Christina Park on CBC Television's
The Fifth Estate (1992)
Persuading her wealthy parents wasn't the biggest problem... far from it. The largest obstacle was trying to get Richard a spot with the Toronto Young Nationals hockey club. The Metro Toronto Hockey League - which oversees minor hockey in Canada's largest city - had a long-standing policy of preventing kids from outside Toronto taking spots from locals. Fifteen years earlier, in fact, the MTHL blocked a budding Wayne Gretzky from joining the same elite squad. The ruling that stood in the way of a developing "Great One" wasn't about to be relaxed for a spoiled, rich, 12-year-old from Southern California.
So Christina found a way around it. "I'm like, 'I'm not here to play hockey... I'm here to go to college.'" She enrolled in Finance at the University of Toronto and registered Richard at De La Salle private school. With her parents' help she bought a condo.
Then, she went even further. "I had to fight for legal guardianship because my brother was a minor, and I was too young. They didn't think I had the capability or the responsibility to take care of him. I had to go to school and get my letters from professors to prove I was responsible. And I had to go to court. It took months." In the interim the Parks were renting ice privately so Richard could practice, getting up at 5:00 a.m., then going again after school.
When Richard did finally get permission to skate with the Young Nationals, Christina's work didn't end. "I was up before each tournament saying 'Dammit, you're going to make it.' And you know, at that point you're dealing with all the political B.S. It was a hotbed for learning politics and playing the game. I was trying to protect him from all the evil and dealing with all the junior scouts at that point. Let me tell you, it was hell... but it made me strong - I've seen the evil side of every hockey parent you can imagine."
By 1992 the pair had become so well known that CBC Television's The Fifth Estate had picked up the story. In an award-winning documentary called "Her Brother's Keeper" viewers got a good look at a cute, charismatic young Christina with a crazy head of hair, and the beginnings of the manager she is now. From mouthing the words of a speech Richard was delivering (one she had obviously written for him) to translating for her Korean parents - but adding a lot more than they said - Christina was a P.R. machine.
Richard ended up being the fourth overall pick in the Ontario Hockey League entry draft, selected by the Belleville Bulls, and went on to have a stellar Junior "A" career.
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