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Tim Arsenault: the Canadian in Korea’s Olympic hockey corner

Baek Chi-sun (head coach Jim Paek) and Team Korea players, shown in December 2017 in a photo by Oleg Bkhambri.
Baek Chi-sun (head coach Jim Paek) and Team Korea players, shown in December 2017 in a photo by Oleg Bkhambri. - Submitted

The Korean women’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics is symbolically unified through the inclusion of a few players from the North.

The South Korean men’s hockey team is not-so-symbolically trying to look like they belong in the rink through the inclusion of a half-dozen players from Canada.

So some of the chatter between the whistles must have been interesting during the Canada-South Korea game.

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With NHL players forced to take a pass on Pyeongchang, Team Canada’s roster is filled with guys a lot of casual hockey fans consider to be second-tier. They’re out to prove they’re worthy of wearing the Maple Leaf crest.

For the host country, which had never qualified for the men’s Olympic hockey tournament, there was the goal of, well, trying to score a goal or two.

Tim Arsenault
Tim Arsenault

To that end, six Canadians — including workhorse goalie Matt Dalton of Clinton, Ont. — moved to Asia to keep their on-ice careers from being put on ice. They played in pro leagues in South Korea and became citizens, allowing them to suit up for their second country.

For Canadians not having a lazy Sunday, the game was way more tense than it should have been, especially in the early going. On paper, Team Canada should have been lighting up the scoreboard. But, as I like to say, the game’s not played on paper.

The South Koreans, both native-born and naturalized, hung around for quite awhile before being worn down.

The hosts also didn’t make it easy for Don Cherry. No, they didn’t make Canada’s old-time hockey curmudgeon wear a jacket that looked like he just escaped a flower shop that exploded, but still.

For one thing, the coach, Jim Paek, is a native Korean who grew up in Canada. During the Mario Lemieux era, Paek was a teammate on two Pittsburgh Penguins lineups that won the Stanley Cup. He was even a guest on the Grapevine TV show back in the day.

But Cherry would like to penalize you for holding two passports.

“Well, I hope someday they don’t have all the Canadians because, you know, the only reason it is one-nothing is because the goaltender is a Canadian,” he said during Coach’s Corner.

So there’s at least one Canadian six-pack Cherry can’t get behind.

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