A delegation from the Kontinental Hockey League top management has completed a historic tour of China. The League’s team, led by Hockey Operations Vice President Georgy Kobylyansky, traveled to Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin and Qiqihar on a pioneering expedition to survey hockey infrastructure in the country and to open channels for further dialog between the KHL and clubs throughout the People’s Republic. The trip involved numerous meetings with senior officials in government and sport, and one significant outcome was an agreement to stage a range of hockey events in the country featuring Chinese and Russian clubs.
The first stop on the tour was the capital, Beijing, for a meeting with the heads of the Department of Physical Culture and Sport. The League provided their guests with a development plan for Chinese hockey modeled on the vertical structure of the KHL system, and discussed the possibility of a professional club from China joining the League.
The next leg of the journey was Shanghai. This city currently leads the way in Chinese hockey infrastructure and the discussion inevitably focused on a possible League presence – even a KHL hockey weekend – during the All-China Ice Sport Festival, held over eleven days during March of 2016. It was proposed that the highlight of the event could be a tournament contested by four KHL clubs, with the competing quartet selected from those teams with no competitive matches scheduled for mid-March.
Hockey fans in Harbin may get the chance to see some Russian youngsters in action during the MHL season break (November 28 – December 10). The plan is for MHL team Sakhalin Sharks to play against the Qiqihar outfit, Chinese Dragons, and various youth teams from around Heilongjiang Province.
Georgy Kobylyansky gave his summary of the journey: "It was important to see with our own eyes the level of progress of hockey in China, and to compare real-life observations with previous expectations. In this sense, what we have seen came as a pleasant surprise. While the game is still in the development stage across the nation, the existing infrastructure in the big cities provides a solid foundation for high quality sport on ice. Children's hockey is no longer a minority sport, so a vast increase in quality players at youth and adult level is inevitable. To harvest this talent, the sporting authorities here are keen to adopt the KHL structure as their development model, and we have informed them that a Chinese youth team would be a welcome addition to the MHL.”