NHL to play in China | Updated: 2017-09-08 05:15

NHL to play in China

Vancouver Canucks star Christopher Tanev tries his hand at the hockey puck-chopsticks challenge during a player media event on Wednesday in Stamford, Connecticut. Photo provided to China Daily

It's been about two years since the International Olympic Committee announced that Beijing would host the 2022 Winter Games. Since winning the bid, China has focused on developing winter sports in the country and launched the "300 million people dream of ice and snow" initiative.

This year, as the National Hockey League (NHL) celebrates its 100th anniversary, the league will play its first games ever in China, with the Vancouver Canucks facing the LA Kings in Shanghai on Sept 21 and Beijing on Sept 23.

During a media event in Stamford, Connecticut on Wednesday, NHL players were introduced to a bit of Chinese culture. They practiced greetings in Chinese and answered pre-recorded questions from Chinese fans. Many of them sampled traditional moon cakes for the first time and were challenged to stack as many hockey pucks as they could in 30 seconds using chopsticks.

As one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, the NHL will be the third to hold games in China, following the success of the National Basketball Association starting in 2004 and Major League Baseball in 2008.

Since its founding in Montreal, Canada, in 1917, the NHL has grown into a league with 31 teams - 24 in the United States and seven in Canada.

"There's not much growth of the game other than Europe and North America," Christopher Tanev of the Vancouver Canucks said. "Asia is not so much into hockey yet. Hopefully when we go over there we'll show them hockey is a fun sport."

It wasn't until 2015 that Beijing-born Song Andong became the first Chinese player to be drafted in the NHL. Hockey has not yet caught on as a major sport in China and young talents are usually trained by amateur organizations.

LA Kings player Tanner Pearson thinks that playing NHL games in China will help grow the sport there. He started playing hockey when he was 4 years old and said that going to games motivated him as a kid.

"With us going there, it could definitely be a good thing for kids to see and something to look up to," Pearson said.

The NHL has successfully held hockey schools over the past summer in several major Chinese cities for children aged 4 to 16 to improve their hockey skills.

"Every coach of the NHL hockey school has been professionally trained and they all have experience overseas," said David Proper, NHL executive vice-president for media and international strategy. "We hope to cultivate Chinese teenagers' interest in hockey with the NHL hockey school to help the development of ice hockey throughout China."

Michelle Gao contributed to this story.

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349