Category: Olympics (Page 1 of 17)

Canadian helping bring ice hockey culture as China imports Winter Olympics talen

Clint Hazen is known as ‘“the hockey guy” at the rink where he works in Beijing

The Chinese recognize ice hockey is Canada’s game and want to learn more about ice hockey culture,’ says Clint Hazen.

Known as ‘the hockey guy’, the Canadian is lending his expertise in helping China import culture in a bid to grow winter sports.

With less than 250 days, China is nearing the final stages of preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. A number of international coaches, executives, builders and planners have been brought in to help the government pull off its second edition, after a successful 2008 Summer Olympics.

Expatriates have long been a staple in key sectors in Beijing and Shanghai, mainly in finance and tech. Now China is importing knowledge and experience in sports, winter ones specifically.

Multiple data points suggest there are close to a million foreigners working in China, many of them brought in specifically for their professional skill sets. After two years of vetting, including interviews, background checks and loads of paperwork, Canadian Clint Hazen became one of them, and said his 18 months in China have been an interesting and expansive experience.

“Some steps took weeks, even months, so it was exciting as everything came together,” said Hazen, who touched down in Beijing in September of 2019, and started working as a performance coach for the Chinese Olympic Committee.

Clint Hazen has grown up surrounded by ice hockey his entire life in Canada, and now hopes to help bring some of that culture to China

Hazen, who has a master’s degree in sports medicine, health and rehabilitation sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, is your typical Canadian. He’s been playing hockey his whole life, as a goalie, and this was exactly what China was looking for when they hired him, said Hazen.

“At first it seemed almost too good to be true and a few friends asked, ‘Are you sure this is for real?’” said Hazen, who played college hockey for Duquesne University in the US.

“China is serious about foreign expats and earning a position alone is a real accomplishment,” he said.

The first day after touching down from Vancouver, a friend invited him to the Renaissance Cup, an ice hockey tournament in Beijing.

Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin was on hand for the ceremonial puck drop, and old hockey buddies were lacing up their skates to play in the tournament.

“My first 24 hours in Beijing and I was a few stick lengths away from Ovechkin, watching my friends play in China. It was definitely a surprise.”

Then Hazen was off to a training base north of Beijing to help with the women’s ice hockey development team, and then he joined the men’s national team for a trip to the Czech Republic where they played a number of games in preparation for the upcoming Games.

Hazen said China, who will have a men’s and women’s team compete at the Olympics, are serious about cultivating a home-grown culture, and have pinpointed Canada to help them achieve this goal.

“China has said it wants 300 million participants in winter sports by 2022, and ice hockey is and has always been one of the most popular winter sports when it comes to the Olympics,” he said.

“The Chinese recognize ice hockey is Canada’s game and want to learn more about Canadian ice hockey culture. Ice hockey is ingrained in our national history and tradition, and hockey forms communities across Canada. We live, eat and breathe it as a national pastime.”

Clint Hazen, known as”Mr. Hockey”, teaching an ice hockey class in Beijing

Hazen said there are challenges ahead for China but hundreds of ice rinks have been built over the past decade and Beijing 2022 could be a watershed moment for the sport.

“The goal is to increase competition levels both domestically and abroad. And we are working at creating more opportunities for kids to play by forming school, university and professional leagues around the country. The sport is definitely growing exponentially right now.”

Hazen now works as a goalie coach and fitness technology counselor for Bloomage International, a private company that has the exclusive rights to host the NHL China Games. Cadillac Arena, which it built and owns, will play host to the ice hockey competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will kick off February 4th 2022.

“Since starting at Bloomage I have become known as ‘the hockey guy’,” he said with a chuckle, “and have been asked to offer experience on all aspects of ice hockey operations. From training systems to practice plans, hiring coaches and organizing the minor hockey association.

“I’m hoping I can help pass them some of the knowledge I got while growing up in Canada and playing hockey since I was a little kid.”

Hazen said he is loving life in China and thinks ice hockey is well on its way in the country.

