American Jeremy Smith May Goaltend for China's Olympic Hockey Team

American Jeremy Smith May Goaltend for China's Olympic Hockey Team

Walter WebbJan 22, '22

When thinking of China, hockey does not leap into one's mind, as it might with Canada or Russia. The IIHF currently has their Men's National Team ranked 32nd in the world. This presented a problem when selecting the countries which would participate in men's hockey in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. 

China would receive a berth in the competition because they are hosting the Olympics. However, the IIHF considered removing China from the tournament due to "insufficient sporting standard”. To bolster its chances of fielding an Olympic hockey team, China backed a professional team, the Kunlun Red Star, in the Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The KHL team became the feeding ground for China's Olympic hockey team. Ultimately, the IIHF decided the KHL team was good enough to be the basis for China's Olympic hockey team.[1]

However, there's a problem. Over half of the Kunlun team members were born outside of China. Olympic team members must be a citizen of the country they represent. Though many of the foreign born Kunlun players have Chinese heritage, they do not have Chinese citizenship. Also, a Kunlun team member must have participated for two consecutive hockey seasons on the Chinese-backed team.

Those who are willing to give up the citizenship of their birth, become a Chinese citizen, and who have played for Kunlun for two hockey seasons could play for the Chinese Olympic Hockey Team. (China does not recognize dual-citizenship.)

Of the goaltenders who played for Kunlun, only one was born in China, Pengfei Han. He had limited playing time. Two other possible goaltenders are Canadian Paris O’Brien and American Jeremy Smith. O'Brien has become a Chinese citizen and has played sufficiently for Kunlun.  There is a good chance he will be in the net for China. Smith has sufficient playing time for Kunlun,  but still appears to have American citizenship. If he becomes a Chinese citizen, he may well share goaltending duties on the Chinese team.

It would seem strange to see American-born Jeremy Smith wearing a red Chinese jersey or hoodie in Beijing. Smith was born in Dearborn, Michigan in 1989. He played in the Ontario Hockey League (a major junior hockey league) from 2005-2009. From 2009-2019 he played in the professional American Hockey League (AHL) with several different teams. He began playing for Kunlun in 2019, possibly with an eye on the Olympics.

[1]Daniel S. Greene. (3 Jan. 2022). Chinese Olympic Hockey Roster Bolstered By “Heritage Players”