Chinese hockey team ready to make KHL home debut in Beijing

© Хоккейный клуб "БАРЫС" / Астана / vk.com
After an away match against HC Amur in the Russian city of Khabarovsk, Red Star Kunlun will make its home debut at the LeSports Center in Beijing, playing its first hockey match as part of the KHL on September 5.

The wheels were set in motion for the Red Star back in June, when an agreement was signed between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China that allows a Chinese team to enter the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

Although the KHL is based and managed in Russia, where most of the teams are based, it has teams from European countries such as Finland, Croatia, Slovakia, and Latvia as well. However, the addition of an Asian country such as China brings a whole a new dynamic into the mix.

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Many would expect travel times to be an issue, but it is important to remember that the KHL is divided into East and West conferences, which minimizes long distance travel for both players and fans alike.

Despite earlier reports claiming that China’s arena, which was constructed for the 2008 Olympics, would not be ready in time to host KHL games, it now seems that everything will go ahead according to plan.

“Preparation of the arena is well underway. It is already perfectly set up for KHL matches of the highest level. Kunlun Red Star’s first match will take place at the LeSports Center and nowhere else,” a press officer for the Chinese club said.

Though the LeSports Center has a maximum capacity of 18,000, it will be reduced to 14,000 for KHL matches. It will still be the second largest venue in the league, however, coming in just behind the Minsk-Arena in Belarus, which is home of Dinamo-Minsk and holds 15,000 spectators.

China’s entry into ice hockey sees the country continue a trend of investing in more popular sports.

China’s new super-rich Super League has already managed to attract top soccer players from around the world as part of the country’s strategy to win the World Cup by 2050.

Whether China’s move into the KHL is the first step in a plan to enter the global hockey market remains to be seen.

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