“Ice hockey has a long history in China actually, especially in the northeast provinces where they have long, cold winters. This is obviously quite similar to most of Canada when it comes to climate, so they definitely have a good foundation in place and all the right ingredients to become a hockey-loving nation.”

Swedish host city gets women’s Olympic qualifier

By Dunn Goodwin – Dealmakerz

In February, the Winter Olympics take place, where Swedish women’s crowns hope to go now. Before that, the team must win a qualifying match to play on Swedish soil. It is now clear that these matches will take place in Lulea.

Sweden have not played in any international championships since the 2019 women’s crown, as the P-WC have been suspended for two consecutive years on the women’s side. The team now has a new opportunity to enter the good room by taking part in the Olympics, which will replace the World Cup next year.

To reach a place in the tournament, the team must first perform well in the qualifying matches to be decided in Louvre in the fall. The national teams of France and Slovakia will try to reach the Olympic spot here along with another team. The teams will all meet each other between November 11-14, and the country with the most points in its meetings will travel to Beijing next year.

– With the canceled World Cup for Tomkronorna in the 2020/2021 season, Olympic qualification has been a clear target for the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and executive staff during the meetings we have held. Olof Astblom, tournament manager of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, says in a statement on their website that it is encouraging to be able to co-host the event and the Olympic qualifiers at home, in conjunction with Lule Hockey, who has shown a commitment to women’s and women’s hockey.

But before Sweden can begin its qualifying journey, low-ranking teams must do everything they can to reach a place in the Olympics.

This is how the women’s qualifiers for the 2022 Olympics play out

Qualifying Match 1 – 26-29 August 2021
Participating teams: Iceland, Hong Kong, Bulgaria and Lithuania

Qualifying Matches 2 – 7-10 October 2021
Group F: Korea, Great Britain, Slovenia and Qualifier 1
Group G: Italy, Kazakhstan, Spain and Chinese Taipei
Group H: Netherlands, Poland, Mexico and Turkey

Qualifying Matches 3 – 11-14 November 2021
Group C: Winners of Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway and Qualifying Tournament 2
Group D: Winners of Germany, Denmark, Austria and Qualifying Tournament 2
Group E: Sweden, France, Slovakia and Qualifiers 2 winners

Teams already ready for the 2022 Olympics
Group A: USA, Canada, Finland, ROC and Switzerland
Group B: Three team winners from Japan, China and qualifiers3

Craig Woodcroft to train Belarus ice hockey team for Olympic qualification

Source: Belta

The Belarusian national ice hockey team will be trained for the Olympic qualification by a new coaching staff led by Craig Woodcroft, BelTA learned from the website of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation.

The decision was taken at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation on 7 June.

Earlier, Mikhail Zakharov left the position of the head coach of the national team.

On 26-29 August, Belarusians will compete for the only Olympic berth against Slovakia, Austria and Poland. Bratislava will host the Group D qualification tournament.

Craig Woodcroft has recently extended his contract with HC Dinamo Minsk. Next season will be Woodcroft’s fourth behind Bisons’ bench.

Craig Woodcroft previously worked with the Belarusian national team at three editions of the IIHF World Championship (2015, 2016, 2017) and Olympic qualification for the 2018 Games, where he assisted Dave Lewis. In the 2017/18 season, he was part of Team Canada that won the 2017 Spengler Cup and a bronze medal at the 2018 Olympics.

Shooting for a solid post-Games legacy

Players compete during an ice hockey test program at National Indoor Stadium in Beijing, April 2, 2021

By Sun Xiaochen – China Daily

Even with the national team’s Olympic prospects looking bleak, China’s ice hockey administrators remain committed to boosting the niche sport’s popularity beyond 2022.

Less than nine months out from the Beijing Winter Olympics, the priority for China’s men’s hockey team is merely to avoid blowout defeats against the sport’s powerhouses at the 12-team Games.

But in the wake of the team’s poor preparations, even that appears to be a long shot, with the squad severely hindered by stagnant player development and a lack of quality competition.

