02/20 02:16 CST Skating coach making emotional return to South Korea
Skating coach making emotional return to South Korea
By LARRY LAGE
AP Hockey Writer
FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (AP) --- A 6-month-old girl was left next to a trash
bin on the streets of Seoul in the winter of 1974 and wound up in an orphanage
for a few years. She later stood at the bedside of her adopted parents as they
slept, making sure they weren't going to leave her, too.
Kim Muir was a toddler then, in Michigan, far from her homeland.
She is making an emotional return to South Korea this week as a renowned
skating coach. She will cheer for a handful of her clients playing hockey at
the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. And the single mother is also planning to
take her two children to Seoul, her home until a U.S. couple adopted her at the
age of 4. She plans to meet with adoption agency officials and visit a facility
intended to emulate life in an orphanage.
"I've lived the American dream," Muir, now 45, said recently in an interview
with The Associated Press. "And, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my parents
and this country."
Albert and Lois Muir met their adopted daughter Sept. 1, 1976, in Chicago and
brought her home to Trenton, a figure skating and hockey hotbed in the suburbs
south of Detroit. She had a difficult transition because of the language
barrier and fearing men simply because there were so few of them at the
orphanage. She also remembers refusing to do anything, including going to the
bathroom, without permission after she was adopted.
Trust was a tricky concept for the little girl to wrap her head around.
"She would get up during the night and come into our bedroom and just stand
there and stare at us," Lois Muir recalled. "Then, she would turn around and go
back. Just making sure we didn't leave her."
Soon after moving to the U.S., Kim Muir took to figure skating and began
competing at local events at the age of 7. She performed her first solo to
"Daddy's Little Girl," and the memory still brings a twinkle to her proud
parents' eyes. As the daughter of a hockey coach and sister of two older
brothers, both of whom played hockey, she spent endless hours on and around
sheets of ice and could understand the language of hockey as if it was her
When Muir was 15 and didn't think she could become an Olympic-caliber skater,
she chose to focus on coaching instead of competing. The ambitious teen
launched her business, "Can't Skate, Can't Play," with two students, Tony and
Brad Zancanaro, and within six months she had 200 clients. At Lake Superior
State University, she put herself on a pre-med path with degrees in biology and
chemistry while working as a skating instructor for the school's national
championship-winning hockey teams.
She used her degrees to get a job at Detroit Receiving Hospital at the age of
22, but the pull of teaching hockey players how to skate won the battle.
Plymouth Whalers coach Peter DeBoer, who now leads the San Jose Sharks, hired
her to instruct his Ontario Hockey League team a year later. She went on to
work for the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings under former coach Mike
"She taught my kids to skate, and she helped the Red Wings a lot when I was
there," said Babcock, who now coaches the Toronto Maple Leafs. "She's a
passionate lady who clearly knows what she is doing."
Muir put 10 of her clients, including some already drafted in the NHL, through
some drills recently. She gracefully and effortlessly glided on the ice ---
twisting, turning and pointing --- to give the hockey prospects an edge over
"I'm known for my skating and it's all because of her," said 16-year-old
Antonio Stranges, who has committed to play for the University of Michigan.
Muir strives to teach hockey players how to become more efficient, creative and
confident skaters. She begins her instruction without a puck and then simulates
situations to help hockey players skate their best when shooting, passing and
taking a hit.
When U.S. Olympic hockey players James Wisnewski and Megan Keller were growing
up in the Motor City, they were among Muir's many pupils.
"You see these figure skaters: They're pretty unbelievable at skating,"
Wisnewski said. "To be able to learn your edges from those people is always
Bobby Sanguinetti, who is playing for the Americans at the Olympics, became a
client after connecting with her in Carolina. Muir counts two other Olympians
among her former clients: Canada's Marc Andre Grignani and the Czech Republic's
Muir's clients say her expertise on how to get the most from their skating,
particularly their stride and their edge work, is unparalleled.
"When it gets down to the technical stuff, she's obviously probably one of the
most knowledgeable and just helps you with little things," Sanguinetti said.
"For a defenseman that pivots, trying to keep (turns) it, she was a lot of help
Anyone who knows Muir raves about her and can't be in her presence without
giving or getting a hug.
"Kim has so much energy that she lights up any room she's in," said Jim
Wisnewski, whose son, a former NHL defenseman, played for the U.S. at the
Olympics. "On the ice, my kid would always say, 'I wish I could skate half as
good as her.' Off it, she's got an energetic walk. And, she's always smiling
ear to ear."
Her dad was, too, sitting on a stool next to his wife and reflecting on the
life his daughter has had. Talking about it, though, was tough to do.
"It's wonderful," Albert Muir said, fighting back tears.
Kim Muir and her children live in suburban Detroit. Her only memory from the
orphanage was getting in trouble for taking shoes off another child in what she
describes a survival-of-the-fittest environment. She didn't want to go back to
Seoul --- she was scheduled to arrive Wednesday --- without sharing the
experience with her 9-year-old son, Vincenzo, and 8-year-old daughter, Alexis,
along with the thrill of witnessing the Olympics.
"I didn't make it to as an athlete, but I'm making it as a coach," she said.
"To be able to support my clients and take my kids back to the orphanage that I
came from, that's going full circle."
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this story.
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