NHL duo in China for preseason

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The National Hockey League will stage two preseason games in China as part of the league's ongoing effort to promote the sport in the fast-growing market, it said on Wednesday.
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The National Hockey League will stage two preseason games in China as part of the league’s ongoing effort to promote the sport in the fast-growing market, it said on Wednesday.

The Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames will meet in Shenzhen, southern Guangdong Province, on September 15 and Beijing on September 19 for the first NHL games in China since the league dropped the puck there last year with games in Shanghai and Beijing between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings.

The games follow recent developments at the grassroots level with the staging of youth ice hockey clinics by NHL teams in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

The NHL is the latest major sports league hoping to tap into China and its 1.3 billion-person market, following European soccer teams and the highly-popular National Basketball Association.

“China is committed to hockey and expects to expand its participation in all winter sports to 300 million people by 2022,” the league said in a news release.

“The NHL continues to collaborate with sports bureaus across China in developing grassroots hockey programs and supporting local youth hockey and hockey development at all levels.”

Chinese firm ORG Packaging will return as the event sponsor while Chinese investment company Bloomage International Investment Group, which owns the Cadillac Arena in Beijing where one of the games will be played, will promote the events.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last year that the league would be in China on a regular basis ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The NHL would not release its players to participate in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in February after the league and the International Olympic Committee failed to reach an agreement on players’ travel and insurance costs.

China is pushing to promote ice hockey and other winter sports ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Local and federal governments have been pouring money into new facilities, equipment and training for players and coaches in the past few years with the majority of the new rinks being built in shopping malls.

In 2015, the New York Islanders made Song Andong the first Chinese-born player to be drafted into the NHL. Song had one goal and three points in 98 games with the Madison Capitols of the United States Hockey League and is committed to play at Cornell University next season.

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