In a shocking decision revealed on Tuesday, China’s national team players will skip the upcoming national championship, which could have acted as an important tuneup for the Olympics, and instead remain at their base in Shenyang, Liaoning province, to continue a training camp which has already lasted 10 months.

The championship, which will take place from May 25-June 1 in Beijing’s Yanqing district, would usually see all of China’s top players in action for their respective provincial teams or clubs.

With no international warm-ups scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national team’s development, currently overseen by the General Administration of Sport of China, remains something of a mystery, with barely any details of its progress or plans released to the public.

In 2017, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association (CIHA) launched a talent recruitment process, aiming to draft foreign-born-mostly North America-based-players with Chinese heritage to bolster the Olympic program.

However, that appears not to have panned out as anticipated, with none of the targeted overseas players making it onto the national team’s training roster.

Having been granted special wild-card entries to the Olympics by the International Ice Hockey Federation, China has targeted an unlikely medal in the 10-team women’s competition, and is simply aiming not be embarrassed in the men’s tournament.

However, drawn with heavyweights the United States, Canada and Germany in Group A, the Chinese team, coached by former NHL player Curt Fraser, looks poised for heavy defeats at the Games.

Now the GASC, China’s central sports governing body, and the CIHA are looking beyond the Games by focusing on building a solid foundation for the future.

“The championship this year will see no national camp players involved,” Si Liang, deputy secretary-general of the CIHA, confirmed at a media conference on Tuesday to launch this year’s tournament.

“It’s up to the GASC to get the national team ready for the Olympics, while we are committed to growing the sport at the grassroots level and strengthening the base of talent development.”

With hockey gaining popularity among Chinese children, particularly from middle-class families, this year’s national championship sees a wider geographical spread of teams joining the sport’s traditionally strong northeastern provinces.

Squads from Macao, Shanghai, Chongqing and Beijing Sport University feature in this year’s nine-team tournament, bearing witness to rising participation rates across the country’s southern and western regions.

“It says a lot about hockey’s progress at grassroots level and it means that the game’s popularity has extended beyond the country’s climatic limits to reach a wider area,” said Si.

“Although we are not scouting players directly for the national team at this tournament this year, we will keep an eye on any outstanding performers for future national programs.”

With hockey officials seemingly resigned to the fact that little can now be done to significantly improve the national team for the home Olympics, which open on Feb 4 next year in Beijing, the CIHA has set its sights on building a stronger foundation by organizing a series of domestic league competitions, from junior to adult level, on both the men’s and women’s sides.

A domestic men’s club league will return in July from its pandemic-enforced shutdown, involving at least eight teams in a tournament format at three stops in Beijing and the Heilongjiang province cities of Qiqihar and Harbin, through October.

A similar women’s league will take place in Chengdu, Sichuan province and Harbin, and is expected to feature seven teams.

The CIHA will also work with the China Sport School Federation to run a six-leg junior hockey series from June 19-Oct 19 as a youth talent evaluation program.

Countdown to Beijing 2022 Canada, Sweden favorites at Beijing 2022 men’s ick hockey – Czerkawski

Source: Xinhua

Canada and Sweden will be favorites to win the men’s ice hockey title at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, and the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions could work in favor of less experienced teams, Polish legend, and former National Hockey League (NHL) player Mariusz Czerkawski said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

“Obviously, Canada, Sweden, and the team with Russian players will be very strong in any case. If the competition is played without NHL stars, the teams like Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, or Switzerland will have their chance to get to the final,” the Pole said.

Czerkawski is believed to be the greatest ice hockey player in Poland as the 48-year-old spent 12 seasons in the NHL. He made his debut in 1994 and played subsequently for several clubs, among others Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, and Edmonton Oilers. After a 30-goal plus season at the Islanders, the pole was named in the 2000 NHL All-Star Game.

