Q & A with Kevin He

The Greater Toronto Hockey League is proud to celebrate Asian Heritage Month this May. As part of this month’s celebrations, the League sat down with GTHL alumnus and current Niagara IceDogs forward Kevin He. The Chinese-born forward was named the 78th ranked North American Skater by NHL Central Scouting and hopes to hear his name called at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft in June. 

GTHL: Who got you into hockey?
HE: My dad got me into hockey when I was young. There were only a few rinks around where I lived so I would rollerblade quite frequently with my dad. I played a bit of hockey in China – [it’s] where I learned how to skate. Although, I did not play on a team until later in my life when I moved to Montreal.

GTHL: Your journey to playing for the GTHL’s North York Rangers wasn’t a “traditional” path. Can you walk us through your minor hockey road?
HE: I started my minor hockey career in Montreal with the West Island Royals. From there, I played on the same team with my brother as we moved through [Under-8 to U13] which eventually led me to play for the Lac-St-Louis Lions for one year before we moved to Toronto. I then played my first year with the Toronto Jr. Canadians and then moved to the Toronto Red Wings before [the COVID-19 pandemic]. I then finished my minor hockey journey playing for the North York Rangers for my [U16] year.

GTHL: Looking back at minor hockey, do you have a favorite memory?
HE: I don’t have a particular memory but I would say that the whole process and journey itself has been a blessing for me. I am very grateful that my path was filled with pleasant memories like making new friends who I still talk to this day speaks to my time playing in the GTHL.

GTHL: Do you do anything to honour your Chinese heritage?
HE: Yeah, my family usually gets together to celebrate Chinese New Year and other festivities. I have always loved celebrating the Chinese New Year as it is a nice time to get together and create happy memories.

GTHL: What does being an Asian hockey player mean to you? Is it something that you thought about as you were growing up, or is it something you’ve thought about more in recent years?
HE: I have thought more about it now than when I was younger. As a kid growing up, my passion for the game went beyond the cultural differences and being the only Asian player on my team. Especially now, it feels refreshing to see more Asian hockey players picking up the sport that I love and how guys like Jason Robertson have become role models to look up to.

GTHL: When you look at the amount of Asian kids flourishing in the game today, what does that mean to you?
HE: It means a lot. It’s nice seeing more Asian kids picking the sport that I love, and getting to skate with a few of them with Anthony Stewart fills me with immense pride and optimism.

GTHL: What do you enjoy most about playing in the OHL?
HE: Getting the opportunity to go to school and come to the rink every day with my teammates has been amazing. I love the atmosphere and playing in front of all those fans is just such a remarkable experience.

GTHL: This past season you wore an ‘A’ on your jersey for Niagara. Describe your leadership style and what it means to be named an assistant captain in only your second season in the OHL.
HE: I wear it with a lot of pride and I try to give my best effort on and off the ice at all times. I would say that I
lead by example especially when it comes to setting the standards high and always being there for my teammates.

GTHL: Your younger brother Eric was also drafted by the IceDogs and even suited up for 12 games this past season. What was it like sharing the ice with your younger brother?
HE: It brought back a lot of memories of when we were younger. We played on the same team growing up in so it was a surreal experience sharing the [OHL] ice with him.

GTHL: The Niagara IceDogs drafted GTHL forward Braidy Wassilyn from the Markham Majors. Do you know Braidy at all? How excited are you that your team is adding him to the roster?
HE: I am super excited to play alongside Braidy. I have known him for quite some time and we used to go to the same school together when we were younger. He has a really strong character and determination that is going to help our team in the coming years – I’m looking forward to playing with him.

GTHL: You already have the reputation of having an incredible work ethic both on and off the ice. Where do you think this trait came from or started?
HE: Honestly, I was always a very hard-working kid growing up. Whether it’s on the ice or in the classroom, I tried to always give my best effort. That was something that was instilled in me when I was young from my parents. The hard work and discipline was something I always pay attention to and it stuck with me as I grew

GTHL: How did you prepare for this past season, knowing that you were heading into your NHL draft year?
HE: I just tried to stick to the game plan that my coaches had put in place for me and tried to excel in it. I tried to pay more attention to details, and tried to learn and expand on my game throughout the offseason.

GTHL: You have the chance to be only the second Chinese-born player selected in the NHL Draft (after Andong Song). Does this give any extra meaning to you and your family if you hear your name called in Vegas for the NHL Entry Draft?
HE: Yeah, I think just getting drafted is pretty surreal but to be there and surrounded by my family is going to be something I’m looking forward to.

GTHL: Do you have a message or words of advice for the next generation of young-Asian hockey players looking to get into the game and excel?
HE: I think that you don’t necessarily have to look up to anyone and try to aspire to be just like them. Everyone is very unique and I believe that we can look up and be proud of ourselves and be our own hero.

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