China / Sports

One Red Star in KHL showcase

By Murray Greig (China Daily) Updated: 2017-01-13 07:09

Kunlun Red Star center Chad Rau will be the Beijing expansion team's lone representative in the Jan 22 Kontinental Hockey League All-Star Game in Ufa, capital of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan.

A skills competition will be held the day before the showcase, capping a week-long All-Star celebration.

Selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round (228th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Minnesota-born Rau signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild in 2010 and was later traded to the San Jose Sharks.

He scored two goals in nine NHL games before moving on to the Austrian and Finnish national leagues, eventually signing with Kunlun last summer.

In 48 KHL games, the 29-year-old Rau has 17 goals and 31 points, and is tied for second in the league with seven game-winning goals.

For the All-Star Game, players will be split into four divisional teams, each made up of a goalie, three defensemen and six forwards. Rau's teammates on the Chernyshev Division squad include former NHLers Linus Omark of Finland and Nigel Dawes of Canada.

Omark had 32 points in 79 games with the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres, while Dawes notched 84 points in four seasons with the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames.

In another development, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is planning to visit China later this month to gauge the practicality of staging preseason exhibition games here.

"I think it's fair to say we hope to be in a position to stage NHL games in China ... probably initially preseason games and then potentially on a longer-term basis, with regular-season games," Daly said in an interview published on Josh Cooper's Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo Sports.

"We're working on that possibility potentially as early as next year, and with this visit we'll know a lot more about whether we can pull it off or not."

Daly also hinted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman could visit China before the end of the current season.

"I hope to be kind of setting the table for the highest level executive to visit the country, which would be Gary," he said.

According to the IIHF website, China has 1,101 registered players and 360 indoor and outdoor rinks.

Those numbers are expected to rise as a result of the government's initiative to popularize winter sports ahead of Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Daly told Puck Daddy the NHL would like to have a preseason game in China as soon as this fall.

"I think the hope is certainly we'd like to do it for next year, but I'm not in a position as I sit here right now that it's definitely going to happen for next year. Again, part of what we'll be doing when we're over there is seeing whether it can happen as early as next year.

"That's where I'll leave it. We have a certain scenario in mind with respect to what can be done; we just have to make sure it can be done before we make any announcements."

Daly said the NHL's interest in the Chinese market is not a response to the KHL placing an expansion team in Beijing.

"I don't feel like we're competitive with the KHL in any space; I think they have launched that league with the longer-term objective of being competitive with the NHL, but to this point we haven't seen that," he said.

"I don't feel like we're competitive with the KHL in terms of building hockey in China, and I'm not sure the people we're dealing with view them to be a competitor the NHL in that regard."

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