Czerkawski played at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, the last Olympic tournament for Poland. The Polish team can still dream about Beijing after they surprisingly won the Olympic qualification’s preliminary phase. The Poles beat the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

“Polish team played very well. In the crucial game against Kazakhstan, they were effective on defense. The goalie, John Murray, delivered a great performance, while his teammates took over 50 shots to prove that they had an advantage. The team made a surprise as no one could have predicted that scenario. I regret we couldn’t continue the momentum as every competition was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak,” he claimed.

In August, the side coached by Robert Kalaber will face Belarus, Slovakia, and Austria in Bratislava for the only ticket to Beijing.

“It’s a really tough group, and we aren’t favorites to secure the ticket for the Olympics. However, the team has already achieved a positive result,” Czerkawski added.

The Pole emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic influences the discipline.

“We feel a lack of excitement without the fans on the stands as the supporters create a good atmosphere. It’s hard to find full motivation when you play behind closed doors. Like other disciplines, ice hockey became even more unpredictable due to the pandemic. The strong teams know how to play under pressure. It’s maybe a little easier for the less experienced sides to make a surprise when the matches are played in front of empty stands,” Czerkawski concluded.

Canada the team to beat as Olympic seedings announced

Sidney Crosby (center) of the Pittsburgh Penguins poses with teammates Mike Matheson (right) and Evgeni Malkin to honor Crosby for his 1,000th NHL appearance prior to their home game against the New York Islanders on Saturday. Crosby is expected to star for Team Canada at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

By Murray Greig – China Daily

The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced its seedings for the 22 teams slated to play at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and as expected Canada is ranked No 1 in the men’s tournament and No 2 in the women’s.

The men’s tournament will use the same format as the four previous Winter Olympics, with 12 teams split into three groups of four.

Team Canada will compete in Group A with the United States (seeded No 6), Germany (7) and host China (12). Group B will include Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Switzerland (8) and qualifier 3 (11), while Group C consists of Finland (3), Sweden (4), qualifier 1 (9) and qualifier 2(10).

The qualifiers will be determined in the final pre-Olympic tournament, scheduled for Aug 26-29 in Latvia, Norway and Slovakia.

The women’s tournament at Beijing 2022 will be contested by a record 10 teams, in two tiered groups of five. The top five according to the 2020 IIHF world rankings-the US, Canada, Finland, Russia and Switzerland-will play in Group A, while Japan (6) will head Group B, along with three qualifiers from the final pre-Olympic tournament in November (seeds 7-9) and China (10). The top three finishers in Group B will compete in the playoff round.

With the exception of host China and perhaps one qualifier, all the men’s teams will include players from the National Hockey League.

That gives Canada a huge advantage, with the likes of superstar forwards Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) and Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) among their ranks, along with perennial All-Star goaltender Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens) and defensemen Cale Makar (Colorado), Shea Weber (Montreal) and Morgan Reilly (Toronto Maple Leafs).

The NHL did not allow its players to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, and the fact that Crosby, who will be 34 when the puck drops in Beijing, is probably the only member of the 2010 and 2014 gold-medal teams assured of a return trip in 2022, bears out general manager Doug Armstrong’s pledge that “youth will be served, for sure”.

“Team Canada will see something of the changing of the guard in 2022,” Armstrong said after being appointed GM last month. “We want to be fast, we want to use our skill and we want to use our depth to our advantage.

“The NHL is a quick league right now and I think that we have the players that can play the 200-foot (61-meter) game. We want to be a fast and difficult team to play against.”

Canada dominated the 2014 Sochi Games with a suffocating defensive performance on the larger international-size ice surface, but high-octane offense will be paramount on Beijing’s NHL-sized rink, led by players like McDavid, MacKinnon and Auston Matthews of the US, each of whom helped light up the 2016 World Cup as members of the 23-and-under Team North America.

“I think that the World Cup showed the excitement and the flair that Young Guns team put on the ice,” said Armstrong. “This group that we’re going to assemble is probably going to have a lot of faces that have never worn the Canadian jersey at this level of competition. It’s going to be fun.”

