Convincing hockey win ices break into big leagues
Now boasting access to the game’s top echelon, a Beijingbased professional ice hockey club has embraced the challenge of promoting the niche sport while cultivating local talent for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The Beijing-based Kunlun Red Star, a newcomer to the Kontinental Hockey League, beat Admiral Vladivostok from Russia 6-3 as the host of a KHL game for the first time on Monday.
The entry of the Beijing club was part of a China-Russia sports exchange. The signing ceremony was attended by President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on June 25 in Beijing.
The two leaders spoke highly of the first game on the sidelines of the G20 Summit on Monday in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
Xi said that the game was of great importance in boosting the cooperation between the two countries in winter sports.
Ice hockey exchanges between the two countries will help China raise the standard of the game and better prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, Xi added.
The 8-year-old KHL is the premier professional ice hockey league in Europe and Asia. It has clubs in Russia, Belarus, Croatia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Slovakia and China. The Gagarin Cup is awarded annually to the league champion.
Never in his wildest fantasy did Ying Rudi imagine that he would realize his professional ice hockey dream so quickly.
“It’s definitely a dream come true, and the best reward I could imagine for the past 15 years of hard work by me and my family in hockey training,” said Ying, 18, who signed a two-year contract with Red Star on his birthday on Aug 16.
Three other Chinese players have also been drafted by the new franchise, which signed an agreement with KHL in June to join the 2016-17 season.
Even though the KHL is not currently well-known in China, a very strong team can help gain attention and cultivate support as well as a fan base for ice hockey in China, said Emma Liao, president of Red Star.
Red Star’s renowned Russian coach, Vladimir Yurzinov Jr, said the team’s future will be anchored by development of China’s homegrown talent.
“We are committed to growing the game in China,” he said.
Players from the Kunlun Red Star and Admiral Vladivostok compete during a KHL game played in LeSport Center, Beijing on Sept 5.