The Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings will participate in the first-ever NHL preseason games in China, Gary Bettman announced officially on Thursday morning in Beijing.
The two teams will play on September 21 at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, as well as September 23 at the Le Sports Center in Beijing, where the announcement was made. The Canucks will be the road team in Shanghai, and the home team in Beijing.
If you’re thinking “road trip!” I’ve got good news for you. Both will both be offering travel packages, the league announced.
Representatives were on hand from the NHL, NHLPA, Chinese government, Los Angeles Kings, and Vancouver Canucks. Team president Trevor Linden represented the Canucks.
“On behalf of the entire Vancouver Canucks organization we are truly excited to play exhibition games in China and represent the National Hockey League on an international stage,” said Linden said. “This is a unique opportunity to play games in a growing market and we look forward to what will undoubtedly be a fantastic experience.”
“The 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging represent the formal launch of what we hope will be a long and successful collaboration between our league, our teams, and our partners in accelerating the development of hockey in China,” NHL Commissioner Bettman said. “We look forward to our first games in China and to a variety of initiatives that will inspire generations of Chinese players and fans to enjoy our sport. We recognize the importance of helping China build a strong national hockey program and are committed to supporting that priority in every way possible.”
From listening to the commissioner’s words, it was quite obvious that these games are part of a larger strategic plan to grow the game in China. Bettman even spoke a few words in Mandarin for the Chinese media on hand to mark the occasion.
Bettman also made it clear that the two teams from Vancouver and Los Angeles were chosen because of their ties to China. Both the Canucks and Kings have held youth hockey camps in China in recent years. The commissioner also noted that 440,000 people in Vancouver are of Chinese descent.
These games cannot be looked at independently from the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be held in Beijing. China is expected to spend more money on winter sports, which will increase participation rates across the board. It stands to reason that the NHL wants as much money as possible to be spent on hockey from the country of over 1.3 billion people.