Andong “Misha” Song, 18, made history last week as the first Chinese player in the National Hockey League after being selected by the New York Islanders with the No. 172 pick on Saturday, June 27. One sports official suggested Song might become “the Yao Ming of Chinese ice hockey.”
The Beijing native has been playing since he was 6 years old, when his mother suggested he try it. He fell in love with it, and his talent was spotted at a young age. His family moved to Canada to help him pursue his dream, as there were few resources for hockey players in China at the time, where some coaches were skeptical at first about a Chinese player.
Since then, Song has starred in games locally and internationally. He currently plays as a defenseman for the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and next season he will play for the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. For the past two years, he has played for China at the IIHF Division II-B World Under-18 Championship, this year as the team captain.
Ice hockey is a young but already popular sport in China, where 1,500 players play on nearly 100 youth teams in Beijing alone. Parents of these young players have expressed hope that Song’s achievements will boost the popularity of hockey further and that he will be an inspiration for future players. Sports officials hope that the NHL draft will help with China’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
"Hopefully what I want to do is rally people behind me,” Song said in an interview with the NHL. “Not focus on myself but do something good for Chinese hockey."
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Photo: Song poses after being drafted by the New York Islanders. Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images