Shanghai to host star-studded NHL game

The National Hockey League (NHL) is bringing its pre-season games to China next month for the first time.
Ti Gong

Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play the NHL China Game in Shanghai on September 21.

The National Hockey League (NHL), one of the four major North American sports leagues, is bringing its pre-season games to China next month for the first time. The Shanghai game between Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks is scheduled on September 21. 

Tickets became available for purchase from Thursday.

Winter sports were widely promoted around China after Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, although they are still enjoying a better public foundation in the northern part of the country due to climate conditions. 

The majority of China’s national winter sport team members are from northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang.

Asked why Shanghai was chosen as the host city of the first pre-season China game, which is followed by a stop in Beijing two days later, David Proper, executive vice president of media strategy and distribution at NHL, says via an e-mail interview that the venue and market expectation were major considerations.

“Shanghai has a world-class facility (in the Mercedes-Benz Arena) where the game will be staged,” says Proper. “We also have relationships with a number of hockey-related entities based in Shanghai and we are convinced that it is a strong market for hockey.

“Shanghai is a world-renowned city that frequently hosts and supports world-class international events. This gives us confidence that all of the participants in this event, including players, business partners and fans, will enjoy not only the experience of seeing hockey in China, but also experience this great city,” he adds. 

According to Proper, the two teams coming to the China games have been involved in exchange programs with Chinese youth teams over the past few years and understand the excitement in the market. And they will bring star NHL players to China including Bo Horvat and Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Tanner Pearson of the LA Kings.

Ti Gong

Liu Fei (center), consul general of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver, drops the puck to kick off a match between LA Kings and Vancouver Canucks in March.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier that NHL’s commitment to China goes beyond the 2022 Winter Olympics. There is also a long-term arrangement with China that includes contributions to growing grassroots hockey in the country.

Proper reveals that the NHL has begun its plan to host clinics for players and coaches throughout China.

“In fact, we have already hosted clinics in Beijing, Hangzhou, Shenyang and Chongqing,” he says. “We have also engaged with government officials to support hockey-related programs such as the introduction of ‘ball hockey’ to the physical education curriculum in Beijing.”

NHL officials have met a number of Chinese federations, including the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, the Shanghai and Beijing sports bureau and the Ministry of Education.

“We have had in-depth discussions (with officials) of strategies for development of hockey in China, and they are aware of our commitment to this goal,” says Proper. “In Shanghai, we will continue to conduct clinics, viewing parties and other assorted outreach events. In addition, we are in the process of further defining our social media products and we expect to deliver many promotions into the Shanghai market as those platforms mature.”

Proper also promises that there will be a number of Chinese elements to be incorporated into the China games.

“But at this point, I would prefer for them to be a surprise,” he says.

Tickets (220-1,280 yuan) for the game at 7:30pm on September 21 at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena (1200 Expo Ave, Pudong New Area) are available for purchase via en.damai.cn.

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