Date: January 24, 2017

Barkov confident about future of Chinese hockey

By Alistair McMurran – IIHF.com

China’s surprise 2-1 loss to Turkey in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III final will not dint the confidence of new head coach Alexander Barkov.

The experienced Russian coach, who also played and coached in Finland and is the father of Finnish national team and NHL forward Aleksander Barkov, was hired late to become the head coach of the Chinese men’s under-20 side that was expected to win the U20 Division III gold medal.

China was demoted from Division II Group B last year and was desperate to get promotion back to the higher grade.

There is an air of expectation in Chinese ice hockey circles that the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 will lift the profile and standard of the sport in their country.

China is currently ranked 37th in the world. If it stayed at this level they would be easy beats at the Olympic Games. Therefore there are ambitions to make China Olympic-ready.

“We don’t want to go there at the level where hockey in China is now. We are determined to improve the hockey standard in China,” the 51-year-old Barkov said.

Barkov and his assistants have only been working with the Chinese under-20 national since being appointed late in December. In that short time he has improved the speed on the ice and the attitude of the Chinese players. But there remains a lot of work to do.

But his ambitions for Chinese hockey go further than this. He wants China to be competitive at the 2022 Olympics Winter Games in Beijing.

The surprise 2-1 loss has shown Barkov that there is work to be done to get his team winning tight games when there is sustained pressure from their opponents.

The job at the moment for Barkov is to build a hockey system in China that will lift the ranking of China from 37th where it stands at the moment. He has a contract to work with Chinese hockey until the Winter Olympics in 2022.

“This was just a first step because many of these players will be in the Chinese Olympic team then,” Barkov said.

“It is our long-term project to bring these kids to a higher standard. It starts with work ethics and attitude and ends with the coaching skills from the team staff.”

The Chinese team demonstrated sound team work on the ice and the speed of the players on the ice has improved.

“We’ve been training to get speed on skates and everything else,” Barkov said. “We spend time on all the basics – shooting, and tactics.”

They play a European style of hockey and know how to use every part of the ice rink.

“We always use as much of the ice as is possible,” Barkov said. “We try to use the skills that the players have. We are not asking them to do anything they cannot do.

“We ask the players to follow the coach’s instructions on the ice but still leave room for the players to use their own skills and imagination.”

Barkov, a former centre, had a long career in the Soviet Union with his hometown team Sibir Novosibirsk and Spartak Moscow. After a short stint in Italy he later played for Tappara Tampere in Finland for ten years.

He represented Russia at three World Championships (1992, 1997, 1999) and then started coaching.

He was an junior coach at Tappara Tampere and an assistant coach for the senior team, then worked for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Ak Bars Kazan and Amur Khabarovsk in the Kontinental Hockey League for four years.

He then had a short stint with the Finnish under-20 team where the entire coaching staff was replaced during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship before becoming the Chinese coach afterwards.

NHL in China could happen ‘in relative near future’

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By Mike Zeisberger – Toronto Sun

When it comes to China, hockey is nowhere as popular as hoops. It might never be. With retired 7-foot-6 Yao Ming as a spokesperson for basketball in his native country, that’s a tall order.

But during his recent trip there, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly heard the same message over and again about that country’s growing fascination with the world’s fastest sport. From government representatives. From potential sponsors. Even during a Metallica concert at one of the venues he was checking out with Chinese officials.

It seems more and more, Daly learned, Chinese kids are into pucks.

“Everyone there kept telling me: “We’ve got a long way to go to catch up to basketball in China, but the bottom line is the younger demographic really connects with our game and thinks it’s cool,” Daly said in a phone interview with Postmedia.

“Not only that, they want to see it more.”

Ask, and ye shall receive.

If Daly and the league have their way, pre-season games involving NHL teams will be held in China as early as this September/October, with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks among the parties reportedly interested. In a perfect world, the press conference unveiling the NHL’s plans will be a spectacle attended by fans, politicians and local children who are among the 1,100 hockey players the International Ice Hockey Federation claims are registered in the nation of 1.375 billion people.

(For the record, various Chinese outlets report the number of people playing hockey in that country is closer to 3,000.)

