Attention ice hockey fans! China now has a team in the KHL, one of the world's top ice hockey leagues.
Here's everything you need to know about the Kunlun Red Star Hockey Club, including how to buy season tickets to their home games at Feiyang Skating Center in Shanghai...
About Hockey in China
With the announcement of the 2022 Winter Olympics being awarded to Beijing, the country is on the precipice of seeing the competition’s marque sport, hockey, explode in China. Xi Jinping himself is even said to be an avid ice hockey fan.
About the Kunlun Red Star Hockey Club
At forefront of the sport in China is the Kunlun Red Star Hockey Club.
The Kunlun Red Stars play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) against teams from six other countries: Russia, Finland, Slovakia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Latvia. The KHL is widely considered the second best hockey league in the world, after the NHL.
The Red Stars play all their home games at the Sanlin Sports Center (AKA Feiyang Skating Center) in Shanghai's Pudong district.
How Did the Red Stars Get Started?
Last year Russian president Vladimir Putin personally flew to Beijing to sign documents with President Xi officially welcoming the Red Stars into the KHL for the 2016-17 season.
The team managed an eighth place finish in its debut season and even qualified for the Gagarin Cup playoffs. Still a very new team, the Red Stars have been witness to a meteoric rise since its recent conception.
Housing teams within this premier division, the VHL (second division), the MHL (U20 league) and with two women’s teams playing in the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League), the club is in the perfect position for the development of Chinese players with the 2022 Winter Olympics in mind.
Holding an agreement with the Chinese Ice Hockey Association to run the Chinese National Teams competing in the Men’s, U20, U18, Women’s and WU18 categories, this is only testament to the well-held belief in the Red Stars as the future of Chinese hockey.
Who are Some of the Red Stars' Top Players?
The team has players from China, Canada, the USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Belarus, Slovakia and Latvia.
Seven players on the roster have Chinese ancestry: Zach Yuen, Cory Kane, Brayden Jaw, Luke Lockhart, Brandon Yip, Greg Squires and Derek Dun.
Several players with significant NHL experience also appear on Coach Keenan's team, including former NHL first round draft picks Kyle Chipchura, Andrei Kostitsyn and Wojtek Wolski, as well as returning player and captain Alexei Ponikarovsky. The Red Stars also have a strong goaltending tandem with Scandinavians Magnus Hellberg (Sweden) and Tomi Karhunen (Finland).
What Does This Mean for Chinese Hockey?
China's central government has expressed a desire for citizens to get on the ice, and this young team is clearly taking their position as the pride of the Middle Kingdom’s hockey assault seriously by boasting an advisory board of renowned veterans and hockey legends to help behind the scenes. Some of these members include Phil Esposito, Keenan, Bobby Carpenter, Scotty MacPherson and Digit Murphy.
With 22 million Chinese viewers tuning in to game one of the Stanley Cup finals in the NHL, as well as a huge increase from 200 to 12,000 players in four years, China may well become a force to be reckoned with in 2022 as the sport continues to increase in popularity.
How Can I Buy Tickets and Club Membership?
Fan club membership and tickets can be purchased here or by scanning the QR code below:
Kunlun Red Stars' upcoming home games (2017-18 season)*
Saturday, September 9, 2017 (5.30pm): vs Jokerit
Monday, September 11, 2017 (7.30pm): vs CSKA
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 (7.30pm): vs Slovan
Friday, September 15, 2017 (7.30pm): vs Vityaz
Saturday, September 30, 2017 (5.30pm): vs Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg
Wednesday, October 4 (7.30pm): vs Lada Togliatti
Friday, October 6 (7.30pm): vs Metallurg Magnitogorsk
Saturday, October 21 (5.30pm): vs Admiral Vladivostok
Monday, October 23 (7.30pm): vs Admiral Vladivostok
Friday, October 27 (7.30pm): vs Ak Bars Kazan
Tuesday, October 31 (7.30pm): vs Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
Thursday, November 2 (7.30pm): vs Salavat Yulaev Ufa
Saturday, November 4 (5.30pm): vs HC Sochi
Tuesday, November 14 (7.30pm): vs HC Dynamo Moscow
Thursday, November 16 (7.30pm): vs Dinamo Minsk
Saturday, November 18 (5.30pm): vs SKA Saint Petersburg
Friday, November 24 (7.30pm): vs Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Monday, December 18 (7.30pm): vs Dinamo Riga
Wednesday, December 20 (7.30pm): vs Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod
Friday, December 22 (7.30pm): vs Severstal Cherepovets
Sunday, December 24 (5.30pm): vs Spartak Moscow
Wednesday, January 3 (7.30pm): vs Avangard Omsk
Friday, January 5 (7.30pm): vs Yugra
Sunday, January 7 (5.30pm): vs Sibir Novosibirsk
Thursday, January 25 (7.30pm): vs Amur Khabarovsk
Saturday, January 27 (5.30pm): vs Amur Khabarovsk
Tuesday, February 27 (7.30pm): vs Barus Astana