Matt Dalton
AP

South Korea hockey team leans on naturalized Canadian goalie

Leave a comment

SAPPORO, Japan (AP) — Growing up in rural southern Ontario, Matt Dalton never figured that his career path in professional hockey would take him to South Korea.

Dalton, along with a handful of other North American players, has acquired South Korean citizenship and is a key member of the men’s national ice hockey team as it prepares to take on the world’s best as host of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“The possibility of getting citizenship intrigued me,” said the 30-year-old goaltender who is in Sapporo representing South Korea at the Asian Winter Games.

“Also, the job stability,” added Dalton, who played briefly in the Boston Bruins organization. “When you are playing overseas it’s kinda one year at a time. You can get bounced around pretty quick.”

Dalton was playing in Russia in the KHL before getting invited to play for South Korean team Anyang Halla in the Asia Ice Hockey League. The paycheck took him to South Korea. The lure of the Olympics is keeping him there.

The South Korean team has never qualified for the Olympics and is hoping to avoid an embarrassing drubbing on international ice hockey’s biggest stage.

The Korean Olympic Committee asked the justice ministry to fast-track the naturalization of the import players and they were approved in accordance with a revised immigration law that allows qualified foreign nationals to hold multiple citizenships.

Dalton said being able to maintain his Canadian citizenship made the decision a lot easier.

In the 12-nation men’s tournament in Pyeongchang, South Korea has been placed in Group A with top-ranked Canada, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, ranked sixth and seventh respectively.

With or without NHL players — the league is still undecided on whether it will take part — that’s a tough group for the hosts.

“Hockey-wise, we are in pretty deep with the competition,” Dalton said. “There are big challenges no doubt. But we are working hard and trying to get better so, hopefully, we can have a good showing for South Korea.”

Former NHL defenseman Jim Paek was hired to coach the team.

Paek, the first Korean-born hockey player to play in the NHL, won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

His team, 23rd in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s rankings, lost their opening game of the Asian Winter Games 4-0 on Wednesday to Kazakhstan, which is No. 16 in the world rankings.

“They are a good team,” Paek said of the Kazakhs. “We had some good chances but we couldn’t capitalize.”

Paek said getting in games against high-level competition is one of the toughest things about preparing his Olympic squad.

“The lack of game experience at a high-level is our biggest challenge,” Paek said. “In order for us to compete with top-nation teams we need to play them. Hockey is a small world where they have their small group of friends and it’s tough to get in and play any games. So we have to do the best we can and move forward.”

At the IIHF’s second-tier tournament in 2014, South Korea went 0-5 on home ice, was outscored by 30-12, a result that saw the team relegated to world hockey’s third tier for 2015.

South Korea has three clubs in the Asian League Ice Hockey, the only professional league in the region. Those clubs provide most of the national team’s roster.

While some would argue the import players are merely hired guns, Paek had a different take.

“Adding the import players has really helped grow and develop our (Korean) players,” Paek said. “I count on the kids that have been developed in Korea a great deal now.”

For now, Dalton and his fellow transplanted teammates will continue to work on their game and adjust to a new culture.

Having Paek as the coach has made the transition much easier.

“The cultures are so different that things don’t always mesh” Dalton said. “So it’s nice to have that buffer there and know he’s got your back.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: PyeongChang 2018 daily schedule highlights

Young U.S. relay team can’t match Great Britain, Russia (video)

Leave a comment

It’s no coincidence that the U.S. men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team had its worst finish since 2001, a bronze in Budapest on Friday.

From 2002 through 2016, either Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte was part of the quartet (and usually both of them were).

But with Phelps retired and Lochte suspended, a much younger foursome swam at worlds, including three men who had no Olympic final experience.

The U.S. led after three of four legs, but Great Britain anchor James Guy (2015 World 200m free champion) had the fastest split of all 32 swimmers by .78.

Guy zoomed past American Zane Grothe as the Brits repeated as world champs in the relay by .98 over Russia, which was a half-second ahead of the U.S. for silver.

Grothe, who is better in the 400m and 800m frees, split three seconds slower than Guy. He was the slowest American by nearly a second (when accounting for slower leadoff legs due to flat starts).

One swimmer the U.S. left off the final quartet was Conor Dwyer, a relay finalist member at every Olympics worlds since 2011. But Dwyer, the Rio 200m free bronze medalist, was fourth in the 200m free at nationals and even slower leading off the U.S. 4x200m in the morning heats.

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay Results
Gold: Great Britain — 7:01.70
Silver: Russia — 7:02.68
Bronze: U.S. — 7:03.18
4. Australia — 7:05.98
5. Japan — 7:07.68
6. Italy — 7:09.94
7. Poland — 7:09.62
8. Netherlands — 7:12.76

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

WORLDS: TV Schedule | Schedule/Results | Race Videos

Simone Biles gets biopic

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Simone Biles is executive producing her own biopic, “The Simone Biles Story” (working title) set to premiere in early 2018 on Lifetime.

The film is based on her biography, “Courage to Soar,” and will reveal “the sacrifices and dedication it took her to become one of the greatest and most celebrated athletes in the world,” according to a press release.

Biles is a co-executive producer with three others, including her agent.

Biles follows Gabby Douglas, whose biopic, “The Gabby Douglas Story,” premiered on Lifetime in early 2014 after her 2012 Olympic all-around title.

Biles is expected to return to gymnastics training late this year or early next year.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: For Gabby Douglas, this gymnastics break is different