Paul Kariya skating with the Anaheim Ducks in 2000. Photo courtesy: BC Sports Hall of Fame
VANCOUVER – May 28, 2015 will mark the induction of an elite Canadian athlete into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.
Paul Tetsuhiko Kariya was born on October 16, 1974 in Vancouver to a Japanese father who was born in the Greenwood internment camp and a Scottish mother. With his father playing for the Canadian National Rugby Team, it was only natural that Kariya would find himself playing sports early in life.
Kariya’s hockey skills blossomed at a young age and he was a standout player for the Penticton Panthers in the BCJHL. He scored 244 points over two seasons earning Canadian Junior “A” MVP in 1992.
Kariya continued his hockey career in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) with the Maine Black Bears. In 1993, he won the national title, and became the first freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA player. Later that year the newly formed Mighty Ducks of Anaheim made Kariya their first pick ever. He also was the fourth overall in the NHL Entry Draft.
Kariya continued finding great success at the NHL level playing for Anaheim, Colorado, Nashville and St. Louis. In a career marred with injuries, he still finished with great statistics, earning 989 points and playing an equal number of games over fifteen seasons. In addition, he has won the Lady Byng Award twice in 1996 and 1997, is a five time NHL All-Star selection, and played in seven NHL All-Star Games.
In 1991, he won silver with Team Canada at the inaugural Phoenix Cup, which would later become the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He has also been garnished with gold at all levels of international play including the World Jr. Championships (1993), World Championships (1994) and the Olympics (2002).
He spoke with Nikkei Voice about his induction to the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Nikkei Voice: In late May, you will be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame. What do you say to young Canadian athletes who are inspired by your athletic career and achievements?
Paul Kariya: To other young athletes I say never give up on your dreams and don’t let anyone along the way discourage you from reaching them. I would also say that sport opens up a world of opportunity and teaches so many things other than the sport itself. Through hockey I have been able to travel the world and meet many people. Above all keep focused on your academic work. There are many scholarship opportunities in Canada and in the U.S. for those who are able to combine both academics and athletics at a high level.
NV: On that note, Japanese Canadians have a long tradition of producing strong athletes, but we’re a small community and thus role models can sometimes be hard to find. How would you encourage young Japanese Canadians to reach for the top?
PK: I would encourage Japanese Canadian athletes to reach for the top by embracing their strengths and using those to their benefit. Sometimes what makes you different is a real advantage and allows you to approach the sport in a new way.
Both my late father, who represented Canada in rugby, and myself were considered too short and small to play either sport but we used our strength, which was speed, to our advantage. Small, quick players are often more difficult to catch and hit. There are many ways of quantifying success and many ways to participate in sport at a high level whether that be in coaching, management, refereeing, or teaching.
I was always advised that I was too small for the NHL, but that my speed would be an asset on the international ice surface so my early goal was to play hockey for Canada. There are many world-class Japanese athletes in baseball, figure skating, and multiple other sports. I always study the best example I’m able to find in whatever sport I’m interested in regardless of ethnic heritage.
NV: During your NHL career, you were known for gentlemanly conduct and fair play. What in your past do you think spurred this? It seems all too often we see hockey players brawling rather than respecting other players on the ice.
PK: It was very important to both my parents the way that I played on the ice and I was taught you can’t score goals, set up plays, or help the team win if you’re in the penalty box. My job was to improve how effective I was at making better passes, going around defenders, and beating goalies with my shots. Doing the right thing and being humble were qualities that were emphasized to me growing up and they are as important in everyday life as they are on the ice.
NV: In 2011, you announced your retirement from the sport. What have you been doing in the time since then? I’m guessing you’re spending a lot of quality time with your family in California.
PK: Since I retired from playing I have been enjoying life in California with my family where I surf regularly.
I’ve also enjoyed coming back to British Columbia to ski and snowboard with my family and friends in the winter.
NV: What does your family think of your induction into the hall of fame? They must be pretty excited to see you recognized by a Canadian institution.
PK: My family is very excited by my upcoming induction into the BC Sports Hall of Fame and I look forward to celebrating with them on the 28th. I am a very proud Canadian and fully realize the advantages of being born and raised in the beautiful province of British Columbia.
NV: Finally, what do you hope will be your lasting legacy in sports?
PK: As a hockey player I hope to be remembered as someone who was completely committed to my sport, to my team, and to constantly improving my skill set.