Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dreams of 2018


As it turns out, my 2018 Winter Olympic dream may not be dead. Not that it was that alive to begin with, but I had given it up for dead a while ago. See, I had initially thought that the host country received an auto-bid into the hockey tournament, but then I had learned that Korea was unlikely to pursue an auto-bid for 2018 since their national team isn't very strong. Whatever there is to be gained by having a team in one of the most-visible events, how much of that do you lose if that team loses 500-0 to the likes of Canada?

Well, it turns out maybe the door isn't completely shut.

As Sean Leahy of PuckDaddy reports, the IIHF would like to see Korea improve its standing in international hockey in order to consider giving it an auto-bid. That's promising. However, the full context of the report is '...because they just stunk it up royally in an IIHF Division 1, Group A tournament on home ice - going win-less against the likes of Japan, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary and Ukraine.' But, the language clearly implies that Korea is trying to earn entry to the 2018 Olympic men's ice hockey tournament - and that they still have a shot.

Which means, *I* still have a shot.

The country of my birth (and my blood) is currently ranked 23rd in the IIHF men's rankings. By virtue of their aforementioned performance at the 2014 IIHF Division 1, Group A championship, they have been relegated down to Division 1, Group B. Their next IIHF world championship is April 13-19, 2015, in the Netherlands. Besides Korea (23rd), Group B is comprised of Great Britain (22nd), Netherlands (25th), Lithuania (26th), Croatia (28th), and Estonia (29th).

Leahy also recently reported that Korea have hired former NHLer, and Stanley Cup winner, Jim Paek as their new men's head coach. I don't know what this means for me, specifically, but I can't imagine it has hurt my standing.

Which, by the way, is non-existent.

But, let's look at what we know. According to Korea's country profile on the IIHF site, there are 2,100 registered ice hockey players in Korea. 1,796 of them are junior players. 120 are male players, which as a category that is distinct from "junior" players, I take to mean there are 120 male adult players in Korea. So, let's say 1/6 of those players are goalies. That means, at worst, I'm the 21st-best Korean male goalie. In the world. *mind blown*

The goal for Korea's men's team, according to Leahy, is to improve their international ranking to 18th.

So, here's the game plan. I would like to make the team that competes in that April, 2015 tournament in the Netherlands. I know the odds are against Korea fielding a team in 2018, and they're even more against me being on that team. But here's the thing: we're (my family and I) going to that Oly. We've already decided on it. I think there's a great story to be told here. Kid born in Korea, orphaned, adopted by Americans, grows up in hockey-mad Minnesota, has cup of coffee with the men's national team, then returns to Korea for the first time since he was a baby, with his family, to see the country of his birth through the lens of a Winter Olympics. I can picture Bob Costas turning it over to Mary Carillo with the story.

But this isn't about some 15 minutes of fame. This is about a man going "home", with no memory of the country of his birth, seeing it for the "first" time. Seeing it also through the eyes his own children, themselves half-Korean, for the first time. The hockey part is merely the angle from which the story begins to be told. It's a story that I'd like to experience and tell.

So, anyone have Jim Paek's number?