Ice Hockey Team Gets Boost as More Canadian Players Naturalize

Michael Swift (left) and Brian Young /Courtesy of the Korea Ice Hockey Association Michael Swift (left) and Brian Young /Courtesy of the Korea Ice Hockey Association

Two more ice hockey players from Canada have become naturalized Korean citizens in order to represent the country on the international stage.

"The Ministry of Justice granted Korean citizenship to Brian Young and Michael Swift, who were recommended by the Korean Olympic Committee. They will greatly enhance the competitiveness of Korean ice hockey," the Korea Ice Hockey Association said on Tuesday.

International Ice Hockey Federation President René Fasel said last March that he will consider giving the Korean men's team a spot in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang if its world ranking climbs to No. 18 or higher. This would be done as a courtesy to the host nation, he added.

Currently, Korea is ranked 25th by the IIHF. Automatic qualification for the host nation was abolished after the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Young and Swift benefited from a revised immigration law that allows talented or qualified foreign nationals to hold multiple citizenship if they are expected to make great contributions to the national interest.

Last March, Canadian ice hockey forward Brock Radunske became the first athlete to naturalize as a Korean.

Young, standing 186 cm tall and weighing 86 kg, is a powerful player both in offense and defense. Earlier in his career, he was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the National Hockey League.

Swift scored 39 goals and made 58 assists in 40 games for the High 1 in the regular season last year. He is the league leader in points this season with 31 goals and 22 assists from 28 games.

Korea will face world No. 15 Austria, Slovenia (No. 17), Hungary (19), Ukraine (20) and Japan (21) in Division 1A of the IIHF World Championship in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, in April 2015.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 22, 2014 10:30 KST