GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - It may be a tiny disc weighing no more than six ounces (170 grams), but the ice hockey puck that found its way into the net to score the first goal by an inter-Korean Olympic team is now the most treasured lump of vulcanized rubber in South Korea.
The puck’s journey will not end in Pyeongchang either, as its next destination is a place among the highest accolades of the ice hockey world: The Hall of Fame in Toronto.
The disc came to prominence on Wednesday when forward Randi Heesoo Griffin, an American of Korean heritage, took a pass off the boards, fought her way up the right wing and forced the puck on the Japanese net in the team’s final preliminary round game.
It squeezed between the goaltender’s pads and dribbled across the line almost 30 minutes into the game, scoring the unified team’s first and only Olympic goal so far in the 4-1 loss to Japan.
After the goal, a referee took the puck off the ice. A sports ministry official at that time said they took it simply for a replacement, but another South Korean player told reporters that Griffin wanted to keep it for herself.
However, on Thursday, a spokesman for South Korea’s ice hockey association said the puck would instead be sent to the Hall of Fame.
The International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame, located in Toronto, was established to honor leading players, coaches and officials, and displays hockey artifacts and memorabilia from around the world.
Last month, the two Koreas agreed to field a combined women’s ice hockey team at the Winter Olympics as Seoul is trying to use the Games to re-engage with their neighbor and resolve tensions over the North’s nuclear arms ambitions.
Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Dan Burns; Editing by John O'Brien