Welcome to National Teams of Ice Hockey.


Subscribe to RSS Feed

View Archive

The smell of garlic is overwhelming.

It's lunchtime in Anyang, a city of 615,000 people about an hour's subway ride south of Seoul.

And unlike the South Korean capital, this busy suburb doesn't see too many tourists so New Hamburg's Brock Radunske — a 6-foot-4, blond-haired and blue-eyed hockey player — sticks out as he nestles into a booth at a restaurant across the street from the Anyang Sports Complex Arena.

Practice for his Anyang Halla, one of nine clubs in the Asia Ice Hockey League, has just ended and the centre is starving on this mid-September afternoon.

A waitress at the barbecue joint approaches and proudly displays two cuts of packaged beef for sale before the 32-year-old tells her in Korean that he'll take half of each.

"The beef is a little expensive here," he says. "But it's very good."

Staff snip the meat with a pair of scissors before placing thin strips on a hot grill resting over charcoal embedded in the middle of the table.

A retractable extractor hovers overhead, sucking up the fumes as endless sides, or Banchan, arrive in white dishes. Among the fare is ginger, mushrooms, a lotus root called yeongeun jorim, green chili peppers and Korea's national dish Kimchi.

"This one has a bit a kick to it," warns Radunske, as he pops a piece of the spicy pickled cabbage into his mouth with stainless steel chopsticks. "I love hot food."

Teammates Mike Testwuide, a winger from Vail, Colo., and Matt Dalton, a goalie from Clinton, Ont., join the feast.

"When I first brought him here he hated it," says Radunske, motioning to his goalkeeper. "Now, he can't get enough of it."

The delicious food is just one of the perks for the trio, who are part of Halla's five-man foreign contingent. A rent-free apartment, car, reported six-figure salaries and relaxed schedule also have them enamoured with the non-traditional hockey market.

And then, there is the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In two years Pyeongchang, a county in South Korea's eastern Taebaek Mountains will welcome the world.

As hosts, the country skipped the qualification process and automatically gained entry into the marquee event. It will be the first time South Korea has ever iced a men's hockey team at the Games.

And they're in tough company, locked in a pool with Canada, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Citizenship for foreign athletes

To avoid embarrassment, the Korean Ice Hockey Association is pulling out all the stops. It has hired top coaches, sunk millions into development and made the rare move to naturalize a few foreign citizens.

Radunske was the first professional athlete without Korean lineage to be granted citizenship in South Korea.

Now he carries the hopes of a budding hockey nation on his back.

As lunch wraps up, the conversation inevitably shifts toward the Games.

"Has the NHL decided if it's going to let its players participate in the Olympics yet?" asks Radunske.

An awkward silence falls around the table. A nervous laughter follows.

"I hope not," says Radunske in a semi-serious tone.

The next day the Anyang Sports Complex Arena is buzzing with activity.

It's two hours until puck drop and a dozen girls in brightly coloured figure skating tutus practise pirouettes to classical music at centre ice while young boys in one-piece speedskating suits whiz by on the outside.

They emulate their heroes such as Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna, who has reached celebrity status. Speedskaters, too, are regularly mobbed at the airport while Texas Rangers hats dominate the streets in a nod to outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.

Hockey is slow to catch up.

South Korea has a population of more than 50 million but, according to an International Ice Hockey Federation survey, claims just 1,744 registered players and 42 rinks.

Halla is doing its part to generate interest.

It's a big weekend for the hometown club which hosts Japan's Nikko Ice Bucks in back-to-back games. The undefeated squad, which takes its name from the Korean business conglomerate that owns it, has had an 18-day break between games and is getting antsy.

The stands begin to fill up as game time nears.

Supporters wear blue, white and gold Halla jerseys and yellow gloves while clapping in unison as players skate through the mouth of a giant inflatable polar bear.

A Korean version of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" blasts overhead as locals slurp noodles, munch on hard boiled eggs and dip freeze-dried squid into their hot chocolate.

A group of dedicated Canadian expatriates and Americans from the nearby K-16 airbase occupy a section in the corner of the rink — which holds about 1,300 — and sip their own beer that they're allowed to bring inside.

A family affair

Among them is Radunske's wife Kelly, a passionate blond-haired Michigan native whom he courted at university.

"It was a hockey party," she says of that fateful day they met. "I always avoided hockey players but seconds after meeting him I knew something was different."

The couple's three-year-old daughter Lucy practises a few Korean words in between chants of "Go Daddy Go!" from her perch.

"We thought we'd be here for a year," admits Kelly as she surveys the action on the ice.

Eight years later, the family calls Anyang home.

South Korea was the last place Radunske figured he'd end up while growing up in New Hamburg.

He dreamt of playing in the NHL while skating on a backyard rink with his three siblings at their Riverview Avenue home.

