With confirmed news of the NHL wanting to expand its market, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the NHL would have two preseason games to be played in Beijing, China for the first time ever. The two teams that would be participating in this international play are the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks.
Earlier this week, the Kings dominated the Canucks in the first game by winning the game 5-2 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. Following that win, the Kings would also go on to win the second game 4-3 in a shootout at Wukesong Arena. Over 10,000 people were there to watch. To the NHL that was just the beginning of a large fan base they hope to develop on an international scale.
“This is a historic moment for the National Hockey League.” Commissioner Bettman said. Historic indeed as this appears to be the first of many trips to play games in China, although no further plans have yet to be set. The NHL’s Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley is hoping to make those future plans.
“This is an untapped market yet,” Gary Banting, a hockey coach in Beijing, brought up as he also mentioned that he can see this market taking off immensely.
Canucks head coach Travis Green even mentioned that he hopes that these games will help “get people to fall in love with [hockey] in China.” Based on the reactions from the citizens of Beijing, it appears as though they enjoyed it very much so.
A 3-year-old by the name of Shengrui Li was estatic as he felt the thrill of sliding the puck in and out of the net multiple times and excitedly waiting for another turn; “he loves it,” his mother said.
Other kids played goalie while others slung pucks at them and on each side, everyone was smiling and having the time of their life.
With the 2022 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government is hoping that 300 million people will participate and having the NHL play games there is going to help greatly. Not only for the expansion of fans, but help with creating a national team along with some hockey infrastructure to have hockey games of their own.
Not only was this a great experience for the people of China, but it was also an experience for the players as they got to see the Great Wall of China and try a different type of cuisine. Kings forward Michael Cammalleri mentioned that “hockey brings you to some amazing places in the world that you never thought you would go to.” Even Canucks forward Brandon Sutter added that he’s excited to see, “a new culture.”
As the games came to a close and the NHL Fanfest ceased in Beijing, the citizens are hoping to have this experience again in the near future.
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