The 2018 National Ice Hockey Championships kicks off today in Beijing’s All Star Skating Club with 28 male and female teams from across the country taking part.
This year’s event sees teams from many southern provinces and cities, such as Guangdong, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hunan, Anhui, and Zhejiang. Among the 28 participating teams, 20 are from provinces other than the three northeastern provinces who are traditionally strong in winter sports because of their geographic location and natural weather advantage.
The sport of ice hockey has been increasingly expanding from the north of China to all other parts of the country. According to the WeChat winter sports media outlet Bingxuetoutiao who quoted the Deputy Secretary General of the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, Xu Chengxiang, “over 30 Chinese cities have organized city/provincial ice hockey teams and are promoting the sport among young people; the number of registered players at the Chinese Ice Hockey Association has increased from 2,000 people in 2015 to 12,000 people in 2017; and the number of ice rinks in China has increased from 50 to 200.”
However, most of the newly formed ice hockey teams in the southern cities/provinces are borrowing players from teams in the northern cities/provinces, to solve the lack of ice hockey players. Some provinces are using athletes from other sports such as roller skating to train as ice hockey players.
While ice hockey is becoming more important in China, there is however an apparent lack of ice hockey coaches. According to Xu Chengxiang, there are only fewer than 200 Chinese ice hockey coaches with some teams or clubs hiring foreign coaches to meet the demands.
Nevertheless, as an important winter sport, ice hockey has received much support to grow in China. In 2017, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association reached seperate agreements with 4 ice hockey clubs in China to form national ice hockey clubs to help develop the Chinese ice hockey national team.
Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick