Winnipeg’s Aydan Wang might only be 14 years old, but he is already blazing a trail for the next generation of hockey players of Asian descent.
Wang (who turns 15 on June 29) is finishing up his Grade 10 year at St. George’s School in Vancouver, where he put up 15 goals and 16 assists in 31 games this season for its U15 prep team. He moved from Winnipeg (where he was a student at St. John’s Ravenscourt School) to attend St. George’s after his family heard about the academically prestigious school through general word of mouth.
“We did some research and we thought it was a really great fit because it combined both really good academics as well as a CSSHL (Canadian Sport School Hockey League) team,” Wang says. “Interestingly enough, one of my close friends from California that I had played with before was also thinking of applying to the school, so we got in touch and decided to both apply. We contacted the head of hockey during this process, who talked to his sources in Winnipeg and he offered me a spot on the team. We didn’t have the best season performance-wise this year, but I felt like there was a lot of growth with our team.”
Wang, who plays all three forward positions, was recently back in his home province to compete in the 2022 Hockey Manitoba Male Under-16 Program of Excellence (POE) Top-40 Camp, which was held from May 6-8 at Stride Place in Portage la Prairie. He earned himself a spot at the camp after competing alongside over 100 players at the Hockey Manitoba Male U16 POE Spring Selection Camp, which was held in Niverville in early April.
Even though he is an elite-level hockey player, Wang is laser-focused on his education. He is an exceptional student who has a 4.0 unweighted GPA on a 4.0 scale and a long, family lineage of academic excellence.
His mom Fang, a professor of marketing at the University of Manitoba, and his dad Gang, a financial manager for IG Financial, are both first-generation immigrants who left China in the late 1990s to pursue higher education in North America. Fang was born in the city of Hanzhong in Shanxi province, while Gang is from the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong province. They met while both were students at the University of Minnesota.
“It’s a bit stereotypical, but hard work, persistence and a really big strive for excellence are traditional Chinese values that are really exemplified by my parents. They are highly educated, really hard workers and they commit that excellence in both their professional lives and in parenthood,” Wang says.
Chinese culture and values have always been a been an integral part of Wang’s life. Most of his family still live in China and he has visited many times (although not recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic). He is fluent in Mandarin and when he is at home with his parents, he speaks the language. He is very connected to his Chinese community, both in Winnipeg and Vancouver.
As first-generation Chinese immigrants, Aydan’s parents were not that familiar with hockey. They wanted Aydan to pursue athletics so they encouraged him to play tennis and soccer.
“Aydan first started playing hockey when he was six years old. At that time we knew nothing about hockey but as parents our philosophy was to try our best to let Aydan try as many new things as possible when he was young. Right from the beginning, we saw that Aydan loved being on the ice and no matter how many times he fell down, he would always get back up.” Gang Wang recalled.
Not long after Aydan started playing hockey, it was evident to his parents that the game was his love and passion. At 10 years old, he played for Team Manitoba at the prestigious Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament in Edmonton, which features some of the best nine and 10-year-old hockey players from across North America. When Aydan was 11 years old, Gang took him to Toronto to try out for a spring team that was composed of all-Chinese boys.
“We wanted him to get some exposure and know that there were many Asian boys playing hockey, it’s not just you are the only Asian kid playing hockey here. Most of the players on that team played AA or AAA hockey. He really enjoyed the experience and played on the team for another year.” Gang Wang said.
Even though he is still young himself, Wang is aware that there are younger players of Asian descent who are already looking up to him and following his career closely.
“I feel like as a Chinese-Canadian hockey player, every time I make it to the next level, I am showing more kids that they can do what I did,” Wang says. “Just how I look up to those who have made it in college hockey, the Western League and the NHL, kids from younger generations, every time I make it that next step, kids who are younger than me, who are similar, not just Asian players, but kids in general, they can do that as well.”
Wang will play for the St. George’s School U17 prep team this fall and is looking forward to taking the next step in his young hockey career.
“I feel like I want to just keep developing my skill, making sure I get bigger and stronger,” he says. “The next few years, hitting is going to be huge and I will be playing with older players that are stronger and faster, so I need to get that size up. I need to keep working on my speed, shot [and] stickhandling, just trying to improve all facets of my game.”