players... I can however offer something in this blog that's in my mind is more positive and encouraging..... the possible future of Asian players in the NHL.
SO, a fact that many of you may not know. Charles Wang , co-founder of Computer Associates, basically a billionaire, became part owner of the New York Islanders in 2000 and majority owner 2004. When I started writing this particular post, I really thought that it would center how asians are putting their foot in the door in the area of franchise ownership.... how Charles Wang was a pioneer in terms of having a say in franchise decisions and I would do my evil 'asian domination' laugh..... BUT, then I ran a pet project of that he's started recently called the Charles B. Wang Ice Hockey Project Hope.
Officially, the goal of Wang's Project Hope is:
"To provide young Chinese athletes with access to educational opportunities.
Project Hope will endeavor to create opportunities for cultural exchange through international youth hockey events and by promoting Project Hope scholarship placements in the United States."Unofficially from the events this foundation has sponsored and put on, it's intention is to provoke the kind of fanaticism that Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian have injected into the 1.5 billion Chinese citizens (think viewership of the super bowl was huge? Try 200 million for a regular season game of Yi vs. Yao) or the inspiration that Chien-Ming Wang has brought to his politically volatile country of Taiwan.
That's Wang in the black suit with these young kids.
Currently there are only three professional hockey teams in China, in the cities of Harbin, Qigihar and Jiamusi. Ever heard of them? No, that's because these teams are second-tier amateur groups of rink loving skaters at best, forced to play low-level competitions because of lack of sponsorship, interest, passion for the sport from the general public, you name it. Maybe you could argue that Asia just isn't very interested in the sport, but fortunately (or unfortunately.... depends on how ya see it), this isn't true either. South Korea and Japan have teams that are consistent medal contenders in the Winter Olympics, so the interest is in the region. Trick is how to tap into the fan potential of China like countries rally behind their soccer teams.
So through Wang's program, the foundation will over 5 years, set up a China Ice Hockey Training Center, 3 women's ice hockey training bases and select 30 primary schools and 10 high schools to groom future players of the sport. Eventually, the foundation will select especially gifted products of their system to attend American universities and hopefully be drafted into the NHL to become the next Yao, Yi, or Wang of their sport.
Good stuff Charles.