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Storr Proud of Japanese Heritage

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers


December 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy to United States citizens. But to Keiko Storr, the Japanese mother of Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Jamie Storr, it was a day of life. Here is Jamie's story, in his own words.

"My mother, Keiko, was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She was born of all days, on December 7, 1941, the same day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The majority of my mom's relatives still live in Tokyo and I still get to visit them every once in a while. I have been told that my mother's grandfather was a Samurai so I have the blood of a Samurai.

"My mom's parents were very poor but eventually went from owning next to nothing to owning a lot. My grandfather worked his way up to own and operate a multi-million dollar company in Japan. When my mom was 28 she began to travel and made her way to North America. As luck would have it, my mom was at an airport when her flight was cancelled and that is when she met my dad. She had to wait a couple of days for the next flight and it that time the two started talking and the next thing you know, she never returned to Japan. Her parents were obviously upset when she called them and told them that she wasn't returning to her homeland and having a Japanese lifestyle, but what were they going to do? She married my father within the year and a year after that my older brother Shannon was born and four and a half years later I was born.

"We've been back to Japan five or six times since I was born. The lifestyle over there is very traditional. The males are the ones that get all the attention while the females are in the background. My grandparents had seven children, six sisters and one brother. The sisters and mother would always eat in the kitchen while the father and son would eat in the dining room. It was still like that when I used to go back and visit.

"My grandfather outlived six out of his seven children, including my mother. He was 96 years old when he passed away two years ago. His youngest daughter, my aunt, who I believe is 55, is still alive.

"Although I don't speak the language I am very proud of my Japanese heritage. My brother, Shannon, 34, is very intelligent and was an honor student who graduated from Queens University. He tried learning the language at Queens and he said it was unbelievably difficult. He understands a few of the phrases and could get by. When we would visit Japan there would be communication problems with my grandparents but we would always be able to talk with small words and motions to get our points across.

"There was always a lot of racism growing up in Toronto with a Japanese mother. I wasn't white and I wasn't Japanese. My mother would walk me to school and kids would see this little Japanese woman walking me to school so it wasn't to hard to figure out. It was difficult for me to fit in to any particular group since there was not any students who were half Japanese and half Canadian. When you're young you always want to fit in with your peers so that was difficult, so as a kid I can remember me wishing that I had a white mother. As I got older and made the NHL, I became extremely proud of my heritage. This makes me feel unique. There aren't too many Asian people playing in the NHL.

"I tried to do a lot for the Asian community when I played for the LA Kings and it was an honor to do this. I wasn't just doing this because it was charitable, I was doing to because it was my heritage.

"My mother passed away in my second professional year and the one thing I always relied on was my respect of my heritage. It is almost like a religion. I am proud of who I am and where I came from.

"The hockey mask I wore when I played for the Kings (which I still have) was a reflection of the respect I have of being Japanese. My mother's initials are on the back of the helmet with alongside the Japanese flag. Along the sides of the helmet are Japanese dragons. My brother tries to watch every NHL game that I have ever played and he told me that the one thing that he has been the proudest of the most is that every time he saw my helmet on television, he would always see my mom's initials on the back of my helmet.

"The thing is funny. Here was a woman who came to North America from Japan, spoke very little English and really made a name for herself. My father started playing hockey when he was in his 30s. He watched hockey a lot and my mom never watched hockey before. He would come home after work and he would find her on the couch and she would be watching hockey. This was before my brother and I were even born. Throughout a lot of my upbringing she was the one who would watch my games. She would take me to the rink. She never played the game but nothing could get by her. She wasn't afraid to tell me if I played poorly.

"I was able to go back to Japan and play in the under-18 tournament for Team Canada and that was the only time that any of my Japanese relatives were able to see me play live. I have six or seven first cousins living in Japan and they are the only first cousins I have since my father was an only child. My uncle, (his mother's sister's husband) travels over to North America once every 2-3 years keeps in contact with me via e-mail. The internet is amazing.

"Now that I have children, I'd like to take them to Japan to show them where a big part of their heritage came from."
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