Why Is Team China’s Olympic Goalie From Michigan?
You would think that in a nation of over three billion people, China could find a decent goalie for their Olympic hockey team, but NOPE, they had to import one from Michigan.
In fact, most of the Chinese Olympic ice hockey team is from either Canada or the United States. And the team's goalie, Jeremy Smith grew up in Dearborn, Michigan.
Why is that?
As the host nation of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China gets an automatic bid to the Olympic hockey tournament. The other 11 teams had to earn their way through various world tournaments.
So six years ago, to get their team up and ready, they set up a team in Beijing to play in the KHL, the Russian hockey league. But finding players good enough to play at that level in China became a challenge, so they started recruiting players from North America.
If you're wondering if this is legal, you're not alone. Usually a person has to become a citizen of the country they represent in the Olympics before they can become a team member. (You may remember American women's basketball player Becky Hammond becoming a Russian citizen to play for Russia after getting cut from the US team back in 2008.)
But that is not the case here. When asked about their citizenship, the American players have been coy about whether they've totally committed to China.
Former Detroit Red Wing Jake Chelios told Yahoo Sports when asked whether he has a Chinese passport, "You gotta talk to the Chinese staff about that one.”
As for the names on the back of their Chinese jerseys, they've been turned into Chinese. The Chinese put their last name first, so Jeremy Smith becomes Shimisi Jieruimi and Jake Chelios is now Kailiaosi Jieke.
But being in the Olympics is always going to be a thrill and the Americans are enjoying their time in the tournament, despite being blistered 8-0 by Team USA in their first game.
“I'm here to just inspire young Chinese hockey players, or even hockey players around the world,” Smith told Yahoo Sports. “It's truly an honor.”
Jake's dad is hockey legend Chris Chelios, and he is super stoked to see Jake play in the Olympics, as he did when was younger.
“To see your family member in an Olympics,” Chelios said, “there's nothing like it.”
Even if they are wearing a Chinese jersey.
Michigan Athletes At The Winter Olympic Games