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Popularity of ice hockey players
MARCH 08, 2014 04:10  
The final runners in the torch relay for the Sochi Winter Olympics, who had remained in veil, were Russian "Figure Skating Queen" Irina Rodnina and "Ice Hockey Legend" Vladislav Tretiak. Tretiak, currently chairman of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, is a national hero who won three gold medals and one silver at four Winter Olympic events. Sidney Patrick Crosby, captain of the Canadian ice hockey team, which won the gold medal at two consecutive Olympics including Sochi, is as popular in his country as Kim Yu-na is in Korea.

Ice hockey is a simple competition, in which players use a stick to hit the puck to score on the ice, but is considered the last remaining 밠acho sport due to intense physical struggle involved. With rapid speed and strong physical stamina considered essential requirements for the ice hockey player, the game itself is violent and exudes strong masculinity. An ice rink where the National Hockey League in North America holds games is full of noise from screaming teenage girl fans, resembling a concert hall. Girls dream about dating with an ice hockey player. A daughter of former U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Louise Palin was pregnant with her teen boyfriend, who was a hockey player at the same high school she attended.

A guy who Kim Yu-na fell in love is an ice hockey player, an athlete of the sport who is a rarity in Korea. Kim Won-joong, a player with the ice hockey team of the military athletic unit Sangmu, is a talented player and has good look like a movie star. Hence watchers say that he is eligible to be 밙im Yu-na뭩 boyfriend. The two met while using the same ice rink. Since Sangmu has no rink on its own, it was using the Taeneung ice rink for national athletes in Seoul. When Kim frequented the rink after declaring her participation at the Sochi Winter Olympics, they naturally encountered each other. Poor ice skating environment in Korea gave them a chance to meet and fall in love.

Ice hockey was introduced to Korea in 1928 during Japan뭩 colonial rule of Korea. Despite a fairly long history, the sport has yet to emerge as a popular mainstream sport due to a limited number of active players. The sport was often used as route for children of rich families to enter prestigious universities through their sport skills. Semi-professional teams affiliated companies were established in the 1990s, but their athletic level was still lagging far behind the international level. However, Korean ice hockey has made great strides recently to rank third in Asia. The couple, who is drawing keen attention from the public, could motivate ice hockey to gain popularity and enjoy a newfound boom.

Editorial writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)

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