Song Andong became the first Chinese-born player to be drafted into the National Hockey League.
The New York Islanders chose the defenceman in the sixth round, with the 172nd pick of the entry draft on Saturday in the annual draft which showcases the best college and junior players from leagues in North America and Europe.
The selection of Song drew much media attention from China. He is the fourth player drafted into American professional sports leagues after Wang Zhizhi, Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, which is of extraordinary significance both for hockey’s development in China and Beijing’s bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
The Asian market is one that the NHL, and hockey in general, have yet to crack. One thought was that the Olympics would help achieve that, as IIHF president Rene Fasel argued in 2013. “We have 500 hockey players in China, not 500 million or 500,000 but 500 out of population of 1.3 billion people and 60 ladies are playing,” Fasel said. Zhao Ying, deputy secretary general of Olympic Games Bidding Committee, indicated that hockey has been included into China’ sports development plan.
The 18-year-old Chinese player has opened a door for Chinese sports.