CHICAGO — Suzuki and Yamamoto are not names that show up often on the back of National Hockey League (NHL) jerseys.
But teenagers Nick Suzuki and Kailer Yamamoto — both picked in the first round of June’s 2017 NHL draft in Chicago — may be the start of a new trend.
This year’s draft was historic, with Suzuki, Yamamoto, and Jason Robertson plucked in the first two rounds, the most Asian Americans to ever go that high in a single NHL draft according to William Douglas, a journalist from The Color of Hockey, which tracks diversity in the sport.
“Asian-American players have gone high in the NHL draft before,” Douglas told NBC News. “But this is a first time that you've had such a cluster of players drafted in the early rounds.”
Condition: Pre-owned: An item that has been used or worn previously. See the seller’s listing for full details and ... Read moreabout the condition Style: Boots Pattern: Camouflage Brand:
US Shoe Size (Men's): 11 Width: Medium (D, M) Color:
Fastening: ZipNew Rock Shoes - Tall Leather Boots with Black Flames,
"It's definitely a big opportunity. I want to show everybody you can do it, no matter what."
Sooner than later, this might become the norm. As the Asian population has grown in United States and Canada, more and more Asian kids have taken up ice hockey, according to a team executive.
During the 2015-2016 season, 983 players appeared in a regular season NHL game, according to statistics from NHL.com. Just four of them — Matt Dumba, Devin Setoguchi, Jujhar Khaira, and Joshua Ho-Sang — appear to be of Asian descent.
"We've seen an increase in the number of players who have Asian heritage," Mike Oke — general manager of the Peterborough Petes, which play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) — said. The OHL is one of the NHL's primary feeder leagues.
"It's definitely kind of a big step for the community," Suzuki, who was selected 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights and scored a goal in the new franchise’s first pre-season game in September, told NBC News.
Suzuki grew up in London, Ontario, a city halfway between Toronto and Detroit.
According to his father, Suzuki’s great-great-grandparents immigrated to Canada in 1909. They, along with Suzuki's great-grandparents and grandfather were incarcerated in Kaslo, British Columbia, during World War II.
"From a Canadian perspective, some of the hockey players today, their parents immigrated to Canada, either as young teens or as adults, and therefore, weren't exposed to the game of hockey at a young age," Oke, the hockey executive, said. "Whereas now, the second and third generation of individuals who immigrated have been born and raised and inundated with the game of hockey."
MENS BNWOB RED TAPE DISTRESSED BROWN ANKLE BOOTS Size 10 IDEAL FOR WINTER,Mens Boots Waterproof Weatherproof Steel Shank Explorers Sz 11M Brown,mens black real buffalo bull skin leather boots cowboy western rodeo exotic j,Mens NEXT brown leather shoes size 6.5,Mountain Creek Brown Slip On Sandals Size 9RED TAPE Ridgeway Gris Botines Con Cordones textil para hombre cuero,Oaktrak Walton HOMBRE DE PIEL SIN CIERRES ELEGANTE Distribuidor Chelsea Botas,Cofra 26640-000 Welder BIS UK S3 HRO SRC Safety Shoes Black - SALE PRICE,*SALE*- Work Zone 8" Waterproof Desert Tactical Boot -N875HOMBRE DE LONA VACACIONES Sin Cordones Informal Verano Suela Plana Zapatos a1072,Tony Lama Dark Brown Leather Mens Cowboy Roper Boots Size 8.5,Grafters M9536A Essentiel Unisexe Noir Col Rembourré Bottes de Sécurité CuirArbeitsschuhe von Stabilus NEU in Gr. 45 Neu Safty Footwear,Himalayan 3402 Sbp Sra Nubuck Miel Goodyear Couture Embout Coqué en Acier,Red Wing Iron Ranger Mens Boots Copper New Shoes,Man/Woman Mens Kung Fu Canvas Plimsolls Quality products Trendy Most