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 Material empeine: Textil Estilo: Zapatillas EAN:
Forro: Textil Suela: Sintético Marca: - Sin marca/Genérico - Color principal: AzulDVS MENS HUNT HL BLACK BLUE SHOES TRAINERS UK SIZE 8 NEW UNBOXED SKATEBOARDING,
"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."
Uomo Air Tech Nero Scarpe sportive casual da allacciare Intercept,Saucony CRM Grid Mens Size 7.5 M Athletic Shoes Sneakers Trainers Gray YellowHombre Puma Astro - Césped Zapatillas Para Deporte,UOMO ASCOT BUSTA nere e argento Scarpe da ginnastica con lacciMan's/Woman's Hombre Modernos negros zapatos SIN CIERRES Beautiful color modern Popular tide shoes,Nike Mens Zoom Victory 2 Track and Field Spikes Shoes 555365-707 size 13,Man's/Woman's Nannystate Indiana 2 Size 11 Adults. Wear resistant Win the praise of customers Complete specificationsUomo Hi-Tec Lacci Casual da Ginnastica - Argon,$64.99 Puma Arrow FS II (dark shadow / n gray / white / b mist) 352708-03,Men's Jordan Future Cool Grey White Sz 8.5,Man's/Woman's Mens Air Tech Trainers Sprint quality Selected materials negotiation,Gentleman/Lady Uomo Air Tech Scarpe sportive SPRINT New market Good market Non-slip,SCARPE SHOES DONNA VINTAGE CULT tg. 40 (111),Air Tech Hombres con Cordones Zapatillas - Deporte FrenoPro Touch LADIES CASUAL SHOES TRAINERS 92one Purple/Pink,Saucony Originals Men's Bullet Original Sneaker, size 7,Gentlemen/Ladies GOLA MENS TRAINERS SIZE / Fine processing fashionable Cost-effective,Uomo Air Tech blu con lacci scarpe da ginnastica NERO & VERDE Dettaglio StileHombre Hi-Tec Chocolate / Color Topo Zapatillas XT 101Men/Women Airtech Mens Casual Lightweight Shoes Renagade quality Fast delivery Breathable shoes,$149.99 Lacoste Stealth Chevel High Leather (indigo) 7-19STM21511K4,Unisex Adidas Dune Hi Top Turnschuhe weiß Kreide,Gentlemen/Ladies Crosshatch Hombre Tolfa Gran Entrenador Superior Attractive and durable Selected materials List of explosionsUnder Armour UA Micro G® Monza NM Mens 13M Athletic Shoes 120-14,Blanco de Hombre Cordones Lambretta Zapatillas Casual Papaína 32057901,Hombre Air Tech Negro Zapatillas casual con cordones Intercept,Hombre AIRE Tech Zapatillas Con Cordones Perfil AzulVans Classic Skate Shoes Mens 4 Womens 5.5 Tan/Brown/White California,Lugz Mens MEAC-060 Ease Chambray Canvas Moc-toe Casual Sneakers Black/White Sz 8,Uomo Air Tech Sportive Da Corsa (GLOBE),
"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.