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 Upper Material: Suede Shoe Size: UK 1 Brand:
PUMAUnisex Adults Spot On Hook & Loop Casual Pumps SV1,
"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."
Womens SAUCONY Athletic Shoes - Size US 9 Wide,Men's/Women's Asics astroturf trainers - ladies Year-end special promotions Has a long reputation Clearance saleWomen's Skechers 12536H Black/Hot Pink Athletics 13L,Men's/Women's BNWT Oasis Trainers size 4 New market Preferred material Valuable boutiqueNike ACG Women's Hiking/Walking Shoe-Size 7.5-Tan w/ Orange Accents-Very Nice!,New Balance Off Road 908 Women's Size 6 Trail Shoes - Super Nice - Fast Ship,Man/Woman low top canvas trainers Customer first Let our goods go to the world Different styles and styles,UNISEX CONVERSE ALL STAR LOW WHITE LEATHER MONO PLIMSOLLS PUMPS TRAINERS SIZE 6Nike Ladies Hi Top Trainers Size 5Superga 2790 Cotmet Shine Platform Gold Womens TrainersPuma Fenty Creepers Rihanna Shoes Sneakers Grey Women Urban Fashion Size Eur38,5,Man's/Woman's LifeStride Frauen Fashion Sneaker Various goods Let our products go to the world Beautiful and charming,'Keep' Eco Friendly Hi Top Trainers Brown and Blue Check,Grey Sneakers Womens New Never Worn Casual,Gentlemen/Ladies Bungundy Vans Unisex Size 5.5 Adequate supply and timely delivery New style Perfect processing,Unbranded PUMPS PLIMSOLS ivory glittery sparkly pull on flat canvas EU38 UK5New Women's Skechers Empire Inside Look Slip On Casual Shoe 12419 Blk/Wht ssc 1G,Nike Air Ladies Training shoes shoes Free Postage,IKRUSH Women's Demi Bombas De Arco in WHITE Size 3,Mr/Ms nike air max thea Elegant and sturdy set meal Stylish and charming Strong heat and heat resistance,Man's/Woman's Allstar Blue Converse Plimpsoles, Size 5 Packaging diversity modern unique,Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Animal Hi Womens Trainers Black Sheep 500043 D41,Mizuno Womens Wave Precision 12 Size 9.5 40.5 EUR Pink White Limewomens vTg looney tunes road runner white canvas tennis shoes size 6,Nike Run Swift Running Shoe 909006-004 Women's Shoes Size 8.5 M,Gentlemen/Ladies Prada AUTHENTIC LADIES TRAINERS SIZE High quality and low overhead Fine art Explosive good goods,Men's/Women's Grey/blue Ladies Converse Size 6 Rich design Latest styles classic style,RAZZY-01-05 WOMEN FAUX PONY SLIP ON QUPID BLACK FAUX PONY HAIR,CLOUDSTEPPERS Clarks Slip-On Shoes Step Allena Lo Black 8M NEW A306034EUC New Balance Women's Athletic Shoes Size 8B Color Multi,
"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.