Danelle Im first thought it was one of those Internet scams, you know, like when the prince from some faraway land sends you a too-good-to-be-true email promising to share his vast stolen fortune if you help him recover it by supplying your bank card or social security numbers.
Danelle Im (Photo/Alex D’Addese).
When Im, a Toronto native, got a message in 2012 inquiring whether she’d be interested in playing hockey for South Korea in the 2018 Winter Olympics, she was a tad skeptical.
Lucky for the 2018 Winter Games host country, Im did her homework and the former Ryerson University forward joined South Korea’s women’s national team.
“Being handed this opportunity – it’s literally been given to me – is extremely humbling,” Im told Ryerson’s Eyeopenerin February. “That’s why I want to put up my best effort. This is a gift.”
Her tally was an even-strength goal that came in the third period and extended South Korea’s lead to 4-1.
Im, who recently finished her first and only season at Toronto’s Ryerson, was one of several hockey players with Korean-sounding last names and living in North America who received invites to help the Asian nation quickly build Olympic-level women’s and men’s ice hockey from teams almost from scratch.
South Korea’s method for filling its Olympic hockey roster isn’t unusual. For example, Jamaicais scouring the United States and Canada for hockey talent of island heritage in hopes of fielding an Olympic ice hockey team in the near future.
Togo, a West African nation, used Facebook to recruit a Togolese-born skier who was raised in the French Alps to be a member of its two-person team for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
And Dominica’s cross country ski team at the 2014 Winter Games was a couple who hailed from Staten Island, New York, not the Caribbean island nation.
Former Ryerson University forward Danelle Im played 20 games for the Rams in 2016-17 (Photo/Alex D’Addese/Ryerson Rams Athletics).
South Korea isn’t known for hockey – its women’s and men’s teams are both ranked 23rd in the world by the IIHF. The country has only 2,591 players, 259 of them women, according to the IIHF
But because PyeongChang, South Korea, is the site of the 2018 Winter Games, the country gets to field men’s and women’s teams to go up against more established hockey powers from North America and Europe.
From Toronto to PyeongChang. Former Ryerson University hockey player Danelle Im is looking forward to facing the world’s best at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea (Photo/Alex D’Addese/ Ryerson Rams Athletics)
So when South Korea put out an all-call to help boost its program pronto, Im was only too happy to sign on – once she learned that the offer was legit.
“I never dreamed this would happen,” Im, who was born in Toronto to Korean parents, told The New York Times in February.
Im’s goal Sunday matched her output for Ryerson in 2016-17. She had a goal and 3 assists in 20 games for the Rams.
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When Ryerson University hockey forward Kryshanda Green had to choose what number to wear on her jersey this season, she quickly picked No.8 in honor of a certain Washington Capitals player.
While high-scoring Alex Ovechkin is currently Washington’s Great Eight, Green’s choice pays homage to a different No. 8 who she thinks is pretty great: her grandfather, Bill Riley.
Ryerson University’s Kryshanda Green (Photo/Alex D’Addese).
Riley, who the number for the Capitals from 1976 to 1979, was the National Hockey League’s third black player. He followed in the skates of teammate Mike Marson and Willie O’Ree, who became the league’s first black player when he joined the Boston Bruins in 1958.
“My grandfather is like a a huge influence on me, he’s very inspiring,” Green told me recently. “I know he dealt with a lot of adversity. His situation is something that I can be proud of for the rest of my life.”
Green took Riley’s number as a personal reminder of the obstacles that he had to overcome and the perseverance he displayed in not letting anyone – including some racist fans and fellow players – or anything prevent him from achieving his goals.
“It was more when I was in the minor leagues – I went through a lot in the minors,” Riley, who grew up in Nova Scotia, told me recently. “I got called names down in the U.S., I didn’t even know what they meant. I had to ask another black guy. They used to call me ‘chitlin.‘ I didn’t know what a chitlin was. We don’t have chitlins up in Canada, we don’t eat chitlins in Canada.”
Riley appeared in 139 NHL games over five seasons with the Capitals and Winnipeg Jets, notching 31 goals and 30 assists.
