It's the Canadian way

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Thanks to the Canadian Multicultural Hockey Championship, stories such as Eddie Choi's won't be forgotten.

It has been more than 20 years since Choi, the son of hard-working South Korean immigrants, captained the Toronto Marlboros to five MTHL championships, went on to be a high school star at Henry Carr and then playedat Ohio State on a full scholarship.

He had a sniff from the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers as a free agent, but rather than play for a pittance in the minors, Choi came home to get a degree in economics, to teach school and run a hockey instruction clinic that, in part, helps new Canadians to learn the game and the culture.

But the 37-year-old Choi, now a father of two, will be back in game action with the Korean Tigers, Dec. 27-30, with several ex-pros and undiscovered talent in the third annual CMHC tournament. It features 26 teams from most ethnic backgrounds in the GTA, as well as a First Nations side, as well as a women's division, spread around four rinks in the city. A $5 admission at the door covers daily admission at all rinks.

"Myself and a lot of others never played high calibre hockey in front of our friends and loved ones," Choi said. "I played against a few of these guys growing up such as Peter Zezel (the ex-Leaf is player/coach of the Serbian White Eagles), as well as the Italians and Greeks, but this is a great chance for us all to reconnect as well as show off our heritage."

Choi's parents came to the Annex area in the mid 1960s, taking jobs as a nurse and a taxi driver, immersing Eddie and themselves in the Saturday morning ritual of 6 a.m. games and practices. Choi became one of the city's best players and set an NCAA record that still stands for fastest three goals by a freshman.

The CMHC tourney, brainchild of local TV executive and hockey dad Stan Papulkas, has a simple mission: Bring the traditional sport to the non-traditional communities and create local role models. The only national anthem played during the non-contact tourney is O Canada and the previous two events have seen no ethnic tensions on the ice or off it.

Tourney eligibility is age 19 or older, a Canadian citizen with at least one foreign-born grandparent and having played some level of elite hockey. Premier Division teams include the Koreans, Serbs, two-time champion Irish Shamrocks, Italian Gladiators, Portuguese Sea Wolves, German Thunder, Chinese Ice Dragons, Japanese Arashi and the Nubian Kings, picked from the city's large African and Caribbean population.

The latter is bolstered by Abba Copeland. a stunt double in the hockey scenes for the coming Mike Myers movie, The Love Guru.

The B Division of includes teams of Slovenians, South Asians, Croatians, Estonians, Russians, and West Indians. The women's division will have its own Irish and Italian sides this year as well as a Japanese club with Canadian world champion Vicki Sunohara scheduled to play their Dec. 29 game.

For information on the schedule and tickets, go to cmhl.com


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