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Winnipeg Jet Zachary Yuen, first Chinese-Canadian defenseman drafted to NHL

Vancouver native Zachary Yuen will start the 2010/2011 NHL season with the Winnipeg Jets. Photo courtesy of Kenny Louie.

Zachary Yuen donned his first pair of skates before his second birthday, and has been dreaming of the Stanley Cup ever since. The 18-year-old Vancouver native is a giant step closer to that dream since the Winnipeg Jets selected him 119th overall in last month's NHL Entry Draft, making him the first blueliner of Chinese-descent to be drafted and only the third Chinese-Canadian to play in the NHL.

"Although I wanted to play for Vancouver, the hometown team, I am very happy with being selected to Winnipeg because they are so new and their fan base is incredible. It really is a great fit for me," Yuen said.

For now, Vancouver will watch the six-foot, 205-pound defenseman start his first NHL season with the Winnipeg Jets.

True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and will relocate the team to Winnipeg for the 2011/2012 season. Yuen will join fellow Vancouver-native Evander Kane. Kane, a left-winger, played for the Vancouver Giants until the Thrashers drafted him fourth overall in 2009. 

Yuen said he hopes to inspire an ethnically diverse group of young talent to pursue the sport further, and to provide entertainment in the years to come.

When he hits the ice this season, Yuen will join a short list of Chinese hockey players in the NHL. Out of the six players of Chinese descent who have made it to the NHL, Colorado's Brandon Yip is the only one who has played over 100 games.

Yuen, a recent honours graduate from Saint Georges School in the Dunbar community of Vancouver, was a well-rounded athlete, musician and student during his school years. He played lacrosse and soccer while also obtaining a diploma from the London School of Music at the age of 13.

When asked about his plans for the future, Yuen said, "I want to finish a [university] degree, but it will take time as I won't be in school full-time."

"But since I started hockey so early, my dream has always been to win the Stanley cup."

As for the Yuen family, Zachary has his father to thank for the introduction to hockey at a young age.

"My dad became a big hockey fan when he moved over here from Hong Kong [at the age of 13]. He started watching the Canucks and fell in love with the sport, and put me in skating when I was 22 months old," said Yuen.

"From there on, it's just been hockey. My whole family has been so supportive of my pursuit and I definitely would not have been able to make it so far without them."

"Plane ticket to Minnesota: $400, Hotel: $200, Attending the NHL 2011 Draft with my brother: Priceless," said Yuen's sister Montana, who is studying at UBC.

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