China’s Foreign-Sourced Ice Hockey Team Suffers Crushing Defeat to US on Olympic Debut

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China had put its Olympic hockey hopes on a team composed of mostly foreign-born players. But reality hit hard on their debut.

On Thursday night before 1,000 spectators, the Chinese hockey squad, packed with foreign-born recruits from the United States and Canada, was beaten 8-0 by a fresh-faced U.S. team.

For some, the outcome was not surprising. Ice hockey is not a popular sport in China. When Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Games seven years ago which gave it automatic qualification for the sport, the country had never competed in a men’s Olympic hockey match and was the lowest-scoring team to ever qualify for such an event.

Beijing’s solution was to source talent from all around the world. Of the 25 players in the men’s hockey squad, 14 were born or raised in the United States and Canada, and one other is from Russia. The women’s team, facing the same problem, recruited 13 out of 23 from overseas. All of the foreign players were christened a Chinese name after their conversion.

The International Ice Hockey Federation allows players to represent a country if they’ve lived and played in a league there for two years. So a new Chinese team, HC Kunlun Red Star, was formed in 2016 to join Russia’s pro-league the Kontinental Hockey League, to field these new men’s players for China. China doesn’t have its own professional hockey league.

The team has had a lackluster performance over the past few seasons. In fact, the players’ competence was so concerning that the International Ice Hockey Federation seriously considered dropping the Chinese national team out of the Olympic Games, even though that would have been a major slap in the face for China, the host nation.

“Watching a team being beaten 15-0 is not good for anyone, not for China or for ice hockey,” president of the sport’s governing body, Luc Tardif, told AFP in September.

By Eva Fu

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