February 18, 2008 08:40
“The name on the back of my uniform is special to me. I am Alex, an American, but at the same time, I am Kim, a Korean. During my career in the United States, I always tried to show that Koreans could be a great hockey player.”
To Alex Kim, the Korean American on the High1 team in Korea, the 2007-2008 season was a memorable one. Scoring 23 goals and 28 assists, he ranked no. 1 in both goals and points in Asia League Ice Hockey, which is composed of seven teams from Japan, China and Korea. He became the first player of Korean descent to take first place in both goals and points during the regular season. His team also advanced to the semifinals, finishing the season in second place.
Born to Korean parents in Los Angeles, Kim began to play ice hockey at the age of five. He soon stood out, even playing in the National Junior Hockey League. Then he decided to knock on the door of adult arena -- the U.S. National Hockey League. But the door did not open easily. After being refused several times, he finally gave up and decided to move to Korea last July.
Being American by nationality, he is officially a foreign player. At first, he had a hard time adjusting to the Korean team: everything was different, from language to training methods. He could not understand the strict seniority system among team members or the unequal relationship between coaches and players. He felt alienated from, and frequently clashed with, colleagues and would often sit alone in the locker room with earphones on his ears while other teammates were having a chat.
“‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ So I thought, ‘When in Korea, do as Koreans do’. It took me a long time to come to this conclusion, but anyway I decided to change," he said.
A High1 official says, "Alex Kim is Korean in looks but American in his way of thinking. That is why he had even harder time than other foreign players. But he seems determined to change.”
Kim's father runs a real estate agency in Los Angeles. His mother frequently visits Korea to look after him. “From health training to diet, mom takes care of everything. She still treats me like a kid,” Kim smiles.
He has two dreams. In the short run, he wants to win the first ever gold for Korea in the Asia League. In the long run, after retiring from the field, he wants to set up his own ice hockey club.
“Ice hockey is not a popular sport in Korea. But I believe that will change. I want to prove that ice hockey can give young people a dream,” he said.
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