IIHF President René Fasel kicked off a trip to China this week with an opening ceremony to inaugurate the new offices of the Chinese Ice Hockey Association.
Fasel – along with President Cao Weidong of the CIHA, IIHF Vice-President for Asia Thomas Wu, IIHF Council Member Franz Reindl, and IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner – was in Beijing to inaugurate the new CIHA offices, which will serve as the primary center for ice hockey development in the world’s most populous country.
Also present for the inauguration were major representatives from China and Chinese ice hockey, including CIHA Deputy Secretary-General Mr. Xu Chengxiang, Director of Foreign Affairs Mr. Si Liang, Director of Training Mr. Wang Xiaoliang, Director of Liaison Ms. Hong Bin, along with officials of various CIHA departments. Coaches and student representatives of China Ice Hockey College also attended the unveiling ceremony. The ceremony was hosted by Ms. Wang Chunlu, Deputy Secretary-General of CIHA and Executive Director of China Ice Hockey College.
“This is a landmark moment in the development of Chinese ice hockey,” said Fasel. “Prior to the creation of the CIHA ice hockey was under the stewardship of a general ice sports association, but now ice hockey under the guidance of the CIHA has the potential to grow bigger than ever before.”
“The CIHA is prepared with good leadership and good staff. Looking ahead to Beijing 2020 I think we are starting on a very positive way forward.”
CIHA President Cao Weidong, who also presides over the Beijing Sport University on which the new buildings are located, also introduced to the guests the Chinese Ice Hockey College’s talent transfer and cross-sport selection programs, aimed at increasing the number of ice hockey players in the country. He also said that China Ice Hockey College is now fully focused on preparing for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, while at the same time remaining devoted to cultivating a large number of talented players for the development of China's ice hockey.
While actively preparing for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association will aim to develop the sport of ice hockey in a sustainable and healthy way in China and in Asia, with assistance and cooperation with the IIHF office.
The visit also coincided with the NHL’s China Games, an exhibition series launched by the league last year as part of a long-term effort to raise the profile of the sport in the country. The Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames played their first game on Saturday at the Universiade Sports Center in Shenzhen on Saturday and will play again on 19 September at Beijing's Cadillac Arena.
The Stanley Cup also made the trip and will be on display at events in the two cities, including at the Great Wall and Hockey Day in Beijing festivities.
With the next Olympic Winter Games happening in Beijing four years from now, the new CIHA offices and the NHL coming to town are encouraging milestones in the push to take Chinese ice hockey to the next level.
President Fasel looked forward to having Chinese ice hockey represented in the Olympic Games. He gave some words of encouragement to the 200 students of China Ice Hockey College who were present at the unveiling ceremony.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping has encouraged 300 million Chinese people to be involved and take part in winter sports, only one percent of the 300 million people participate in ice hockey sport, and the number of 3 million people in ice hockey will be huge. I am proud of all of you as ones among the 3 million people.”
Earlier this summer, the IIHF hosted for the first time an Asian women's training camp in Beijing to help kickstart the development of the sport in the region. A total of 58 players and 12 coaches from nine IIHF member countries participated at the camp in the Chinese capital. The IIHF Facilities Working Group also held an Ice Making Seminar in Beijing in July, in cooperation with the CIHA.
On the pro side, the men's team with China's Shenzhen-based Kunlun Red Star club is currently playing in its third season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and its women's team the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays plays in the Canadian Women's Hockey League.
With files from CIHA