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: New with box: A brand-new, unused, and unworn item (including handmade items) in the original packaging (such as ... Read moreabout the condition Brand:
Style: Low Topwomens size 10 ASICS HYPER-ROCKETGIRL SP 4 cleats,
"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."
Columbia Ravenous Lite Flash Sport Running Sneaker Womens 5.5 M Shoe Gray Purple,Woman Skechers BOBS Luxe Sparkle Dot Ballet Flat 31460 LTGY Light Gray Brand NEWSkechers Women's Go Golf Blade 2 Golf Shoes Ladies 14867 CCBL Charcoal/Blue New,Man's/Woman's Propét Womens washable walker Leather Low Top Lace Up Fashion Sneakers Good world reputation New products in 2018 Reliable reputation NV1704,Grasshoppers Womens Windham Closed Toe Loafers, Stone, Size 6.5 PQ3s US / 4.5 UKK-Swiss - X LITE Women's Trainer Black (93376-016-M),NEW Rockport BX1996 Emalyn Tie Laser Cut Sneakers, Women's Blue - Choose SizeAsics Onitsuka Tiger Aaron CV zapatos zapatillas deportivosAdidas Originals Superstar Slip-On Women Wmns Shoes Black Core White S81337,NWT Womens Size 9 Casual Black Floral Accent Slip on Comfort Sneakers,Skechers Energy Burst Ellipse - Women's Size 8.5 Black/White,MTT SPORT Green Canvas Womens Platform Sneakers Shoes Hi Top Trainers 6 EUBaby Phat Purple Black And White High Top Sneakers Women's Size 9,femmes Spot On dos-nu à enfiler lacet devant chaussures,Easy Spirit Women's Faisal2 Sneaker, Pink, Size 8.0,Skechers Flex Appeal 2.0 Trainers Ladies US 9 CM 26 REF 2683,Man's/Woman's Alisha Womens Flat Platform Lace Up Glittery Trainers Fitness Gym Sporty Shoes Ideal gift for all occasions Wholesale trade Preferred boutique NR1675Nike Womens Rval Sister 2 Track Field Spike Shoes Cleats 502619 471 Blue Size 8Skechers Women's Go 4 Atmosphere 14905BKW Walk Shoe Black/White Size 11Womens New Balance sz9B Speed Ride Trail Running Sneakers Shoes WT690CC1 EUC,VANS Leah Frost Gray Canvas Slip On Flat Women ShoesFred Perry Kingston Womens White Canvas Trainers,Ladies Light Weight Grey And Pink Trainers, Size 5.,Asics Gel Contend 3 - Size 6/ Euro 39- Blue Pink Polka Dots,$99.99 Creative Recreation Womens Dicoco (blue buffalo / hot pink / turquoise) WSkechers Womens Flex Appeal Bungee Slip On Memory Foam Shoe NEW,Foot Petals Women's Blair Fashion Jogger Cushionology Sneaker Black 11 M Suede,Men's/Women's Goldene Turnschuhe mit Brokat Beautiful design Brand Very good classification,Gentleman/Lady Fila Womens Disruptor II (10, Gold) Guarantee quality and quantity product quality Exquisite processing,Man/Woman Use-Custom-Brand Womens Lake 205 Low Top Lace Up Fashion Sneakers Clearance price Various types and styles Fair price WG1639
"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.