Meanwhile, the recent appointment of Harbin native Yu Baiwei as a playing assistant coach bodes well for China’s hopes of advancing out of Group B and possibly making the podium in the 2022 women’s tournament.

Yu, 32, is the highest-scoring defender in the history of the Chinese national team. She competed in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where she was one of just three defenders on Team China to earn a point. She’s a veteran of a dozen IIHF tournaments and was named China’s top player at the 2014, 2017 and 2019 Division 1 Group B world championships.

Yu has also made her mark at the pro level, playing for Kunlun Red Star and the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays of the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the Edmonton Chimos of the Western Women’s Hockey League.

“In 2007, I was a young rookie,” Yu said in an interview with “Now I’m the oldest person on the team and am also working as an assistant coach.

“I’m appreciating more every single day I am training with this team. I want my athletes to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Furthermore, I want to provide more individual thinking for my athletes as well. I am willing to let them explore their talent and potential within ice hockey. Most importantly, to enjoy the game and enjoy life.”

Richmond’s Julius Zhang eyeing Olympic battle, versus Canada

Richmond’s Julius Zhang, suited up for his native China

Alan Campbell – Richmond News

Three years ago, Julius (Dehan) Zhang would never have believed what was coming down the road in his fledgling professional hockey career.

If someone had even hinted to the Richmond Seafair Minor and Delta Hockey Academy product that he could potentially line up in the Olympic Games – suited for China, against Canada – he’d have thought you certifiable.

But that is exactly the prospect facing 21-year-old Zhang, a Richmondite in every sense of the word, who emigrated from China as a young child, before being selected at 18 for the Chinese national hockey program.

Since then, he’s been playing second tier club hockey in Russia for a Chinese-based team, until the pandemic halted most professional sports.

Zhang is now hoping to return to China in the new year to begin his home nation’s preparations for an Olympic games debut in Beijing in 2022, where they will face Germany, the U.S. and, of course, Canada.

“It’s crazy. In fact, the whole last three years has been crazy,” said Zhang from his parent’s home near Williams Road and Railway Avenue.

“It would be amazing (to face Canada). If you told me this five years ago…I would never have believed it in a million years.

“I’ve gotten lucky with all these opportunities. I have a Chinese passport, I’m only a permanent resident here.

“In order to play in the Olympics for China, you need a Chinese passport and China is one of the only countries that doesn’t allow dual citizenship. They’ve been trying to get players with Chinese-Canadian heritage to go over to play, to strengthen their program.

“There are some ex-NHL guys. But the problem is, they don’t have Chinese passports. They’re trying to get it so they can play in the Olympics.”

Zhang, who has turned out for the Chinese national U18, U20 and men’s teams, admitted his passport situation gives him a little shove up the ladder, but he’s more than ready to grab it.

As for his native nation’s actual chances competing against the powerhouses of hockey, Zhang said they’ve got a little more than a year to improve.

“As the host country, China received automatic qualification and they obviously want to do well,” said Zhang, who has been training every day since the pandemic and playing some hockey with other pros and university players.

“We’ve always had high level Russian or European coaches. There’s a lot of resources being poured into it. In China, hockey is still new but it’s growing rapidly.

“They have the resources at grass roots level and, of course, they have a huge population, so they will get better.

“I take a lot of pride in growing the game in China. I’m not quite a pioneer, but a role model. It’s a very proud country.

“But as far as I’m aware, I’m the only player on the team who grew up in Canada.”

While Training Continues, China’s Prized Women’s Hockey Players Are in Russia

China’s hockey governing body assigned the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays to manage the women’s national team a few years ago. KRS’s general manager attributed the current separation to the coronavirus pandemic limiting travel into China

By New York Times

With the 2022 Winter Games 15 months away, at a time teams would normally be paring their rosters, the North American imports aren’t in the Beijing training bubble.

The players most crucial to Chinese women’s ice hockey reside in a hotel about 70 miles south of Moscow. The quasi resort’s expansive grounds contain horses, stray cats and a speleochamber — a salt cave designed to improve breathing.

