clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Islanders' Song gets his wish as Beijing is awarded 2022 Winter Olympics

A huge opportunity to play on an even huger stage.

What are your thoughts on the 1985 Edmonton Oilers?
What are your thoughts on the 1985 Edmonton Oilers?

Beijing has officially won its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, beating out the only other horse in the race, Almaty, Kazakhstan.

For Islanders draft pick Andong Song, the nomination means having a chance to play hockey in his home country on the world's biggest stage.

Song, the first ever Chinese national drafted into the NHL, has been asked about the opportunity to play for the host country ever since the Islanders selected him in the seventh round last month. Hockey's profile in China has grown since Song and his family moved to North America to pursue the sport full time.  Getting the host country's automatic bid into the Olympic tournament - the first ever for a Chinese men's hockey team - would help even more.

"When I started playing there weren't a lot of people there," [Song] said. "There wasn't much support for the game. Last year when I went back, it had been eight years since I'd seen Chinese hockey and it was tremendous how far it's grown. I'm sure they'll keep trying to catch up to Europe and North America and Russia. There's still a gap between them, but I'm sure if we focus on hockey we can catch up."

Before Beijing was announced as the winner, Song joined in other Chinese athletes at a promotional news conference where he stood next to (and was dwarfed, like everyone else, by) cultural sports icon Yao Ming and spoke about the importance of the games for both himself and his countrymen.

"After first hearing the idea (Beijing's bid), I was very excited. I was thrilled to have the opportunity," Song told a news conference on Wednesday.

"It would definitely be a highlight of my career. A special feeling for an athlete to have."

China's women's hockey team has been to three Olympics and finished fourth at Nagano, Japan in 1998.

Song knows that a lot can happen between now and 2022. But the chance for a hockey player to perform at home for his country isn't one that comes around often. Let's hope Song, China and the Islanders can make the most of it.

Sadly, Almaty's losing bid means not seeing former Islanders goalie and philosopher Evgeni Nabokov get a chance to suit up for his home country at 47-years-old.