When Im, a Toronto native, got a message in 2012 inquiring whether she’d be interested in playing hockey for South Korea in the 2018 Winter Olympics, she was a tad skeptical.
Lucky for the 2018 Winter Games host country, Im did her homework and the former Ryerson University forward joined South Korea’s women’s national team.
She scored a goal Sunday, helping to power South Korea to a 5-1 win over Slovenia in the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship Division II Group A tournament in South Korea.
“Being handed this opportunity – it’s literally been given to me – is extremely humbling,” Im told Ryerson’s Eyeopener in February. “That’s why I want to put up my best effort. This is a gift.”
Her tally was an even-strength goal that came in the third period and extended South Korea’s lead to 4-1.
Im, who recently finished her first and only season at Toronto’s Ryerson, was one of several hockey players with Korean-sounding last names and living in North America who received invites to help the Asian nation quickly build Olympic-level women’s and men’s ice hockey from teams almost from scratch.
South Korea’s method for filling its Olympic hockey roster isn’t unusual. For example, Jamaica is scouring the United States and Canada for hockey talent of island heritage in hopes of fielding an Olympic ice hockey team in the near future.
Togo, a West African nation, used Facebook to recruit a Togolese-born skier who was raised in the French Alps to be member of its two-person team for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
And Dominica’s cross country ski team at the 2014 Winter Games was a couple who hailed from Staten Island, New York, not the Caribbean island nation.
South Korea isn’t known for hockey – its women’s and men’s teams are both ranked 23rd in the world by the IIHF. The country has only 2,591 players, 259 of them women, according to the IIHF.
But because PyeongChang, South Korea, is the site of the 2018 Winter Games, the country gets to field men’s and women’s teams to go up against more established hockey powers from North America and Europe.
So when South Korea put out an all-call to help boost its program pronto, Im was only too happy to sign on – once she learned that the offer was legit.
“I never dreamed this would happen,” Im, who was born in Toronto to Korean parents, told The New York Times in February.
Im’s goal Sunday matched her output for Ryerson in 2016-17. She had a goal and 3 assists in 20 games for the Rams.