"I never played hockey but my wife and I were always active in sports," said Radunske's father, Bob. "We lived in a small town. That was what everybody did. It was just part of our culture."

Radunske was a statistics junkie and would eagerly await The Record so he could dissect all the NHL summaries. He was into fantasy hockey too, long before it became a staple on the Internet.

"I was in a pool where you could actually call a number to see how your team was doing," he said. "It was 99 cents a call and I called it so many times one month. It was a pretty big deal when my parents got the bill."

Played Triple A in Waterloo

After winning a novice provincial championship in New Hamburg he moved on to Triple-A hockey in Waterloo. His offensive instincts caught the eye of the Sarnia Sting who selected him in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League bantam draft in 1999.

Radunske opted to take a scholarship at Michigan State University instead and spent three years with the Spartans.

Tragedy struck during his freshman year when his mother Connie was nearly killed after being hit by a car while out for a jog. She suffered a brain injury, lost her vision in one eye and needed major facial reconstruction surgery.

Months after the accident, both his parents were in Toronto when Radunske was taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round of the NHL draft.

"The things that had gone on really put everything into perspective," he said. "We were just thankful with the direction things were going with her. It was a good day."

After bouncing around the minors for a few years, Radunske realized that he wasn't in Edmonton's plans. He had just finished a year of pro hockey in Augsburg, Germany and married Kelly when an agent proposed the possibility of playing in Asia.

"I vetoed it right away," said Kelly, who was used to weekend trips to the Alps while her husband was playing in Germany. "But two weeks after moving here I fell in love with the country.

"It was a scary culture shock. It used to give me anxiety trying to figure out the Korean symbols. It's not so scary now."

The package was enticing and included a good salary, a four-door Hyundai car, a free apartment five minutes down the road from the rink and a kind 48-game schedule with road trips to China, Japan and the Russian island of Sakhalin Oblast.

Things settled down fast.

Kelly got a job teaching English and Radunske became the first North American player — and the tallest — to sign with Halla.

Speed and skill rule

And the hockey, well, it was better than expected.

"I was definitely impressed," said Radunske. "It obviously doesn't compare to the NHL but it does compare to pro hockey in some of the other leagues."

Most teams in the AIHL have two strong forward units, two good defensive pairings and a solid goalie. After that, the talent drops off.

Speed and skill rule and there isn't a big physical element to the game. There are fights but the code isn't quite the same.

"You might get smacked in the face first and then fight a guy with his gloves on," said Radunske. "Sometimes it's like three guys jump on you. You might get a soccer kick but that doesn't happen often."

Players also regularly fall to the ice like they've been shot after a bodycheck and in some cases are stretchered off only to return minutes later.

There have been some tense moments. Back in 2011, Halla landed at Japan's Sendai Airport 45 minutes before it was hit by a tsunami that ravaged the country.

Radunske's wife nervously watched the scene unfold on TV for hours before getting word that a South Korean rescue plane was en route to bring the team home.

The family's commitment to the country has made them fan favourites. The trio sometimes gets stopped in the streets and has even posed as models in some advertising campaigns.

Radunske's influence on the ice hasn't gone unnoticed either. He leads Halla in all-time points, goals and assists, has won the league MVP and helped the franchise win two AIHL championships.

"He's probably the most respected guy in the whole league in terms of what he's done and his presence," said Testwuide, who has played on Radunske's wing for the past two seasons. "Everybody knows when he's on the ice. He's an institution."

On a good night, Halla draws about 1,000 fans, which is the league average.

The rink is about half full for the first half of the battle with the Ice Bucks and it's not going well. After securing a 2-0 lead, the visitors rallied for a 5-3 win before players lined up at centre ice to bow to the crowd in thanks.

Former NHLer builds team

Up in the press box, Jim Paek looks frustrated.

"Halla seems like a team that has had a long layoff," says the 48-year-old former NHL defenceman.

Paek has flown in from his home in Grand Rapids, Mich., to scout Halla and the other South Korean teams — High 1 and Daemyung Sangmu — in the league.

The stars of those clubs will make up the Olympic roster and as director of hockey for the Korean Ice Hockey Association it's his job to build a competitive squad in time for Pyeongchang.

"It's an exciting time for Korean hockey," said Paek. "It's an exciting time for the Korean players who didn't even think they had an opportunity to play against the world's best hockey players."

Paek was born in Seoul but raised in Etobicoke.

"I speak Korenglish," he says.

He was the first Korean to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup and his Pittsburgh Penguins sweater hangs in the Hockey Hall of Fame in honour of that feat.

After a lengthy pro career, he spent nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.

Now, he has been tasked with preparing South Korea for the Games. And he has some work to do.

