GRETZKY- ICE HOCKEY AMBASSADOR FOR CHINA

GRETZKY- ICE HOCKEY AMBASSADOR FOR CHINA

Former NHL great Wayne Gretzky has said he is "pleasantly surprised" at the level of ice hockey in China, and that the sport has great potential to grow in the country.

 

"I'm really impressed by how nice and warm the Chinese people are, and I'm also pleasantly surprised by how much hockey there is here," said Gretzky. "They've got girls' teams and youth hockey programs now, and this is the second year that the NHL has played exhibition games here, so there's a sense that hockey is starting to get followed and watched more."

 

Despite recent high-profile attempts to improve the game's standing, ice hockey remains a fringe sport in China, where basketball and soccer, as well as table tennis and badminton continue to dominate. Drawing on his own experience of having transferred from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings, Gretzky emphasized that enduring popularity can only be achieved from the bottom up. "When I went to California in 1988, we made sure that we went out and around the city and concentrated on getting kids to come and participate. And once they do that, more and more kids fall in love with our game, and consequently it spreads."

 

However, the Canadian added the caveat that this would not be a quick process. "If you look at the registration of how many kids now play in California, Texas and Florida, it's amazing how many more are playing our sport, but it doesn't happen overnight. It's going to take years and years of kids playing and participating." 

 

China's recent push to improve the standard of ice hockey is in part down to the country wanting to put up a good showing on home ice at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

 

Source: www.xinhuanet.com

editor

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