Windsor

This Windsor hockey coach will teach North Korean goalies to get 'creative'

Francois Lemay, a coach for several hockey clubs in Windsor-Essex, will be training the goalies on the North Korean national men’s and women’s hockey teams.

'I am curious, who is not curious about North Korea?'

Francois Lemay will be heading to North Korea to train the goalies on the national men's and women's hockey team. (Meg Roberts/CBC News )

Francois Lemay spends almost every waking moment at arenas across Windsor, but for the next 10 days he's leaving his home ice behind to inspire creativity in North Korean hockey players.

Lemay, who coaches goalies for several hockey clubs across Windsor-Essex, will be training the goaltenders on the North Korean men's and women's national hockey teams.

"I think I am the only one that wants to go," Lemay jokingly said when asked why he was selected. "People don't want to travel to North Korea, especially North Americans."

Coach is 'curious' about North Korea

Lemay believes he will be the first foreign hockey coach to ever visit the country. North Korea, known for its heavily fortified border and communist government, does not often allow outsiders into the country.

"I am curious, who is not curious about North Korea?" asked Lemay, who spoke with CBC at the Central Park Athletics ice rink following a practice.

Lemay is the goalie coach for the Windsor Lancers men hockey team, Southwest Wildcats, PWHL and Windsor Aces. (Meg Roberts/CBC News )

Lemay will be joining a group of filmmakers from Vancouver in the city's capital, Pyongyang. The crew has been documenting North Korea's national hockey teams for two years and will be releasing a documentary called Closing The Gap in the fall.

'A breath of fresh air'

The coach plans to set up development programs for young goaltenders and work with the national teams to become more "creative" on the ice.

"They have absolutely no development system, they have absolutely nothing at all," he said. "This is a breath of fresh air for them."

For me this could open doors, not your traditional doors, but hey I'll take it.- Francois Lemay, goalie coach

Lemay said he didn't intentionally set out to coach hockey in North Korea following a controversial Olympic games where North and South Korea merged teams, but he is hoping to leave his Canadian mark on the country.

"For those countries, the only escape those people have is through sport and if there is a hope of reunification someday it's going to be through sport," Lemay explained​.

Although Lemay admits he's a "little nervous," he is also confident the experience will be very rewarding. 

"Who knows what will happen after this. For me this could open doors, not your traditional doors, but hey I'll take it."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meg Roberts is a video journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John's. Email her at meg.roberts@cbc.ca.

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