CDS Student Laces Up with Aurora Tigers & Team China

Zachary Lawton
Grade 11 student, Steven Li began his hockey journey at the age of three in Beijing. Thirteen years later, ‘Stevey’ is lacing up as a forward for the Jr. A Aurora Tigers and set to play for his birth country on Team China in the 2020 IIHF U18 World Championships next spring.
He first developed an interest in the game watching his sister figure skate. While sitting in the stands with his mother, Steven remembers observing another young boy putting on his skates and pads, then grabbing a stick. “He looked cool, and I told my mom I want to do that.”

Steven was quickly identified as a skilled forward/winger in China and was promoted to teams three levels above his age group. His parents understood his passion for the game and asked if he wanted to go to Canada to pursue his sport. “I had never even heard of Canada before and especially nothing about its hockey history.” He decided to give it a go and made the move to Ontario in 2010 at the age of seven.

He tried out for his first team - the Duffield Devils in North York - and was immediately blown away by the talented local Canadian players. “When I got here, I thought I’d be one of the more skilled players, but I quickly found out I was in the mid-to-lower tier. That’s when I knew hockey in Canada was very strong.”

Despite his early hockey-culture shock, Steven demonstrated grit and continued to move up the junior hockey ladder. He played for the AAA Toronto Titans and won two Championships in Minor-Atom and Atom, before joining the Mississauga Rebels. From there he spent two years with the Don Mills Flyers before joining his current team, the Aurora Tigers.

Steven recalls how moving to a new country and not knowing the language presented some unique challenges. For example, he couldn’t communicate effectively with his line mates. “The other players would say stuff to me that I didn’t understand and then I couldn’t express myself. It wasn’t until I met another guy who spoke Mandarin. He helped me assimilate into the culture of the team.” Today, language is no longer a problem for him.

A student at CDS since Grade 7, Steven has played school hockey for the past three years and helped the Senior Boys' team win CISAA Gold last March. However, due to his commitment with the Aurora Tigers, he won't be able to play for CDS again this year.

Last summer, Steven represented Team Beijing in the Chinese Olympics. His team went undefeated and won the championship. Interestingly, his line was made up of three Chinese-Canadians who all play in the Greater Toronto Area. His strong play for both club and country earned Steven a call up to the Team China U18 team for the upcoming Division Two International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Tournament. Next year, his team hopes to earn a promotion against their Division Two opponents in anticipation of being able to play in the 1st division against more traditional hockey powers like Team Canada in the future.

Considering the 2022 Winter Olympics are in Beijing, Steven has noticed an incredible investment in hockey throughout China. “The Team China coaches are no longer Chinese, but from major hockey powers. There are also rinks popping up all over, even one across the street [from his family's home].”

Steven is excited to play for his country next year, and after that, is aiming for a scholarship to a D1 NCAA school where he can continue his growth as a hockey player while pursuing a university education.

School Information

13415 Dufferin Street King, Ontario L7B 1K5
(905) 833-1220
Founded in 1972, The Country Day School is a co-educational private school offering programs in JK-12 and located on 100 acres north of Toronto in King.