Naturalized player always ready to give back to S. Korean hockey

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Naturalized player always ready to give back to S. Korean hockey

Matt Dalton
GANGNEUNG ― A year ago, Canadian-born hockey goalie Matt Dalton had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Olympics ― just not for his native country.

Dalton, who acquired his South Korean passport in 2016, represented his adopted country at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Before that, he'd played for South Korea at other international events, too.

The steady and reliable netminder has already done more than his share for the development of hockey in this country, but the 32-year-old says he's always ready to do more.

"It's important to me to do whatever I can to give back. Whatever they ask me, I am willing to give back to Korean hockey and do everything to help build it," Dalton told Yonhap News Agency Friday at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul. Dalton and the rest of the South Korean team are participating in the Legacy Cup, a four-nation tournament marking the first anniversary of the PyeongChang Winter Games.

"It's definitely not something I take for granted," Dalton added. "I've enjoyed every minute of the experience. I'll always have a spot in my heart to give back."

South Korea lost all four games it played at the Olympics and allowed 19 goals. But Dalton could hardly be blamed for all of them, and South Korea even managed to score the stunning first goal against the Czech Republic ― then ranked world No. 6, 15 spots ahead of South Korea ― in the first group match.

Having returned to Gangneung Hockey Centre for the first time since the Olympics, Dalton said the memories of playing in that first game, and how loud the crowd was when forward Cho Min-ho opened the scoring, stuck out the most for him.

"That was pretty special. The whole experience is hard to explain to someone," he said. "The guys were together for quite a long time, building up for the Olympics. There were a lot of memories through those years that kind of all came together. That's what makes it so special."

Dalton hasn't yet had positive moments at the Legacy Cup. The team dropped its first two games at the Legacy Cup, falling to Latvia 6-2 Wednesday and then to Kazakhstan 5-1 Thursday.

Dalton served as the backup to the national team rookie Lee Yeon-seung in Thursday's game. Lee, 23, held his own in the first period but the bottom fell out for him in the middle frame, when he surrendered three goals.

Backup goalies almost always watch games wearing a baseball cap bearing their team's logo, but early in the second period Thursday, Dalton put on his helmet and looked almost ready to jump into action. He kept his helmet on for the rest of the game but head coach Jim Paek didn't make any goalie change.

Was Dalton itching to get into the game and come to the rescue of his helpless teammate?

"To be honest, I just didn't want to get hit in the face by the puck or the stick," Dalton said with a smile. "It's been a while since I've watched a game on the bench. It was good to see the game from a different view."

As for Lee's performance, Dalton said the young goalie was in a tough spot because it was his first international game and he wasn't familiar with the defensemen playing in front of him.

"I thought he played great. He hasn't played much hockey lately, and it's not an easy situation," Dalton added. "It's a great learning experience for him. I think it's only going to help him as he continues to play."

In addition to Lee, Paek has also brought a handful of other young players in their early 20s, making the Legacy Cup a sort of an audition for the next big event.

In April, South Korea will compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A tournament in Kazakhstan. It is the second-highest level of the IIHF world championships. South Korea was relegated to Division I Group A after finishing last at the top-tier World Championship in Denmark last year. It can return to the elite division by finishing in the top two in Division I Group A.

Dalton was one of seven Canadian- or American-born players to wear the South Korean flag at PyeongChang 2018, Only three are here this week ― Dalton plus two defensemen, Eric Regan and Alex Plante ― and that has opened the door for young, homegrown players to step up.

Dalton said the current structure of the national team is similar to how the program was set up when he and other naturalized players were emerging as key pieces under Paek's tutelage.

"It reminds me a lot of when we started. We had a lot of good players but we hadn't really had coaching," Dalton said. "We have these guys that are excited to be here. They have a lot of energy, but they haven't really played a lot. Once they start to get the experience, it's going to be like the process that we had before. I feel like they're going to start taking on roles of the older guys that were here before."

South Korea will close out the Legacy Cup against Japan later Friday. The two countries have long been bitter sporting rivals, and Dalton has been here long enough to know that whenever South Korea and Japan collide in sports, the moment always provides extra juice for everyone involved.

"We have a little different team than we've had in the past. It's a good challenge for us," he said. "We have a lot of young guys who haven't played with Jim (Paek) before. We're trying to get the system down. But I don't think there will be any problem finding energy to get ready for this game."

Japan used to dominate South Korea in hockey but the tables have turned. South Korea has won the past three meetings by a combined score of 10-1, and Dalton was in net for all three victories.

Asked if he gets particularly fired up to face Japan, Dalton smiled and said, "A little bit."

