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Young, ambitious and far away from home


Charles Lu, a 12-year-old from Qingdao, China, came all the way to Rockland in order to better himself at a sport he loves somuch he cannot imagine himself doing much else. Only having started playing hockey less than a year ago – 10months to be exact – Lu is determined to take it all the way to the NHL and to be one of the very few hockey players coming out of China. “The only hockey I’ve ever seen is field hockey, not on ice,” said Lu. “But then when I came to Canada, I saw ice hockey and it looked really cool so I searched it on web- sites.” Last year, at 11 years old, Lu travelled to Canada for the first time as part of a student exchange programwith his school. He spent the better part of six months living with a family in Vancouver in hopes of improving his English – which is very refined, for the record. As for Lu’s feelings about Vancouver and his experience living there, he did not seem too impressed. “It just like rains every- day.” However, he is very pleased about how much the experience helped him improve his speech and his English accent. Before visiting Canada, Lu had already been to the United States, as he has rela- tives in Boston, and this is where he initially learned how to play ice hockey. “Actually, at first, I didn’t want to start playing hockey, because I wanted to focus on my grades andmy school,” said Lu. Lu spent almost six months in Boston with his mother, practic- ing ice hockey with his cousin, the same age as him and already an AAA player, and his uncle, a hockey coach by profession. “Before the NHL, my first goal is to be an AAA player and to be better than my cousin,” said Lu. This competitive spirit will go a long way for Lu throughout his hockey endeavour, and has kept him determined during his time at the Canadian International Hockey

Charles Lu, un garçon de 12 ans de Qingdao en Chine, est venu à Rockland afin de mieux se familiariser avec un sport qui le passionne tellement qu’il ne peut pas s’imaginer faire autre chose. Ayant commencé à jouer au hockey il y a seulement 10 mois, Lu est déterminé à faire partie de la LNH et devenir un des rares joueurs de hockey venant de Chine. —photo Alexia Marsillo

Academy’s summer camp in Rockland. In- stead of shying away from the competition, he dives right into it, knowing that the only way to get better is to play with more so-

phisticated players. Lu spent two weeks at CIHA’s summer camp this August – one week practicing with the Forward camp and the second week with the AAA players. Almost all the other hockey players at the camp have been playing hockey for at least a couple of years, most of them for up to eight or nine years – placing Lu as the underdog of his group. Ice hockey is evidently not a very popular sport in China – Qingdao only has three hockey clubs and it is the largest city in the Province of Shandong with a population of over 9 million people. “When they pass the puck, I might not get it sometimes because of their level of speed and accuracy,” said Lu. “The difference of levels is my biggest challenge, but when you play with others that are stronger, you learn really fast.” The young player’s thirst for knowledge and self-improvement extends well beyond his 12 years of age and is not solely limited to the sport – Lu already plans on taking French courses with his school back home, as part of his plan to return to Rockland next

winter to continue his hockey training at the Academy’s camp. “I made a lot of friends in camp and in the dorms,” said Lu. “They don’t call me Charles, they all just call me ‘Chinese’ – it’s my nickname.” Lu’s independence is uncanny for a 12-year-old, yet he is still a boy at heart: excited to return home to China to see his parents after his two weeks alone in Rock- land. He is also intrigued by the idea of show- ing off some of his new skills to his friends in Qingdao. While talking about his future goals, Lu is reminiscent of a particular event that did not mean much to him when it happened two years ago, but that now holds particular significance to him – in June 2015, the first ever Chinese-born hockey player was drafted into the NHL. “Everyone in China celebrated for him,” said Lu. “My dream is to be an NHL player. It won’t be a hobby forever, it’s my goal, it’s the only thing I really want to be.”

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