The men’s hockey team of China had a very special performance at the last Olympic Games in Beijing. Almost two-thirds of it was made up of naturalized foreigners. Now there are rumors that things did not click very well in the cabin of the disparate manchaft.
Twelve native Canadians, three Americans and one Russian played for China at the February games. Some Chinese, who made up the rest of the 25-man squad, also developed their hockey skills overseas.
In the end, the disparate representation did not have to face the NHL stars, whose start was interrupted by covid, but it still did not stand up to the competition of the world’s elite. She lost all of her matches and had a commanding worst score of 4:23.
The entire Chinese selection came from Red Star Kunlun, which has been in the Russian KHL since 2016 as the only Chinese participant.
Many national team members have thus passed under the hands of Vyacheslav Kozlov, who in the year before last worked as a coaching assistant to Alexei Kovaljov in Kunlun.
Just Kozlov now for the Russian station Match TVwhich is owned by the state-owned energy giant Gazprom, described the conditions in Red Star.
When he had to describe the mentality of Chinese hockey players, he began: “What kind of Chinese are they? Most of the players were from North America. With Chinese roots, yes, but already with a Canadian and American mentality. All those guys could play, but many of them were lazy and didn’t work on themselves. It was easy money for them. They played just for fun, they lived in Moscow (the Beijing club had a home base in Mytishch on the outskirts of Moscow due to the coronavirus restrictions in China, editor’s note) and they talked. Nobody really cared about the playoffs, the team lacked competition.”
Forward Zhu-ti Jing has more experience with Kunlun than Kozlov, who left the club after only one year. He played 47 games for the Red Star over several years and won a place in the Olympic selection.
However, he did not feel comfortable in the representative cabin, which basically copied the club one, because of the overseas players with Chinese roots who headed to Kunlun mainly for money.
“When we went to the club and drank, the guys said it to my face. It was like, ‘You know, I wouldn’t make that kind of money anywhere else.’ But we all knew it anyway. This harsh reality was felt even in the cabin, where you didn’t notice any sense of pride,” Jing told the website China Sports Insider.
At the Olympics, every naturalized foreigner with a Chinese version of their name played, which caused quite a stir. However, Chinese was definitely not in the locker room.
“I won’t name anyone, but some players with Chinese blood have spent a lot of time in China but haven’t bothered to learn a single Chinese word. And when you go back to your roots, you have to at least learn a little bit of the language and fit into the local culture a little bit. I don’t mind didn’t notice at all during his five years with the team,” Jing stated.
“On the other end of the spectrum, there were guys with no Chinese background who put a lot more effort into it, which I respect a lot,” Jing added.
He did not feel comfortable in the special collective also because he did not completely blend in with either the native Chinese or the foreigners. Although he was born in Beijing, he left for the United States to play hockey at the age of nine.
“I felt like I was going through an identity crisis,” the 23-year-old center revealed. “The Chinese players thought I was someone of Chinese descent, and foreigners thought I was Chinese. So I kind of stayed away. I only had a few friends in a similar situation. But overall, it was weird.”
Kunlun can continue to be a reservoir for the Chinese national team, as it continues in the KHL despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The other two foreign participants are Belarus’s Minsk and Kazakhstan’s Nur-Sultan.