The men's hockey team is currently ranked 23rd in the world and competes in Division 1A, which is one level below the top tier on a global scale. The International Olympic Committee wanted the program to reach 18th before granting it permission to compete in Pyeongchang, but has since relented.

When the news broke it had some pundits joking that the team should see if retired NHL star Paul Kariya could qualify to play for the host nation on his last name alone.

Ironically, South Korea owns the record for the most lopsided hockey victory in the world. In 1998, the national team beat Thailand 92-0. Dong Hwan Song — dubbed the Korean Rocket — scored 31 goals.

Uncharted territory

But the squad has never played a hockey superpower. They'll face three in round robin action at the Winter Games.

"For sure they're intimidated," said Paek. "It's going to be a challenge for us."

The Koreans have speed in spades, it's the physical side that needs work. Since taking over last year, Paek has implemented a serious strength and conditioning program and has sent a few of his players to NHL rookie camps.

"People are surprised how good some of these hockey players are," he said. "We just don't have the numbers."

To help, South Korean hockey officials have made the unconventional decision to award citizenship to handful of foreign players.

The first one they targeted was Radunske.

"We were shocked when they first asked him," said his wife, Kelly.

The process was far from automatic.

Radunske was interviewed by the Korean Olympic Committee and immigration services. They wanted to know his story and plans as a citizen.

"It was almost like a courtroom scenario," he said. "One guy had a gavel."

He spent months learning to read, write and speak Korean and studied famous dates and historical facts. He even sang the national anthem.

"I attempted some sort of ballad," he said. "They cut me off half way through and said 'that's good.'

"I didn't want to go in and embarrass myself. I really wanted to show that I put an honest effort in."

It was big news in South Korea, a country notoriously leery of outsiders. According to Korean Immigration Services, foreigners make up about three per cent of the population.

Paek wants to keep the Olympic team as Korean as possible. But since Radunske's appointment, Halla teammate Testwuide and Canadians Michael Swift and Bryan Young have also been granted citizenship.

"We need every advantage we can get," said Paek. "Brock is a key part of my program and team. The players really respect him and he respects the Korean players."

Cautiously optimistic

Radunske refuses to get too excited. He understands that politics often come into play and isn't celebrating until he is officially named to the Olympic squad in two years time.

But he's making a good impression on Paek.

After being held off the scoresheet against the Ice Bucks, he rebounded to score two goals in Halla's 5-2 win in the second half of the two-game series.

The idea of facing teams such as Canada at the Olympics is thrilling. As a centre, Radunske could be taking draws against a superstar like Sidney Crosby.

"If that happened, I just hope I'd get kicked out of the faceoff," he says with a laugh. "That way I wouldn't have to lose it.

"To be up against a roster of players that don't make mistakes and are also the most gifted is a little bit of a scary thought.

"But just to be on the ice at the same time as them would be an incredible honour."

South Korea has a long way to go until that moment. But Radunske is encouraged at the strides the team has made since he became a citizen about a year and a half ago.

Success at the Games will be measured in baby steps — simply scoring against the likes of Canada, not getting blown out and maybe, just maybe, upsetting a traditional hockey nation on home soil.

The ultimate goal is to grow the sport domestically.

"Hopefully it creates a lot of excitement and that translates into the game expanding in South Korea going forward," said Radunske. "I hope in one of the (Olympic) games there can be something to hang your hat on."

Radunske will be a month shy of his 35th birthday by the time the Winter Olympics roll around.

He hasn't made any decisions about his hockey future but admits it would make for a fitting curtain call.

"It's tough to say if that will be the last game I ever play," he said. "At that point I'll obviously be nearing the end but I'll also be the most prepared I've ever been and in the best shape.

"But looking at it as a way to go out seems like a pretty good ending."


Share: http://www.nationalteamsoficehockey.com/gcc_gulf_ice_hockey_championships/Blog550/New-Hamburg-native-helps-fuel-South-Korea-s-Olympic-hockey-hopes-By-James-Brown-therecord-com-10-03-2015


Growing up in Canada I was a huge hockey fan, but it wasn't until the 1972 summit series and the 1976 Canada Cup that I became a big fan of international hockey. The best players in world all playing on a sheet of ice. 
over the years Ice Hockey as grown and is still growing all over the world. On this website you find Video Hi-lites of International Games, Ice hockey News, National Team Records, All Time Results, Scores, Schedule to upcoming games and all International Tournaments from around the world.
We hope you enjoy our website.

We want to thank some people who have contributed to our website over the years.

Danny Laflamme (Montreal, Canada)
Gilberto Prioste (Toronto, Canada)
Mirc & Mario Hric (mmdresy.nhladdons.info, Slovakia)
Mark Cruickshank (roonba.com, Great Britain)

Active Roster



    Facebook Activity Feed

    Powered by GreenRope