Con­vinc­ing hockey win ices break into big leagues

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By SUN XIAOCHEN in Beijing sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

CFP

Play­ers from the Kun­lun Red Star and Ad­mi­ral Vladivostok com­pete dur­ing a KHL game played in LeS­port Cen­ter, Beijing on Sept 5.

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