Ice hockey scores new fans in China

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Beijing’s winning bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics two years ago has already started to draw more Chinese to the associated sports. While China has been quite competitive in Winter sports such as skiing, ice-skating and curling, nobody would have thought China was quite ready for the physicality and skill of ice hockey.

CGTN’s Grace Shao reports.

Ice hockey gaining popularity in China

Ice hockey gaining popularity in China

Beijing's winning bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics two years ago has already started to draw more Chinese to the associated sports. While China has been quite competitive in Winter sports such as skiing, ice-skating and curling, nobody would have thought China was quite ready for the physicality and skill of ice hockey. CGTN's Grace Shao reports.
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While hockey had a rather limited following in China down through the years, the emergence of the first Chinese-born player, Song Andong in North America’s National Hockey League was a major turning point for the sport in the country.

Suddenly, China’s young sports fans had a new hero to support and many wanted to become professional hockey players when they grew older.

The dramatic turn-around was very obvious at a traditional pond hockey tournament in Beijing recently which drew teams from all around China to compete for the title in rather elaborate uniforms.

Just ten years ago the sport was not even televised in China, and it was often played on a pond or lake. Now, with a growing demand for organized and professional training, hockey in China is expanding and evolving.

“I started playing when I was 4 years old. My dad gave me a stick and put me on a frozen pond, that’s how it all started. I think all the winter sports are becoming more popular because hockey is passion and hockey is about teamwork,” Joe Zhang, a Chinese Ice-Hockey enthusiast said.

After China was granted the 2022 Winter Olympics two years ago, many sports including ice-hockey saw a significant pick up in interest. Now, in Beijing alone, there are about 2,500 youngsters learning the game. They’re signed up with 17 clubs and play on 14 rinks across the city.

Though still lagging behind countries like Canada or Sweden in professional training, ice hockey is seeing some real growth in Beijing and is showing huge potential.

Nevertheless, some are concerned that the costs associated with the sport make it a rather exclusive one.

With the 2022 Winter Olympics only a few years away, China is looking to groom champions. As for the International Ice Hockey Federation, finding hockey’s very own Yao Ming could be a huge turning point for that as well.