Bill Riley, the NHL’s third black player, donned the No. 8 for the Washington Capitals long before Alex Ovechkin made it famous.(Photos/Washington Capitals).
Green says she’s taking lessons from Riley’s perseverance and using it to revive a promising hockey career that hit a big red stop sign three seasons ago.
Green began her Canadian collegiate hockey career at London, Ontario’s WesternUniversity in 2012-13. She tallied 9 goals and 13 assists for the Mustangsand earned Ontario University Athletics’ All-Rookie Team honors that season.
But success on ice didn’t translate to success in the classroom. Hitting the books wasn’t her top priority.
“I wasn’t ready academically,” she said. “I wasn’t willing to do the work. I wasn’t willing to study or put dedication toward academics. I was certainly willing to play hockey. I did that day in and day out, anytime I could. I loved it. But academically, I hadn’t matured in the same way, and that was my downfall.”
Kryshanda Green leads Ryerson University’s women’s hockey team in scoring in the 2016-17 season (Photo by Alex D’Addese/ Ryerson Rams Athletics)
Frustrated, Green left Western and quit hockey altogether – moves that broke her grandfather’s heart.
“It really disappointed me because I knew how good she was,” said Riley, 66. “She has a gear that a lot of players will never get, no matter how hard they work. She is so explosive to the outside, she’s unbelievable. And she shoots the puck a ton – she fires bullets for a girl that small. She was too darn good not to play.”
“To be honest, I think my grandfather was the most upset,” Green recalled. “He was like ‘What are you doing? How can you stop playing? You’ve got to get through this.'”
But Green said was stubbornly determined not to return to the rink. She filled the hockey void by getting in touch with her artistic side.
She collaborated with Toronto-area hip-hop artists and even released her own EP and video as the artist known as Krash.
But even as she busted rhymes, hockey remained on her mind.
“It was something that I knew I wasn’t done with, that I finished too early,” Green told me. “It was something that I was tired of keeping me up at night.”
While performing music was fun, working regular jobs in Toronto area warehouses and for a film services company from 2013 to 2015 were hardly inspiring, Green confessed.
Fortunately, a life-line came in the form of a phone call from Lisa Haley, Ryerson’s women’s hockey head coach and former assistant coach on the Canadian women’s national team that won gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Haley wanted to know if Green was interested in playing hockey again. Krash dropped the mic and grabbed a stick.
“I thought I wasn’t going to get another chance to finish what I started after all these years, so I took it because I thought that getting an education was the most valuable thing for me to get right now,” Green said.
Green was red-shirted at Ryerson last season, meaning she didn’t appear in single game for the Rams. That gave her time to focus on academics, which resulted in a 3.5 grade-point average last year, she said.
“This year, I’m currently a 3.0. After exams, hopefully, it will be higher,” Green, a politics and governance major, told me. “It’s the most important part.”
Her on-ice stats are pretty good, too. The 5-foot-4 forward from Brampton, Ontario, leads the Rams in scoring with 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points in 12 games. She’s fourth in the OUA in points; fourth in goals; and eighth in assists.
“It’s been amazing,” Green said of her success after the long hockey layoff. “I have a greater appreciation for the game that I never thought I’d have. It feels like home again…It’s honestly such a privilege for me to get on the ice. For me, just being able to step on the ice and play a game is huge.”
Kryshanda Green is thrilled to be playing hockey again after a lengthy layoff (Photo by Alex D’Addese/ Ryerson Rams Athletics)
Green’s work ethic and dedication earned her an assistant captain’s “A” on her jersey this season, a symbol that she’s a team leader.
“She is highly skilled, she’s got blazing speed on the ice, but the bigger impact of ‘Krash’s’ legacy on our program has been her leadership,” Haley said. “She is the picture of accountability, integrity and perseverance. These are key qualities that every successful team embodies and she brought these to the rink every single day last year, knowing she wouldn’t even play a game the entire season.”
Just what proud grandpa Bill Riley likes to hear.
“She’s blowing the doors off her grades,” he said of his granddaughter. “And she’s blowing the doors off the hockey.”