Korean hockey team ready to play, not worry about politics

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — All the protests and ceremonies surrounding the first combined Korean team in Olympic history are about to take a pause, at least for a few hours.

The Korean women’s hockey team, its every move watched and dissected since North Koreans were added to the roster just a few weeks ago, will make its Olympics debut in a sold-out game against Switzerland on Saturday night. It will be an extraordinary moment for Koreans, and it comes just 24 hours after the opening ceremony.

Tuning out all the politics will be impossible.

“Obviously, it’s in the back of our heads that this goes bigger than just hockey and this combined team,” defenseman Marissa Brandt said Friday. “But we just focus on the game and focus on what we can control.”

Playing hockey is all they can do. Rumors swirled Friday as the Koreans practiced that Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, might attend the game and be among the capacity crowd of 6,000 at the Kwandong Hockey Center. She arrived Friday as the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the Korean War in 1950-53.

Read the rest of the story and get more hockey news at NBCOlympics.com