PYEONGCHANG — When it was over — the most unusual, unlikely political hockey game in Olympic history — the president of the International Olympic Committee stood beside the president of South Korea and the sister of the head of North Korea, all on a hockey bench together, probably for the very first time.
All of them offered encouragement and congratulations for the debut of the Unified Korean team that was brought together in the days leading up to the Olympic Games.
“This wasn’t just a hockey game,” IOC president Thomas Bach told the players who lost 8-0 to Switzerland. “It was more than that.”
“It was a pep talk,” said Randi Griffin, a Canadian playing for Korea. “And he told us we were part of something bigger” than just a game.
It was bigger and noisier and hectic, this screaming, cheerleading introduction to Hockey Night in Korea at the Olympics. This team was forced together by politicians with an Olympic assist just weeks before the Games. Twelve North Korean players were added just days after South Korea coach Sarah Murray had named her roster. Suddenly she had players she didn’t know, hadn’t seen before, had never coached.
And now other players were suddenly giving up Olympic ice time to what some might consider the enemy at a Games played at home.
“I didn’t ever anticipate this happening,” said Murray, who is the daughter of former NHL coach Andy Murray. “I don’t even know what to say. It happened. It was out of our control. They (the North Koreans) just want to learn and get better in hockey. I understand that.
“We heard rumours in July that they were going to combine the two (countries) and then we stopped hearing that. The government stopped talking about it. Right now I’m really wishing it had happened in July and we had a full season to work with them.”
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 10: Selin Kim #8 of Korea skates against Switzerland during the Women’s Ice Hockey Preliminary Round – Group B game on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Selin Kim of the Korean women’s hockey team skates against Switzerland during Saturday’s tournament opener for both teams at …read more