A large contingent of NHL executives made the trip out to China this week to announce the league’s first initiatives in the country: preseason games between the LA Kings and the Vancouver Canucks in Shanghai (Sept 21) and Beijing (Sept 23), kicking off an eight-year slate of games, which could be upgraded to regular season match-ups as early as 2018. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that might help the NHL in China, as well as the obstacles that lie ahead.
Why hockey will make it in China
1) The timing is right. With less than five years to go to the 2022 Olympics, the government is making a serious push to develop winter sports, and it’s no accident that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been featured in very lengthy segments on the national nightly news touring Olympic venues on more than one occasion this year. As I told the Globe and Mail after the announcement was made, there are actually a lot of indications that the government is moving away from soccer at the moment, and making winter sports its No. 1 priority within the sports industry.