In any event, Daly and NHL officials understand that inside the borders of the world’s most popular country is a vast untapped frontier with limitless potential to grow both the sport and the revenues that go along with it.

In his visit to China last week, Daly’s activities included: Meeting with government officials looking to the NHL for advice in preparation for the 2022 Beijing Olympics; negotiating with companies eager to get a piece of the league’s sponsorship pie; and trying to lay the foundation that would see the country host exhibition games.

Daly had envisioned what the hockey environment in China might be like. But it took actually flying halfway around the world to have it all sink in.

In fact, Daly admitted his experience in China fueled his enthusiasm about the league’s hopes to establish a footprint in that country.

“I think in a lot of ways it did,” Daly said. “I think once you are there it makes it more real and less theoretical.

“We hope we’re at the point where the commissioner (Gary Bettman) can go over there and have the same reaction. We hope that happens in the relative near future. And it definitely makes it more real. There seems to be a high level of interest in learning the game.”

In 2004, Ming’s Houston Rockets played a two-game exhibition series against the Sacramento Kings, the NBA’s first such contests held in China. Those events gave basketball the type of momentum in China that Daly hopes hockey will enjoy via similar preseason contests.

“In my three days there, part of the process was working on moving the (preseason) game project along,” Daly said. “It seems that the NBA, having brought games over there, has been a game changer over there as far as basketball is concerned.

“Now everybody is excited about the prospect of NHL teams coming over. So, we’re obviously trying to make that happen as soon as possible. We’re still holding out hope it can happen (this year) but if that doesn’t happen I expect it’ll happen the following year. If you’re able to finalize that, you go over there to make the announcement. And you probably put some of our youth grass roots hockey infrastructure in place around the announcement with some of the local youth hockey organizations but also along with some of the local governments in the bigger cities and even sponsors.

“That’s another thing – corporate sponsors wanting to connect with the NHL and the brands, well, I would say, there’s a lot of interest. That’s all helpful too. So that’s really what’s next for us. It’s kind of incremental.”

To that end, Daly and the league last week completed a five-year partnership deal with Chinese internet giant Tencent which will see the company carry selected NHL games on its video sites and mobile platforms. The league already has an agreement with China’s public broadcaster CCTV to show a cache of NHL contests.

The catalyst for the Chinese government’s interest in hockey revolves around the looming 2022 Games, which are being looked upon to spike the number of people playing hockey there.

“I was surprised was the level of interest and curiosity about the game,” Daly said. “A lot of that has been spurred by the announcement of the Beijing Winter Olympics. I met with a couple of government officials in different capacities and a lot of people are focused on building some grass roots infrastructure and building a national team that can competitive at the Olympics, even if they don’t win a game. There’s a desire to do that.

“What I see as the opportunity is that, because there is a desire to do that, they want to engage in a whole list of levels. And again, there is government support for partnering to do that. And they were asking for our help and our expertise in helping to build on that culture. That I view as a real opportunity.”

This past summer, Connor McDavid took a trip to China as part of a BioSteel sponsorship event while Bruins winger Matt Beleskey also traveled there as part of a Boston contingent helping to teach kids about the game.

After last week, you can add Daly to the list of those with NHL connections who have been to China. And now that he’s returned to North America, he has a better grasp on the climate for hockey in that country.

In fact, he’s got a better grasp on China’s climate, period, one that seems to be more conducive to hockey than he ever thought possible.

“It was cold,” Daly said. “I expected it to be warmer. Everyone said Beijing was more of a summer Olympic city than a winter Olympic city. But it was cold there. And I didn’t bring an overcoat.”

Define “cold.”

“It was below zero Celcius. One day it was minus 11 C.”

Welcome to China, Bill Daly.

Welcome to China, National Hockey League.

BEIJING SILENCE

Bill Daly was asked a lot of questions during his whirlwind three-day visit to China.

Surprisingly, queries about the possible inclusion of NHL players at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics weren’t among them.

“I expected that topic to come up at the meetings I had and it didn’t,” Daly told Postmedia in a phone interview. “And I had a lot of meetings.

