23 September 2017 0 Comments Posted By : ED WILLES

Canucks in China: Mike Keenan has a difficult task in trying to build Chinese national team

The Chinese men’s hockey program has grand ambitions for the 2022 Winter Olympics but, before the hockey world gets too excited over the emergence of this new world power, let’s go back 20 years for a cautionary tale.

In the mid-’90s, Japan boasted a lot of the same conditions which are currently found in China. The economy was booming. Interest in hockey was growing. The 1998 Winter Olympics were set for Nagano and with money pouring into the men’s national team, those Games were seen as the springboard which would launch the game in the Asian country.

And it never happened. Why?

“Unfortunately the economic crisis (in Japan) started right after,” says IIHF president Rene Fasel. “We couldn’t get the momentum we expected. Gary (that would be NHL commissioner Bettman) mentioned that when we were talking about (the NHL’s involvement in) South Korea.”

You’d expect as much.

“(Japan) is no longer the power in Asia,” says Dave King, the longtime hockey man who coached the Japanese men’s team in Nagano. “Now it’s China. (The 2022 Olympics) is a new step and it’s a big one. If they want the game to grow, they have to use this opportunity.”

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