Kim ’19 Plays for Korean Hockey Team

While many students departed to enjoy a three week-long winter break, Skylar Kim ’19 flew to South Korea to be part of the first South Korean women’s team to be sent to the international U18 competition. Kim was first introduced to the sport by her mother, who encouraged both her and her brother to play. She participated in a summer program with the Korea Ice Hockey Association in which young women are chosen to play and practice on teams alongside South Korea’s national women’s team.

Kim tried out for South Korea’s U18 team over Thanksgiving Break in 2017 and discovered she made it after returning to school from break. Kim attributes the rising popularity of ice hockey to attention gained from the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. She said, “I knew a lot of the girls [at tryouts] from when I was younger, because I had seen them at games and if you saw another girl it was quite rare.  In Korea, I feel like girls aren’t really encouraged to play sports; they’re… pushed more towards music or arts…rather than something that is seen as very masculine.”

The team flew to a training camp in Finland and played against different teams before the more serious games began. The team then travelled to Jaca, Spain where qualifications for the Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship began. In the gold medal game, South Korea faced off against Kazakhstan. The teams were tied for the game and went into overtime for twenty minutes, until the Korean team scored twice in shootouts. Kim said, “It was one of those really surreal moments. It was long. It was a very arduous journey, but in the end we were all singing the Korean anthem together.”

Kim believes that hockey has allowed her to be able to embrace her Korean culture, something that has been difficult for her. She said, “For a long time I found it really hard to be Korean, and it was really hard to embrace that part of myself. I see that all the time with kids on this campus, too, who find it difficult to cope and deal with those two identities they may be carrying. But hockey was always that way for me to release that aggression.”

Kim’s love for the sport is one of the reasons she has played on the JV hockey team for her three years at Hotchkiss.  She said, “Back home, it was something I was really competitive and serious about, but here, I do it for fun and I get to meet younger kids who are interested in trying out the sport. Maybe they’re just playing for fun like me, and that’s the beauty of the JV team.”

In the future, Kim hopes to continue playing hockey and accomplish her goal of coaching young players by establishing a program in Korea that would allow girls to play even when the resources are not available. Her relationship with the sport is and will always be strong. Kim said, “Hockey has been a big part of my life, and I think it will continue to be, because…I don’t think I could ever let that go.”