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NHL committed to promoting hockey as more Chinese embrace it

By Liu Xiaozhuo | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-09-18 14:40

NHL committed to promoting hockey as more Chinese embrace it

A growing number of children in Beijing have embraced ice hockey. [Photo/China Daily]

The National Hockey League (NHL), one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, is committed to promoting the game and culture associated with it in China as more Chinese start to embrace the relatively young sport in the country.

David Proper, executive vice-president of media and international strategy at the NHL, said the NHL has a passionate vision and commitment to grow ice hockey at all levels in the country.

In China, hockey is not a sport as widespread as soccer or basketball. However, with Beijing and Zhangjiakou's successful bid for 2022 Winter Olympic Games and the launch of "300 million people dream of ice and snow" initiative, there has been an increase in the number of fans in the nation.

According to Proper, the number of people watching NHL games through CCTV and Tencent, NHL's Chinese media partners, has consistently risen over the past two years.

Zhang Linxi, 32, a hockey player and assistant hockey coach in Beijing, said there are many hockey enthusiasts in China because the sport is etched in memories of many who are in their 50s and 60s.

"Nowadays, more children aged 5 to 10 are coming to clubs to learn hockey, as parents of younger generation are more willing to accept new things," Zhang said.

Zhao Xin, a mother of a 7-year-old boy, began sending her son to hockey camp after her son saw a group of boys playing hockey on the ice rink and showed great interest in the sport five years ago.

"My son takes hockey classes three or four times every week and one lesson costs us about 500 yuan," Zhao said.

According to Zhang Linxi, one class in Beijing's hockey clubs usually costs 300 to 500 yuan. "We can't deny that to play hockey in China, you have to be economically well-off. You can play soccer or basketball anywhere and wear anything you like, but you have to be well equipped for hockey," Zhang added.

This shows the development of hockey in China is also a result of the country's economic growth. According to Proper, there is inseparable connection between hockey's promotion and China's economic development.

"Economic development of China is probably uniquely beneficial to hockey because one of the things we need more in China is infrastructures built for hockey. Those are investments that any countries need to construct when talking about growing a game," Proper said.

The NHL has hosted seven clinics in several major cities, including Beijing, Chongqing, Hangzhou and Shenyang, this summer, where nearly 250 youth players have participated. The coaches at the clinics teach the skills of the game, while also focusing on fitness, health and teamwork that inspires students' interest in the sport.

"NHL look forward to all of our events and initiatives that will continue to expose ice hockey to as many people as possible," Proper said.

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