ZURICH/SEOUL – Canada-born players and cousins Bryan Young and Michael Swift have been declared eligible to represent Korea in ice hockey.
The Ministry of Justice in Korea approved the two Canadians' Korean citizenship on 21st January and after reviewing their eligibility status in accordance with the requirements stated in the IIHF Status & Bylaws, the players have become eligible to represent Korea in IIHF championships and Olympic ice hockey tournaments.
Thus, Swift and Young will be eligible to represent their new country in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A on home ice in Goyang City next April.
Young, 186 cm and 86 kg, played 17 games for the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL. His experience in the NHL, defensive skills and a strong slap shot should be a huge advantage for Korea not only in equal strength but also during power-play situations.
The 27-year-old defenceman moved to Korea in 2010 and is in his fourth season with High1 Chuncheon of the Asia League. He has seven goals and 13 assist in 27 games this year in the Asia League.
Meanwhile, Swift is one of the best forwards in the Asia League. His speed while carrying the puck as well as shooting accuracy belies his 175 cm height. The 26-year-old joined High1 Chuncheon in 2011 and scored most goals, most assist and most points in the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 seasons. He posted an incredible record with 39 goals and 58 assists in 40 games in 2012/2013 and is leading the scoring race with 31 goals and 22 assists in 28 games in the current season.
The two players were granted citizenship according to new naturalization rules for outstanding athletes by the Republic of Korea.
They will join Brock Radunske, 30, who received his Korean passport in March 2013. He participated in the 2013 IIHF World Championship Division I Group A in April in Budapest, Hungary, and had three goals and two assists in five games en route to keeping Korea in the group. Radunske became the first athlete without Korean heritage to represent the country in any sport.
Now that another two Canada-born Koreans join their national team, Korea can set the goal even higher. Young and Swift already joined the Korean national team as special guests in two exhibition games against Kazakhstan in November 2013 in Goyang City, the host of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A.
Korea, 25th in the current IIHF World Ranking, will participate in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in April in Goyang City alongside Austria (15), Slovenia (17), Hungary (19), Ukraine (20) and Japan (21).
The top-two teams of the tournament will be promoted to the Top Division of the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic.
The Koreans now aims to improve on their fifth-placed placing in last year's championship in Hungary with the addition of the new players. Radunske, Swift and Young are also expected to help their new team turn Korea's 2018 Olympic dream into reality.
– with files from the Korean Ice Hockey Association