"In the past, we've played them in some pretty big games, like the world championships and the Asian Games," he said. "This is a different scenario, a different team. It's not a world championship game but it's still the rivalry. I am ready to go." (Yonhap)


Matt Dalton
GANGNEUNG ― A year ago, Canadian-born hockey goalie Matt Dalton had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Olympics ― just not for his native country.

Dalton, who acquired his South Korean passport in 2016, represented his adopted country at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Before that, he'd played for South Korea at other international events, too.

The steady and reliable netminder has already done more than his share for the development of hockey in this country, but the 32-year-old says he's always ready to do more.

"It's important to me to do whatever I can to give back. Whatever they ask me, I am willing to give back to Korean hockey and do everything to help build it," Dalton told Yonhap News Agency Friday at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul. Dalton and the rest of the South Korean team are participating in the Legacy Cup, a four-nation tournament marking the first anniversary of the PyeongChang Winter Games.

"It's definitely not something I take for granted," Dalton added. "I've enjoyed every minute of the experience. I'll always have a spot in my heart to give back."

South Korea lost all four games it played at the Olympics and allowed 19 goals. But Dalton could hardly be blamed for all of them, and South Korea even managed to score the stunning first goal against the Czech Republic ― then ranked world No. 6, 15 spots ahead of South Korea ― in the first group match.

Having returned to Gangneung Hockey Centre for the first time since the Olympics, Dalton said the memories of playing in that first game, and how loud the crowd was when forward Cho Min-ho opened the scoring, stuck out the most for him.

"That was pretty special. The whole experience is hard to explain to someone," he said. "The guys were together for quite a long time, building up for the Olympics. There were a lot of memories through those years that kind of all came together. That's what makes it so special."

Dalton hasn't yet had positive moments at the Legacy Cup. The team dropped its first two games at the Legacy Cup, falling to Latvia 6-2 Wednesday and then to Kazakhstan 5-1 Thursday.

Dalton served as the backup to the national team rookie Lee Yeon-seung in Thursday's game. Lee, 23, held his own in the first period but the bottom fell out for him in the middle frame, when he surrendered three goals.

Backup goalies almost always watch games wearing a baseball cap bearing their team's logo, but early in the second period Thursday, Dalton put on his helmet and looked almost ready to jump into action. He kept his helmet on for the rest of the game but head coach Jim Paek didn't make any goalie change.

Was Dalton itching to get into the game and come to the rescue of his helpless teammate?

"To be honest, I just didn't want to get hit in the face by the puck or the stick," Dalton said with a smile. "It's been a while since I've watched a game on the bench. It was good to see the game from a different view."

As for Lee's performance, Dalton said the young goalie was in a tough spot because it was his first international game and he wasn't familiar with the defensemen playing in front of him.

"I thought he played great. He hasn't played much hockey lately, and it's not an easy situation," Dalton added. "It's a great learning experience for him. I think it's only going to help him as he continues to play."

In addition to Lee, Paek has also brought a handful of other young players in their early 20s, making the Legacy Cup a sort of an audition for the next big event.

In April, South Korea will compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A tournament in Kazakhstan. It is the second-highest level of the IIHF world championships. South Korea was relegated to Division I Group A after finishing last at the top-tier World Championship in Denmark last year. It can return to the elite division by finishing in the top two in Division I Group A.

Dalton was one of seven Canadian- or American-born players to wear the South Korean flag at PyeongChang 2018, Only three are here this week ― Dalton plus two defensemen, Eric Regan and Alex Plante ― and that has opened the door for young, homegrown players to step up.

Dalton said the current structure of the national team is similar to how the program was set up when he and other naturalized players were emerging as key pieces under Paek's tutelage.

"It reminds me a lot of when we started. We had a lot of good players but we hadn't really had coaching," Dalton said. "We have these guys that are excited to be here. They have a lot of energy, but they haven't really played a lot. Once they start to get the experience, it's going to be like the process that we had before. I feel like they're going to start taking on roles of the older guys that were here before."

South Korea will close out the Legacy Cup against Japan later Friday. The two countries have long been bitter sporting rivals, and Dalton has been here long enough to know that whenever South Korea and Japan collide in sports, the moment always provides extra juice for everyone involved.

"We have a little different team than we've had in the past. It's a good challenge for us," he said. "We have a lot of young guys who haven't played with Jim (Paek) before. We're trying to get the system down. But I don't think there will be any problem finding energy to get ready for this game."

Japan used to dominate South Korea in hockey but the tables have turned. South Korea has won the past three meetings by a combined score of 10-1, and Dalton was in net for all three victories.

Asked if he gets particularly fired up to face Japan, Dalton smiled and said, "A little bit."

"In the past, we've played them in some pretty big games, like the world championships and the Asian Games," he said. "This is a different scenario, a different team. It's not a world championship game but it's still the rivalry. I am ready to go." (Yonhap)




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