That these players are in Russia and not Beijing, 3,600 miles away, symbolizes how far China, whose women’s ice hockey team last qualified for the Olympics in 2010, has moved away from its grand plans in the sport.

“Not seeing it come to fruition and deviate is a disappointment,” said Maddie Woo, who was recruited to play in China and occasionally skated with China’s national team over the past three years. “There was so much potential. There still is. It’s just the time sensitivity of it now. It’s shocking.”

Woo was one of several North Americans of Chinese descent who signed in 2017 with the newly formed Kunlun Red Star, a team now known as the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. With China hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, the national governing body, assigned the club to manage the women’s national team.

KRS hired Woo and other players to be sport ambassadors, training and playing alongside less experienced Chinese nationals in hopes of elevating the homegrown players’ skills.

In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Billy Ngokposited that players like Woo might become Chinese citizens, making them eligible for the Olympic team. For the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, host South Korea deployed a similar tactic, although China has stricter passport policies.

Now, just 15 months before the opening ceremony — when teams begin paring their rosters — the North American imports would ideally be with the Chinese nationals in Beijing, where a training bubble has been set up by the hockey association.

Claire Liu, the general manager of KRS, attributed the separation to the coronavirus pandemic limiting travel into China. But current and former KRS players and coaches added that communication between them and the hockey association had diminished to sporadic messages passed along by a bilingual intermediary.

Rachel Llanes, a Filipino-American forward who also hopes to represent China, said she still trains as if she’s “on call” for the national team. For now, Llanes plays only for KRS in Russia’s Zhenskaya Hockey League with six North Americans of Chinese descent who harbor similar Olympic dreams. In the 2019-20 season, KRS won the league title, but this year the team has had 10 games rescheduled because of the pandemic.

Alexandra Vafina of KRS stick handling. “I hope to be at the Olympics, but I know it’s not guaranteed,” said Rachel Llanes, a Filipino-American player.

“I hope to be at the Olympics, but I know it’s not guaranteed,” Llanes said. “If you’re banking on it, I don’t recommend thinking that way. If we don’t get called, we’ll get four years of experience no one else can say they had.”

Since 2017, KRS has invested millions to create an environment uncommon in women’s hockey. Digit Murphy, an American who had coached in college and the professional ranks, was hired to lead the women’s program. She enticed recruits with a simple, yet novel, approach.

KRS not only pays livable salaries of about $70,000 per year, but provides amenities expected of a pro team like first-class airfare, an equipment manager and ice times when the sun is still shining.

That hasn’t been the case for North American women’s hockey, despite Canada and the United States reigning as the sport’s powerhouses (several United States national team alumnae have also been KRS sports ambassadors). Founded in 2015, the National Women’s Hockey League, which has six teams across North America, had a highest reported salary of $15,000 last season.

In October, Secret, the deodorant brand, contributed $1 million to the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, a rare instance in which a party proclaiming interest in elevating North American women’s hockey gave more than just crumbs.

“We’re pretty spoiled, I’m not going to lie,” said Llanes, who worked three jobs while playing in Boston for teams in North American leagues. “We don’t have to worry about anything. You’re hockey players.”

In 2017, KRS staff also ran junior national teams and two franchises in the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Rob Morgan, who coached one of the Chinese teams in the C.W.H.L. and is now an adviser for KRS, said when he first met the Chinese national players, “we could see in their eyes they were just numb” from practicing four times per day.

The new staff incorporated shorter practices with weight lifting, nutrition lessons or meetings with a sports psychologist.

The Chinese players responded positively to the changes, Morgan said. Murphy said North American players teased Chinese players for hiding snacks in their bags — many were shocked they could freely leave their rooms to eat, instead of being limited to having meals at their training facility’s dining hall.

“The first year, in terms of helping the Chinese players, was probably the most collaborative and most effective,” said Melanie Jue, a Chinese-Canadian defenseman on KRS.

