When Chris Chelios and america went on a run to the men’s ice hockey Olympic ultimate in 2002, son Jake dreamed of emulating his father.
Twenty years later, Jake Chelios is on the Olympics – however not the way in which he would have envisioned.
He’s one among seven Individuals enjoying for China on the Beijing Video games, a part of a staff made up of largely international gamers who shall be counted on to maintain the host nation from being blown out in its personal buildings.
“I think half the family was a little confused of what was going on at first, but now they’re starting to understand how special it is,” stated Chelios, who moved to Beijing in 2019 to play for China-owned Kunlun Crimson Star within the Kontinental Hockey League.
“Since we’ve been over here for three years, whatever it is, you do start to feel a closeness to China … you want to win for them.”
Of the 25 gamers on the Chinese men’s hockey roster, 18 had been born in or grew up in North America and one is Russian.
Many don’t have any Chinese ancestry or connection to the nation earlier than becoming a member of Kunlun.
Worldwide Ice Hockey Federation guidelines enable gamers to symbolize a rustic in the event that they’ve spent a minimum of two years dwelling there and enjoying for the nationwide staff.
The pandemic pressured Kunlun to relocate to the Moscow space and added one other twist to the weird journey of North Individuals changing into a part of China’s Olympic staff, however the IIHF decided the imported gamers had been eligible to compete.
Chelios and Canadian ahead Brandon Yip stated they relied on a administration staff to determine the paperwork and logistics.
The once-in-a-lifetime alternative got here with loads of sacrifices for Chelios and the opposite North Individuals on the staff.
Visa points stored many away from relations and the time collectively bonded the teammates.
“We’re always together,” Chelios stated. “We’re as close as you can get because we have to be.”
Practices like the extraordinary, bodily 90-minute session on Wednesday are run in English by Italian-Canadian coach Ivano Zanatta and Canadian assistant Clayton Beddoes.
The Chinese federation places extra restrictions on athletes contained in the Olympic village, and they’re informed they can’t do interviews on a given day with out rationalization.
Gamers appear desperate to share their tales. Yip is proud to symbolize China, the place three of his 4 grandparents had been born.
China’s match contains video games towards the US, Canada and Germany. Even with the inflow of North American expertise, there have been considerations the host nation could be embarrassed on residence ice by NHL stars.
The NHL’s resolution to not cease its season to ship gamers to Beijing has offered China with a boost of confidence that the staff could be extra aggressive than anticipated.
“It’s a lot more realistic to do some damage for us,” Chelios stated. “We want to challenge the teams and earn some respect for China.”
That begins in China’s match opener towards the US on February 10.