ITwo years ago on an October evening in Slény, 25 kilometers northwest of Prague. Ice hockey is played in the Czech Third Division, an industrial park in the old hall, no delicacy. Not even 50 spectators came. The fists blow at the end of the second third, which happens from time to time in ice hockey. But this is different.
Because the players of “China Golden Dragon” hit each other over the hat. This is already 1:10 from the point of view of the Chinese, who are allowed to play in the league as visiting teams. At the end it says 1:16. And a few months later the experiment is over again. The Golden Dragon leaves the Czech Republic. His record: 42 games, 42 losses, goal difference minus 330.
Sugar and ice hockey – they don’t really fit together. He joined the World Federation IIHF in 1963, but currently has only 537 active players among men. Canada has 76,899, and Canada has less than three percent of China’s population. Now the comparison between the homeland of the sport and the one whose national team scored only one victory in the D-World Cup in 2019 against amateur teams like Croatia, Australia or Belgium, cannot be entirely fair.
world union is concerned
The only problem is this: on February 13, 2022, they will play against each other at the Olympics in Beijing as the hosts automatically qualified. Experts expect something historic to happen, with China being the most obvious outsider in tournament history. Slovakia still holds the international record, was 82:0 against Bulgaria. In Beijing, Canadian NHL stars – if they wanted to – could probably score 100 goals. And even if it is “only” 15-0, as IIHF President Luke Tardiff recently suspected, it “would not be good for anyone, neither for China nor for ice hockey”. .
Accordingly they belong to IIHF. The powerful management body’s council has met in Zurich since Sunday and till Wednesday. The question is also being discussed whether it would be better to drop the hosts from the tournament. On the one hand, it would be a disgrace to the proud Chinese, and they also want to eventually get a foothold there and make money, as other sports federations and leagues have been doing for a long time.
On the other hand, it doesn’t help if the top nations introduce the Chinese in February. Other group opponents from the United States and Germany could also win double digits without breaking a sweat. And the Chinese don’t want to embarrass themselves against America’s great political rival.
A few years ago when people talked about China in the world of ice hockey it sounded very different. Everyone wanted to go there to have a piece of cake. The NHL hosted show games there, with the Russian-dominated KHL setting up a team that played in Beijing and Shanghai. During the 2018 World Cup in Denmark, the then IIHF President René Fassel dreamed up the A World Cup in China.
There is still a long way to go in terms of sport, but they are on the right track according to then-general secretary Horst Lichtner: “The Chinese have said they want 300 million winter sports enthusiasts in the future. If we have this in ice hockey.” Only one percent, so that’s three million ice hockey kids, which is more than Canada.”
“We Need a Plan B”
There is nothing left to excite. The Chinese have been suing behind closed doors for a long time, because the Chinese are not making any progress. IIHF president Tarif recently spoke of “inadequate playing standards”, adding that if this does not change, “we need a plan B”. Norway can replace China. No need to make a decision this week. Tarif announced that the Chinese team would play a few more friendly games “which would be supervised by an IIHF official, and then a decision would be made”.
What is then offered to the supervisor? Difficult. There are probably a lot of players currently playing for the Chinese KHL team. But even this is not a success story. In its first few years it only attracted a few hundred spectators back home. Now it is still called the “Kunlun Red Stars”, but has long been playing outside the gates of Moscow due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
And in terms of sports, nothing wants to work, Saturday was 0: 8 in Yekaterinburg, with only five wins out of 23 games, beating the Red Stars last. The only celebrity halfway on the roster is Brandon Yip. The Chinese-Canadian, who used to be active in Mannheim and Düsseldorf, is also the only person with NHL experience, but is now 36 years old.
He really expected people like Yip. Players from top countries of Chinese origin. Naturalization is part of everyday life in ice hockey, so South Koreans created their own team for 2018 and German teams have also been playing “double flag players” for decades. Sugar is not going natural so quickly.
Other ideas, such as the team in the Czech Republic or foreign development workers, have also made no progress. It was also not possible to send players abroad for courses during the pandemic. It’s too late now anyway, it’s not even 100 days since the Games. The IIHF, the IOC and China are faced with a dilemma: embarrassment through exclusion or embarrassment on the ice.
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