But toward the end of KRS’s first year, higher-ups within Chinese hockey began making unexpected alterations. The national hockey association changed leadership, and junior teams training in the U.S. were disbanded. Regional hockey organizations with political clout grumbled about the resources afforded to KRS.

Tang Liang and Qi Xueting, third from left and fourth from left, are among the Chinese nationals on the team. Since July, about 40 homegrown players have been in Beijing facing youth teams

Xu Guoqi, author of “Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008,” said sports rivalries among local governments in China were not uncommon.

“Backstabbing practices, or they try to lobby, always that’s a case,” Xu said, noting that the Chinese hockey association is essentially under the control of the Chinese government. “The reality is the party is in charge of everything.”

For the 2018-19 C.W.H.L. season, China supplied only one team, the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. (The C.W.H.L. folded soon after and said the revenue from China had probably kept the league from ceasing operations earlier.)

In 2017, KRS also ran a men’s team with a similar mission to build Chinese hockey centered around foreign players and Chinese teenagers who previously trained in America.

In interviews with current and former KRS players and coaches, none said they knew where the partnership between their club and the C.I.H.A. currently stood. The Chinese nationals currently on KRS are mostly older players not expected to compete at the next Olympics.

Liu, the team’s general manager, said that the “relationship is still there” and that the roster composition was different because of the pandemic. The hockey association declined interview requests.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, KRS relocated to Russia this season to reduce travel. The hockey association has reason to be cautious of bringing international players into its bubble. In March, two Chinese players training with a travel squad in the United States tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after returning to Beijing.

Since July, about 40 Chinese homegrown players have been in Beijing, playing against youth teams and practicing multiple times a day when most of the women’s hockey world was on pause.

That won’t necessarily create an advantage at the Olympic tournament, though. China ranks 19th in the world, but has an automatic bid as the host.

“If they really want a great showing in 2022, based on what I’ve seen, it needs to include Chinese North Americans,” said Bob Deraney, who coached KRS in 2018.

Deraney and Morgan added that they expected the North American contingent to eventually get called up, and Liu believed it was still a possibility, although another hurdle remained. Since China does not recognize dual nationality, Canadians and Americans would have to surrender their passports.

There are political ramifications to representing China, which has been roundly criticized for human rights abuses and holds a souring reputation in the West.

Rose Alleva, a forward from Minnesota who played one year with KRS, said giving up her American passport was “a deal breaker” and decided not to continue with the program.

“It’s definitely something you have to grapple with,” said Woo, who left KRS to begin her career in biomedical engineering. “You can’t be ignorant to the idea someone will hand you a Chinese passport and everything will be fine, and you’ll still be Canadian or American.”

Xu said there could be one workaround if players got passports from Taiwan or Hong Kong. When the former N.B.A. player Jeremy Lin obtained his Taiwanese passport last year, he became an eligibledomestic athlete for China under new rules instituted by the Chinese government, allowing him to play in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Whether or not the imports play for China in 2022, there have been potent takeaways.

China once built rinks in a decommissioned war bunker, but now state-of-the-art sheets are popping up throughout the mainland. According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, there are 822 rinks in China.

Leah Lum, a Chinese-Canadian forward, noted that when KRS runs youth clinics around the country, there’s an indescribable pride in seeing Chinese children engaged in her sport.

Playing hockey in China has also allowed Lum and her teammates to connect with their families’ heritage in ways that were impossible before.

“It’s a dream to be able to come here and focus on hockey,” Lum said. “Experiencing our culture and ancestry — China, that’s who I am.”

NHL, PA commit to Olympics

By Matin Merk –

The National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) have ratified the Return to Play Plan and a four-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement until the 2025/2026 season including a commitment to join for the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing 2022 and Milan 2026 following internal voting.

The CBA Article 24 was amended to include new subsection 24.10 including:

The NHL and the NHLPA commit to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, subject to negotiation of terms acceptable to each of the NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF (and/or IOC).

