The Vancouverite Playing D for Team China
hen Zach Yuen’s father immigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong at age 13 he fell in love with hockey and the Canucks. Dad played a bit of ball hockey and eventually laced up some skates to compete in a beer league. Naturally, when his son Zachary came along it was only 22 months before the youngster took to the ice. Neither father nor son could have imagined that one day, junior would lead the D at the Olympics — for China.
Globetrotting on skates
Zach Yuen’s journey has taken him around the world. He’s currently playing for Beijing Kunlun Red Star, a Chinese KHL team playing mostly in Russia, which means travelling across seven time zones.
“I actually like living in hotels, which is lucky for me,” laughs Yuen. “From Beijing and Shanghai, we go right out to Vladivostok in the east as well as west to Moscow. I really like Moscow. It’s a great city, great food.”
His pro hockey life began on Vancouver’s North Shore, at the winter club, prior to joining the Western Hockey League for Tri-City Americans in Washington State. Yuen became the first ever Chinese defenceman to be drafted to the NHL — with the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 as the 119th overall pick. Next stop, the Toronto Marlies in Ontario, before the Chinese franchise came calling.
Building hockey culture in China
“In the 70s, the Chinese national team was strong. But for many years, there was a decline in interest. Now that’s changed. China really wants to encourage more physical sports — like hockey — building on our team’s profile at Beijing 2022.
“Hockey in China and Russia is more European. The bigger ice surface encourages high-skill, low-scoring games. Physically, Chinese-born players right now are a little smaller. I guess I’m there to add a bit of muscle!” explains Yuen who plans to compete in the next Olympics if Team China can qualify.
Off ice, Yuen has equally broad horizons. A life in the media beckons for the multilingual star, amongst other plans.
“During COVID, I got into stock market trading and I’d like to develop that. I’m also interested in the real estate business. I even did some commentating for Tencent when the NHL play-offs were on.”
Given Zach Yuen’s reputation for hard work on and off the ice, and an 85,000-strong following on Weibo, no one would bet against him being a rising star in the media business.