Parkites promote cultural relations with arrival of Chinese youth hockey program to Park City

Ryan Kostecka
The Park Record
Craig (left) and his son Grant (right), a rising senior at Park City High School, are part of a cultural exchange program that will bring Chinese youth hockey players to Park City.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

When Grant Stevens began taking Mandarin classes at Park City High School three years ago, he never imagined it would lead him to where he is today.

The rising senior, along with his father Craig Stevens, have embarked on a summer mission that will come to fruition July 8 when roughly 15 Chinese citizens will travel to Park City for a cultural exchange hockey program.

“I started studying Mandarin because it’s the ‘business’ language (of the world) and it’s something I was interested in,” Grant said. “It translated to hockey because they’re two of my interests. … With how big hockey is blowing up in China, this was an opportunity to help my community as well.”

The original plan, which took shape in early February, was to send a group of Park City Ice Miners players to China. When that fell through, the Stevens men became even more determined to make something happen.

With the help of Eric Eves, executive director of Vail International Hockey in Colorado, they were able to accomplish their goal. The exchange program is bringing seven hockey players (ages 11-13) and two coaches from the Chinese Youth Hockey League in Beijing, as well as seven other family members to the States for the three-day event.

“The sport of hockey is growing tremendously in China, especially considering the 2022 Winter Olympics are being held in Beijing,” Eves said. “Being able to continue the tradition that we at Vail (International Hockey) started in 1985 to a new place such as Park City is something I think will pay major dividends for our end goal of trying to create a pipeline between the Mountain West and China hockey.”

Eves has prior experience in U.S.-China hockey exchange programs, having taken the Vail International Hockey Program to China last December, his 10th time making the trip he estimates.

While Eves is overseeing the entire Park City event, Grant and Craig have done the heavy lifting. They will be hosting the seven Beijing youth at their residence in Park City, having a separate living area for them to watch TV, play ping pong and shoot into a hockey net all night long.

“Craig and his family have really put in a great deal of time and energy to make this happen and are the reason this opportunity is open to Park City,” Eves said. “We are hopeful that by incorporating Park City into this trip we can create a partnership for future youth trips involving Park City players.”

Craig enlisted one of his neighbors to help with the lodging of the coaches and family members, and plans to host numerous meals at his residence and set up rink times for the players. He also made a donation that is helping pay for the rink time reserved for the camp, a number that is expected to be matched by his employer, Adobe.

The three-day event in Park City is part of an extended trip for the group from Beijing, which will also be stopping in Vail to work with Eves and his program before continuing to Park City. Also participating in the hockey camp in Park City will be roughly 20 other teenagers from the Mountain West region, giving them an opportunity to play against the Chinese while expanding their hockey skills.

While the exchange program is in Park City, Grant will be taking charge of the on-ice time with the Beijing youth, helping lead them in drills and scrimmages with a multitude of coaches and fellow players, including Nick Dreyer, the head coach of the Park City Ice Miners Tier 2 under-16 team.

Grant will also be in charge of the Beijing youth outside of the ice, planning trips to destinations like the Utah Olympic Park and Park City Mountain Resort to show them what life in a different culture is like, giving them certain expectations for when Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“We just really want to show them certain things they might not experience in Beijing, something they will always remember,” Grant said. “This is more than just about hockey for them, it’s about experiencing life in another culture.”

In addition to the goal of expanding hockey’s international culture, both Craig and Grant alluded to another major underlying factor as to why the event is such a big deal: cultural relations, furthering their belief that bringing together the youth of different nations is vital to the future success of the countries.

“There’s the geopolitical landscape with China and its future economy, it will surpass the United States,” Craig said. “We’ve got to figure out their culture and how to get along, that’s kind of the bigger picture here.”

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