practical,Dakota Men's 529 HD3 8" STSP Steel Toe Injected Welt Boot Brown Size 12MRoamers Desert Boots Mens 5 Eye Classic Real Suede Leather Ankle Boots UK6-12,Laredo Cowboy Boots Men size 9.5 EE Black WesternTony Lama Black Leather Western Cowboy Boots Style 2993 3M-3 Men's 9 D (Medium),Mr/Ms Red Wing 877 Boots Oro 12D flagship store Upper material Fine wild,Danner Boots 15563 Bull Run Moc Toe Made In USA 6" Wedge Sole Work Leather Brown,Vintage Mens Black Leather Cowboy Boots Sz 7.5 M Western,Men's Herter's Hunting Hiking Waterproof Boots ( 8),Justin 1408 Men's Black Leather Cowboy Boots Size 11.51800- Uomo Catesby Chelsea Stivali BROGUE MARRONE & Nero - OTTIMO PREZZO,White's Boots Semi-Dress Black Calf and Vaquero Bullhide 5" sz 8.5 DTCX DRIFTER WP BROWN WATERPROOF ADVENTURE MOTORCYCLE MOTORBIKE BOOTS,Dakota Men's 6'' Quad Comfort Steel Toe Composite Plate Work Boots Brown 10.5 WMen's STEVE MADDEN Gray Zip Up Boots Black Gray Side Zip Distressed - Size 12,
"I'm glad we're getting our culture out," Yamamoto, whose name was called by the Edmonton Oilers with the 22nd pick, said.
According to Yamamoto’s father, three generations of Yamamotos were born and raised in Spokane, Washington, including Kailer and himself. Before the Yamamotos settled in the Pacific Northwest, Saichi Yamamoto immigrated from Okinawa to Hawaii, meeting his wife Momoyo. Both Saichi and Momoyo Yamamoto were incarcerated during World War II.
Unlike Nick Suzuki and Kailer Yamamoto, Jason Robertson, whose mother is of Filipino descent, did not grow up in a hockey hotbed. He was born and raised in the city of Arcadia in Southern California.
"I love hockey, I want everybody to be part of it," Robertson, who went 39th overall to the Dallas Stars, said.
"From an American perspective, the sport has really outgrown what used to be the traditional pockets. In the past, hockey was typically played in some of the colder climate states," Oke noted. "But now, with the expansion of the NHL into the southern climes such as California and Nevada and Arizona and Texas and Florida — you have people in those particular areas, for the first time, able to participate from a young age."
Combined, those states have an Asian-American population of more than six million people, according to data from the 2010 U.S. Census, nearly a third of the country’s Asian-American population.
"It's been a coast for me," Yamamoto said, smiling. "Everywhere I've gone, people have treated me with utmost respect."
"Whoever you are, whatever you are, it all comes down to hard work and dedication," Robertson said.
“Asian-American players have gone high in the NHL draft before. But this is a first time that you've had such a cluster of players drafted in the early rounds.”
But at least one aspect of their careers is similar to Kwong and Paek. Each is proud of being an example for Asian-American kids who don't have a lot of role models in the sport.
"It's definitely a big opportunity," acknowledged Suzuki. "I want to show everybody you can do it, no matter what."
They're already influencing their siblings: 16-year-old Ryan Suzuki and 15-year-old Nick Robertson were both selected in the first round of the most recent OHL Priority Selection, held on April 8. This junior-level draft is often a precursor to the NHL edition.
So it’s possible there will be more Suzukis, Yamamotos, and Robertsons banging down the door of the NHL soon.
“This isn't a one-shot deal,” Douglas, the journalist, said.
Suzuki concurs, "There's definitely a lot [of Asians] coming up."
CORRECTION (Sept. 27, 2017, 3:10 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated Nick Suzuki's relationship with the members of his family who immigrated to Canada. Suzuki's great-great-grandparents immigrated, not his great-grandparents.