The 2022 Winter Olympics are fast approaching. Traditionally, the biggest attraction, together with alpine skiing and Petra Vlhová, will be ice hockey for Slovak fans. Our representatives had to fight their way under five circles from the qualification in which they succeeded at the end of August.
Latvia and Denmark joined with them, closing the core groups. In a few days, another long-running question about the participation of NHL players resolved. After lengthy negotiations between the profilig, the International Hockey Federation (IIHF), the NHLPA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it was agreed that the best hockey players in the world would go to the Olympics. Although the whole agreement has several pitfalls, which we informed you about earlier in a separate article.
12 teams will take part in the tournament. In the A-group, the biggest favorites of the USA and Canada will face Germany and domestic China. Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Denmark will play in the B-group. In the C-group, Slovak hockey players will meet with Latvia and the Nordic national teams of Sweden and Finland.
There is another important unanswered question in the basic groups, specifically in group A. Many of the readers probably thought about what China’s match with star Canada or the USA would look like? Who will actually play for China and what kind of hockey players do they have there? We have asked ourselves the same questions, and since it is China, it is almost impossible to find relevant information.
We therefore turned to sports journalist Mark Dreyer, who lives directly in Beijing and covers local sports. He focuses mainly on the Olympics and writes for the web chinasportsinsider.com, where he caused a stir in May, in which he informed that the IIHF had threatened China with expulsion from the Olympic hockey tournament.
In the interview you read:
– What will the Chinese team look like?
– What alternative was in the game.
– Whether China wants to show people high losses.
– What a bubble will look like.
– What questions we do not yet know the answers to.
How do you think China’s match with Canada or the USA will end?
“I cover several sports, I am not a hockey expert, but I talked to several of them, they also had experience with the Chinese team. Everyone thinks that matches at best end in a double-digit result. Up to 25 or 30 goals can be scored. None of them think China will score a goal. ”
Who will play for China?
“It is expected that several foreign hockey players who now play for Red Star Kunlun in the KHL will receive a Chinese passport. At the moment, this seems to be the most likely. But it’s still hard to imagine them playing against the best of the NHL. It won’t be good. ”
Chinese hockey players under the age of 20 won the 3rd Division of the World Championships two years ago.
Relations between Kunlun and China were not the best at some point. What happened?
“It started a few years ago when the IIHF automatically gave China a place at the Olympics. They did not get the position as soon as the Games organizer, the IIHF had to decide. China is the 32nd best team in the world, it certainly would not qualify on its own.
That’s when they said they had enough time and would do everything to create a competitive team. Red Star Kunlun was supposed to take care of that. They formed several teams, had young people and women, and took care of the national teams. Then suddenly, no one knows exactly when and why, it fell apart.
It was at a time when there was a coronavirus pandemic that didn’t help. At that time, the Chinese Olympic team was formed. People said they already had a national team and did not need anyone from Kunlun who said it was absurd. Money was also being dealt with. When Kunlun recruited and coached players for four years and then didn’t get anything back for it, that’s a bit unfair. They said they wouldn’t give them their players. ”
How have relations been corrected now that Kunlun players are also going to the Olympics?
“Over time, sometime earlier this year, they began to realize that the Chinese Olympic team, made up of local young players and had been training together since last summer, could not enter the Olympics.
They just trained at the camp, they didn’t play any matches. I talked to one of the hockey players from the camp. He told me that they were not well there, that they could not leave until the Olympics. They missed families, did not play any matches. It was a disaster.
If this team played against the NHL stars, it would be unbelievable. Everyone realized that they had to avoid it at all costs. The Minister of Sports also took part and the IIHF said that if they did not solve it, they would not play in the Olympics. Of course, they never said it officially, but I listened to it right here in China.
All the problems came together again and Kunlun said he would call back all the players who played there. He gets them back for one season so they can play for China at the Olympics. I have information from Kunlun that practically their team will go to the Olympics. ”
So what will the Chinese team look like
“About ten players from the Chinese Olympic team joined the selection of Kunlun, which plays in Russia, a few weeks ago. So it will be the best of the Chinese Olympic team and Kunlun.
However, there is still a big difference between players from North America and China. Most overseas hockey players have some Chinese roots, maybe they have one Chinese parent or grandparent. They are not just some random naturalized players.
Before the last Olympics, South Korea only took a few players from Canada, put them in its league for two years, gave them passports and played with them at the Olympics. These players have at least some connection to China, that was important for the country.
I’m guessing that North American players will make up about 75 percent of the team and spend 95 percent of their time on the ice. The home players will be there to fill the numbers and exceptionally get on the ice. ”
China will probably not want to show people how their national team is getting debacle from the US or Canada. Will they let the spectators into the matches at all?
“There are two factors. The first is coronavirus and whether to allow viewers. I can imagine that the government will say that spectators can go to outdoor events, there is less risk.
China’s entry rules are extremely strict. It’s hard to get here. 40,000 people will come to the Olympics, the government is terrified. From a coronavirus point of view, it’s crazy. They fear that everyone who comes is potentially infected and can infect the native, and it will spread. They cannot quarantine athletes and are so very concerned.
I can imagine that the spectators will be, for example, on the hills near the slopes, where they are far from the athletes, but for something like ice hockey … I can hardly imagine how they would allow the spectators to enter. There is a high risk.
One of the alternatives may be, but it’s just my speculation that they will take 10,000 professional spectators from China, put them in a bubble and go to all the matches. Then they will quarantine until they return to normal life. It sounds crazy, but China can do it.
Another question is whether China wants to broadcast matches that it can play 0:10, 0:20 or 0:30. I don’t know, I really don’t know. I think the main broadcaster in the country will rather give some curling or records of something else instead, and China’s struggles will somehow subside. Maybe they will focus on the women’s team.
However, when the USA plays against Canada, it will be a big match, they will definitely broadcast it and say that the best hockey players in the world are playing in China. Nobody likes it when his country loses, but I would say that China doesn’t particularly like it. Even if you add the policy with the USA or Canada.
I may be wrong, but I’m not surprised if those matches hide and go only on some satellite channels or aren’t broadcast at all. ”
Will all athletes have to be vaccinated?
“Neither the IOC nor China can order athletes to be vaccinated, but they highly recommend it. They will test every day. If someone gets a covid, they will be expelled from the Olympics. It was similar in Tokyo, many athletes have already been vaccinated there and now it will be even more because more time has passed. ”
What will the Olympic bubble look like?
“It simply came to our notice then. There will be ice indoor events in Beijing, as well as two divided ski and outdoor events. It seems that three different bubbles will be created and there will be no movement between them.
I do not know how this will be resolved with the opening ceremony. Many athletes will want to come to Beijing for him, even if they are in other bubbles. I don’t know if they’ll let them. There is very little time left until the Olympics and we still do not have the answers to similar questions.
No ticket information, whether spectators will be able to, no exact rules of action … There are still an awful lot of questions. These are the best estimates, but still no one knows exactly how it will be. But the bubble won’t be fun, they won’t enjoy it there. ”
Do you think that some NHL players will refuse to come because of the bubble?
“I do not think so. In my opinion, they are used to the bubble, they have already experienced it in the league. They didn’t like it, but they fought a lot to be able to go to the Olympics when the league released them … It’s only been three weeks. If it was more, then maybe. But three weeks is fine. They will be with their teammates. I don’t think that will be a problem. ”