Song says Beijing Winter Games will boost NHL in Asia

Wed Jul 29, 2015 7:43am EDT
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By Julian Linden

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Song Andong, the first Chinese-born player drafted to play in the National Hockey League, got a first-hand look on Wednesday at the giant shoes he is trying to fill.

Since being picked this year by the New York Islanders, the 18-year-old Song has been billed as the NHL's answer to Yao Ming, the towering Chinese basketballer who made the NBA such a big hit in east Asia.

Song said he would love nothing more than to emulate Yao by introducing millions of Chinese to another American professional sport, but the enormity of his task became evident when he stood next to the 2.29 meter (7ft 6in) Yao at a news conference on Wednesday.

"Yao Ming has always been a role model of mine," said Song. "I will try and do the same."

Unlike Yao, who was drafted from his homeland as the number one pick in the 2002 NBA draft, Song left China when he was just 10-years-old.

He had already learned the basics of playing ice hockey in Beijing but his game quickly developed when he moved to Canada, then New Jersey.

A defenseman, he entered this year's draft and was selected by the Islanders as the 172nd overall pick.

The teenager is currently in Malaysia as part of Beijing's bid team for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and talking up his hopes for the Chinese capital to get the vote ahead of the only other bidder, Almaty, the financial capital of Kazakhstan.   Continued...