“Even with the government entities which included China Winter Sport Federation and Ice Hockey Association, NHL participation in terms of player participation at the Beijing Games didn’t come up once. Again, maybe it’s because they assume it, maybe it’s because they don’t even know we participate.

“They want our help preparing for the Games. Like I said, NHL participation didn’t come up.”

Meanwhile Daly said the issue of NHLers taking part in the 2018 Games in South Korea remains in limbo.

“Originally I had kind of hoped to have a resolution by the end of the calendar year,” Daly said. “But because we don’t have one and because we have a contingency plan (schedule-wise) for if we’re going and not going, we really haven’t established any type of time frame.

“I can tell you this: There’s been no change in everyone’s respective positions.”

“The Organizers surpassed all expectations”The 2017 Week of Hockey Stars

By KHL.ru

30,000 spectators, 122 players, 165 volunteers, 7,000 prizes, a ton-and-a-half of props, instant consignment of photographs and much more. KHL.ru presents a statistical overview of the biggest hockey festival of the year – the Week of Hockey Stars in Ufa.

The 2017 Week of Hockey Stars in Ufa enjoyed its grand finale last weekend and it will go down in history for being the first event to encompass matches featuring the finest players from three leagues – the Kontinental Hockey League, the Women’s Hockey League (WHL) and the Youth Hockey League (YHL). Every fan who witnessed the event, be they one of the thousands who travelled to the Bashkir capital and watched from the stands or one of the multitudes who followed the drama from a distance, will cherish their own unique and priceless memories of the Week of Hockey Stars. To measure the depth of the impressions made on all the fans is a task that would defeat the finest minds, but a look at some selected facts and figures can be highly illuminating as well as fascinating.

Sporting contest

Starting with the action on and around the ice, the YHL Challenge Cup, WHL All-Star Game and KHL All-Star Game boasted a combined total of 122 players, 14 coaches (including the four popular TV commentators who worked as guest coaches) and 12 referees. Obviously, when judging the quality of the contests themselves, we must look further than merely at the number of talented and famous names. We must consider the sporting element, particularly the competitiveness of the matches. All the games were highly intense battles, and three of them – the YHL Challenge Cup, the first KHL All-Star Game semi-final and the big final itself – finished with a winning margin of just a solitary goal. Moreover, the Challenge Cup was such a hard-fought affair that it had to be decided in the shootout. The first Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game in Russian history will linger long in the memory, not least because the West kept the opposition off the scoreboard with an emphatic 4-0 triumph over the women from the East.

As for the Master Show, not only did it thrill the fans, but it also gave us a new record in the first event of the evening, the Fastest Skater The previous best lap time was 13.178 seconds, posted by Wojtek Wolski back in 2015, and this was eclipsed in the first outing by Torpedo forward Alexei Potapov, who clocked. 12.952 seconds, but his achievement was soon surpassed by three more players: Francis Pare (Medvescak), Ivan Telegin (CSKA) and the quickest of them all Enver Lisin of Salavat Yulaev, who completed a circuit in only 12,450 seconds.

The spectators

On four of the days in the Week of Hockey Stars there was a near full-house at the Ufa Arena. A total audience of over 30,000 fans came to watch the tricks and stunts from the likes of Vladimir Tkachyov (Ak Bars), Andrei Altiparmakyan (SKA-Silver Lions), Alevtina Shtaryovaya (Tornado), and many other masters of the game.

In addition, every fan had the chance to test his mettle as a hockey player in the leisure and entertainment facilities at the arena and the surrounding Fan Zone – comprising a total area of over 2,000 square meters and boasting more than 30 different games and competitions. Those who visited the Coca-Cola stand could try their luck in a simulation of one of the contests from the Master Show, the Hockey Biathlon. In all, around 7,000 people went home from the event as the proud owner of one or more of the memorable prizes offered by partners of the KHL and the Week of Hockey Stars.