Beijing 2022 would mark the sixth time the NHL pauses to join the biggest spotlight of winter sports after Nagano 1998, Salt Lake City 2002, Turin 2006, Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.

The Beijing 2022 Olympics will include the top-8 teams in the world, host China and three qualifiers to be determined according to the following groups in the men’s ice hockey tournament:

Beijing 2022 Olympics will include the top-8 teams in the world, host China and three qualifiers

The three qualifiers will be determined in the Final Olympic Qualification in August 2021. The dates would make it possible to have NHL players be added to the teams for these qualification tournaments.

Final Olympic Qualification in August 2021

The news of the ratification of the CBA extension and the Return to Play agreement was welcomed by IIHF President René Fasel.

“This is great news for hockey,” said Fasel. “I want to congratulate Gary Bettman, Don Fehr, the players, owners, and everyone involved for their work in forging a new CBA and ensuring that the world’s top league will return to the ice soon and will continue to grow strong well into the future.”

“I am also very pleased to see that the players and owners have agreed to work towards bringing best-on-best ice hockey back to the Olympic Games, starting in Beijing 2022. After the conclusion of the NHL playoffs, we look forward to renewing our discussions with the NHL, the NHLPA, the IOC, BOCOG, and our Member National Associations, and together ensure that we can provide the very best platform for our game in Beijing and beyond.”

Fasel added that there were still a few hurdles to overcome before NHL participation could be fully confirmed.

“There are still some challenges left to address, including technical and practical discussions with all key stakeholders, before we can 100% confirm that we will have NHL players back on the ice at the Olympics. But this is a very positive and necessary step forward.”

U.S., Canada in same group for 2022 Olympic men’s hockey tournament

By Yahoo Sports

The U.S. and Canada drew the same Olympic men’s hockey group for the first time since 2010, guaranteeing the North American rivals will face each other at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

The International Ice Hockey Federation announced the Olympic seedings and groups Friday, using the world rankings. There was no change in the men’s top 12 from 2019 to 2020, given the world championship tournament, scheduled for May, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2022 Olympic men’s hockey groups:

Group A: Canada (1), USA (6), Germany (7), China (12)
Group B: Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Switzerland (8), Qualifier 3 (11)
Group C: Finland (3), Sweden (4), Qualifier 1 (9), Qualifier 2 (10)

The Olympic tournament format will remain the same. The group winners, plus the highest-ranked group runner-up, advance directly to the quarterfinals. The other eight teams go to a playoff round to determine the other four quarterfinalists.

The U.S. lost in the quarterfinals to the Czech Republic at the 2018 Olympics, where there was no NHL participation for the first time since 1994. It last earned a medal in 2010, taking silver behind Canada. Its last gold was the Miracle on Ice in 1980.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman repeated in the last two years that he doubts the league takes a midseason break for the 2022 Winter Games, even with a more favorable host market for hockey growth in China than in South Korea in 2018.

“There is no news to report,” Bettman said in November after meetings with the IIHF. “I don’t want to sound like a broken record on the subject, but I think going to the Olympics is a challenge for us. I know the players love representing their countries. I know that the players like going. I know that the players that don’t go like having a break in the middle of the season. But from our standpoint, we have found going to the Olympics to be incredibly disruptive to our season.

“For us, at best, it’s a mixed bag. And, again, it has some pretty material downsides in terms of what happens to our season.”

In the women’s tournament, the U.S. and Canada drew the same group for a third straight Olympics. That was a formality, given the women’s group structure places the world’s top five nations in the same group. Beijing will be the first Olympics with 10 women’s teams, up from eight in 2018.

In the past, the top two teams from the top-ranked group advanced directly to the semifinals, and the bottom two into the playoff round.

The Olympic women’s hockey groups:

Group A: USA (1), Canada (2), Finland (3), Russia (4), Switzerland (5)
Group B: Japan (6), Qualifier 1 (7), Qualifier 2 (8), Qualifier 3 (9), China (10)

IIHF World Rankings

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