There may be only 294 registered female hockey players in China, but the women’s national team program is gearing up for what could be their fourth Olympic appearance – the 2022 Beijing Games. As part of their preparation for these Olympics they will be traveling to Vancouver, Canada this October for 10 days of tournament games and training with British Columbian teams and players.
“We will provide the Chinese women’s national ice hockey team an opportunity to play tournament games and get training in Canada, the top ice hockey nation in the world,” tournament organizer Wu Zili told Len Catling of UBC Communications. “This is of tremendous help for Chinese players to improve their skills and tactics, and better prepare them for the Olympics. This is what Harmony through Hockey really means.”
Co-hosted by the Canada China Sports Foundation (CCSF) and the Griffiths Hockey Club, this “Harmony through Hockey” tournament will feature five games, with China suiting up against the University of British Columbia (Oct 17), the Richmond Devils (Oct 18), the BC Senior A Provincial Champion the South Fraser TNT (Oct 20th), a South Coast Women’s Hockey League Selects team (Oct 22), and the Pacific Steelers (Oct 23).
“We are very excited to host and play the Chinese National Team,” UBC Head Coach Graham Thomas told Catling. “This is the fourth international competition we have played in the past three seasons. We’ve had an opportunity to play the Japanese, Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic National teams. Its is an amazing cultural exchange and experience for our players.”
China competed in the Olympic women’s ice hockey competition in 1998 (finishing fourth), 2002 (finishing seventh) and, most recently, 2010 (finishing seventh). Since 2012 however, the team has been stuck in the IIHF Division I Group B World Championships, unable to move back up in the world rankings. In this year’s Division I Group B World Championships China finished second to last, with two wins and three losses. However, there has also been an increase in female players in China since the 2010 Olympics, and hopes are high for this team.
“The game is growing so fast in China, I was very encouraged to hear how committed the Chinese are to improving and growing the game in preparation for the Olympics,” said Thomas. “They are building 120 stadiums currently and have exciting plans to start new leagues and infrastructure for men’s and women’s hockey. Our game against them will be televised nationally to over a billion viewers in China. Not too many people can say they have played in front of an audience that big.”
The current Chinese team is young; the average age of the squad that competed in the 2016 Division I Group B World Championships was 20, with most girls being born in the 1990s. All of the players play for and train with teams based out of Harbin and Qiqihar in China, so this will be a great opportunity for them to experience training in another country. During their visit they will have training sessions with former Vancouver Canuck Cliff Ronning.
The final game of the tournament and the closing ceremonies will take place at the Richmond Olympic Oval, with more details to be released in the coming weeks. Proceeds from the tournament will go to the Pacific Autism Family Centre.