Ryerson’s women’s hockey team has landed its first ever international student-athlete.
Ye Eun Park will be on the blueline for the Rams when their season begins in October. Park brings tons of experience to Ryerson—most notably with her time representing Korea at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
However, this isn’t Park’s first time playing hockey in Canada. In 2014, the Korean Ice Hockey Association sent South Korean players to Canada to help them improve their skills. Park was one of them. She attended the Ontario Hockey Academy near Ottawa, before heading to the University of P.E.I.
After her first year of university, the Korean national team wanted Park to return to South Korea to practise ahead of the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
But, the team didn’t look the same as usual. Going into the Olympics, South Korea and North Korea unexpectedly unified to form one Korean national team.
“… It was unexpected. We only found out we were going to play as a unified team a month before the Olympics, so that time was kind of tough for me and for my teammates,” said Park, who is majoring in psychology at Ryerson.
As a unified team, both countries had to get a certain amount of playing time. This meant that some of the South Korean players Park had practised with wouldn’t play at all, or get reduced playing time. Fortunately for Park, the South Korean players ended up getting along well with the North Koreans during their time together.
Once the Olympics wrapped up, the Korean national team would take a break until the world championships. This meant Park would have to wait until April 2019 to practise again. She turned her focus to getting an education, but wanted to continue playing hockey. Returning to play in Canada seemed like the best move.
“Not many people in Korea are interested in hockey if you compare it to Canada,” said Park. “I think it’s growing. After the Olympics, more people are interested, but it’s definitely not (as) popular for people in Korea.”
Park could have returned to P.E.I., where she had spent her first year of university, but ended up at Ryerson after being introduced to Lisa Haley, the head coach of Ryerson’s women’s hockey team. She was introduced to Haley through Danelle Im, Park’s friend and former teammate who also attends Ryerson. Park and Im met back when they played hockey in South Korea, but they also spent time together on the Korean Olympic team.
“I had very good things to say from my experience at Ryerson, so I was kind of an encouragement to (Park),” said Im. “I knew coach Haley and … I kind of made the connection a little more direct.”
From there, Park gained a spot on the team. Im isn’t playing this year, because she’s no longer eligible under OUA rules, but she says she will cheer on her friend.
“It was such a great experience for me to be able to play five years of (university) hockey and I’m OK to be finished with that now,” said Im. “But I’m very glad to see (that) Ye Eun has many years ahead of her and (is) part of a team like this.”
Since starting at Ryerson, Park says she is enjoying it and getting along with the team. Haley, unsure of what to expect after only watching videos of Park’s game, is excited to have her as part of the team.
“I’d never seen her play live before. I watched a little bit of video, but she’s been really impressive,” said Haley. “Ye Eun has already been a seasoned traveller. She’s learned how to adapt to new situations and that’s really helped her fit in really well with our team.”
From her experience at the Olympics, Park has takeaways that she hopes to bring to the Ryerson team.
“I think I learned a lot (about) teamwork. How to cheer teammates up when they’re down and how to share positive energy on the team,” said Park. “I learned a lot of patience and the importance of confidence to play a big game.”
Although Park is new to Ryerson’s team, Haley believes she will bring great awareness on the ice while playing in the blue and gold.
“I think she’s been able to teach us a few things and I think it’s been reciprocated as well, so it’s a lot of fun,” said Haley.
Park has one personal goal for her first season at Ryerson. She wants to make it to the national championships this year, which are being held at the University of P.E.I., the place where she started her U Sport career.
But this time, she’ll return as a Ryerson Ram.
You can catch the women’s hockey team in their its regular season game on Oct. 14, at 4:15 p.m., in the Mattamy Athletic Centre.