Women's hockey forward sees hope after scoring vs. Sweden
We will admit that we like fairytale endings (also I would like the Swedish National Team to revolt and forcibly overthrow their coach but that’s another story - Nafio), so we were hoping for one win for South Korea this weekend. Scoring one goal and losing by only three in each game against a team ranked 17 places higher than them is pretty good though. In 2014, they were ranked 24th in the world, and now they’ve moved up a division and are hanging in decently with one of the European women’s hockey powers (although their IIHF ranking has technically only risen two spots). This is a really impressive turnaround, and they still have more than six months to improve before the Olympics.
And damn, So-jung Shin. From all reports she got shelled, but she kept them close. As we’ve seen time and again - including this past Worlds at the top level - with an elite goalie, a system, and some luck, you can go pretty far. Like Nana Fujimoto before her, Shin spent last season playing with the New York Riveters, and seeking a higher level of competition for training benefited Team Korea in the same way that Fujimoto’s time in the NWHL benefited Team Japan. Shin spent last season taking practice shots from Amanda Kessel; that’s going to improve anyone’s reflexes.
It’s also exciting that the Korean team is managing to improve as much as they have with Korean players. Every player on the team is of Korean background, even if some of them had to apply for citizenship. Whatever they do this year to make their country proud (and they will make their country proud), the young girls of Korea who will look up to them will see that women who look like they do can play hockey at the highest level. As a Group B team, South Korea will play at least one game against Japan at Pyeongchang, the second Olympic game between two Asian nations and the first since China and Japan played one another in Nagano. Combine that with the CWHL expanding to China, and women’s hockey in Asia is one of the most exciting areas of growth in a rapidly-growing sport.
One interesting detail that viewers might notice is that the Korean national team puts their given names on their jerseys. This may simply be because there are relatively few surnames in Korean, and using surnames instead of given names is less practical when there are five Parks and four Lees on your team. It’s a thing for North American viewers to keep in mind.
Another intriguing detail is that one of the teams they’re planning to play against in their pre-Olympic training is France, another country whose team has experienced significant growth recently. There’s one French National Team member in the CWHL and another on this year’s draft list. France is only ranked nine places higher, so it will be interesting to see how those games go.
s/t to Kirsten Whelan for some of the Korean links
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