And in addition to pretending to be one of the stars, the fans also got the chance to meet them by attending the popular autograph sessions, featuring Danis Zaripov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk) and Kirill Kaprizov (Salavat Yulaev) plus many of the juniors, to whom around 500 people flocked. The female stars went further, and ventured out to meet the public. Ekaterina Zakharova, Yulia Sadykova and Natalia Vorontsova surprised the fans by visiting 5 hockey shooting ranges in the Fan Zone to give the supporters a master class. On one day alone, the Sunday of the KHL All-Star Game, the fans fired off more than 7,000 shots at the target. One third of the visitors were women, and one in five of the ladies won a prize for hitting 3 out of 5 targets. The visitors ranged in age from 3 to 65 years, although on one occasion an eighteen-month-old toddler grabbed a hockey stick and joined in the fun.

Still and moving pictures

Among the battalions of TV production crews working on the broadcasts one could find the finest creative minds and the similarly impressive technical arsenal of the national sports channel, Match TV. Around 100 professionals worked with meticulous care to capture, record, and broadcast images from more than 25 television cameras, including 4 ultra-slow-motion cameras, a sliding “spider-camera,” and cameras worn by the players or embedded in the arena’s ice.

Viewers were given that special “part of the action” feeling thanks to the latest virtual graphics, and the event also heralded the debut in Russian hockey of a webcast in 360º format, which on YouTube alone attracted approximately 40,000 people. One of the undisputed highlights of the Master Show – the shootout attempt by Vladimir Tkachyov – has set its sights on breaking records for views, having already reached the 430,000 mark.

The size of the audience and the activity of fans on social networks (comments, likes, retweets, etc.) during the Week of Hockey Stars was 50% higher than for the regular season. This was doubtless helped by the KHL Photoagency breaking new ground by using instant transfer of captured images to the League’s server, from where the photos could be downloaded and uploaded to the social networks by LIVE system, thereby providing fans with the latest and most relevant “hot” content. And the sharp drop in the time needed for edited pictures to appear on the KHL Photoblog allowed all the online followers to use the pictures on various information resources.

 

 

 

The official website of the KHL also provided a LIVE text broadcast of the Master Show and the All-Star Game, which included many exclusive details from the arena, including ones the fans could not see from the stands, plus TV broadcasts from the locker rooms, from the spaces under the stands, or from the team benches. The content included photos, videos, comments from participating players, as well as live broadcasts via Periscope: an interview with Sergei Mozyakin (11,000 views), joint analysis from Oleg Znarok and Sergei Gimayev of their opponents (6,000 views), and more. As it stands, every LIVE-stream broadcast attracted around 20,000 views.

Organizational round-up

A large-scale sporting event such as the Week of Hockey Stars would be impossible to organize without the joint efforts of a great many people, most of whom remained behind the scenes and therefore out of sight, but still made an invaluable contribution to the preparations and staging of the entire series of events. With great dedication and passion, 165 volunteers gave their time and effort and were much appreciated, while the media contingent numbered around 100 professionals, all devoted to helping the game reach a wider audience.

For the various ceremonies held in Ufa it was necessary to bring in 1.5 tons of props and about 14 kilometers of network cable, which is enough to run the entire length of Prospekt Salavat Yulaev, the city’s famous avenue, and back again. In preparation for the event, the Ufa Arena had to be fitted with a new media-cube, a new sound system and new stage lights, and is now the first arena to provide free Wi-Fi for spectators. This might become the event’s most significant legacy for the stadium and the fans who will use it in the future. The amount of data transmitted via the spectators’ Wi-Fi network reached 160Gb.

The organizers made a tremendous effort to ensure that none of the supporters who came to the Republic of Bashkortostan for the Week of Hockey Stars would go home empty-handed. For example, KHL licensee Panini gave out 800 free albums and 500 free stickers from their new KHL Season 2016-17 collection. The fans also had the chance to buy from a vast array of licensed products, which are now being worn or displayed by thousands of hockey fans in numerous cities and countries all around the world.

KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko said of the event:

“The Week of Hockey Stars in Ufa surpassed all expectations in terms of the standard of organization and the level of audience interest. Together with the city authorities and the regional government, we have done all we can to ensure that tens of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers got a taste of big-time hockey. I would like to give special thanks to our partners, who made such an invaluable contribution to the creation of the festive hockey atmosphere, and to all the volunteers for their help, enthusiasm and dedication. Together we made a great team and we will always cherish the memory of this stellar week in Ufa.”