Beijing: China’s unorthodox Olympic hockey experience, one of the greatest mysteries during the Beijing Games, ended with four losses in four games and temporary citizenships, and a hazy future.
The home team relied on the roster of athletes from the Kunlun Red Star franchise in Russia’s top league and its core group of the 15 players born abroad.
They took up most of the time on the ice and ensured the team was competitive, but they also sparked endless questions regarding their citizenship, which they mostly resisted.
Foreign athletes were invited to become Chinese citizens before the Olympics and were assured that the paperwork would be handled according to two players; however, at least one participant said they did not need to surrender their passports.
Today, Chinese authorities and Kunlun Red Star, which the Hong Kong energy billionaire owns, must decide how much to put into the national team, which is ranked 32nd in the world in the hope of qualifying within four months for the 12 team Olympic tournament, possibly with more talent from home.
Their Olympic duties are over, but several players have told Reporters they’re not sure what’s to come next for Kunlun, a member of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
“From what I’ve heard, we plan on continuing the program, and we’re going to be making a push to keep growing the game in China and help China move up the world rankings,” said California-born Cory Kane, who joined Kunlun five years ago as a “heritage” player – he has Chinese roots through his mother.
“But they haven’t confirmed anything on where exactly we’ll be playing, or if they’re going to be playing in the KHL or not,” the player told Reporters following scoring the two China goals during the 7-2 loss Tuesday night against Canada which ended the tournament.
Chinese sports officials have not responded to requests for comments as well Kunlun Red Star declined to make a statement.
Kunlun has experienced many turbulent times since its inception in 2016 in Hong Kong by Billy Ngok, soon after Beijing was awarded the right to be the host of the Olympics.
In March 2017, Kunlun signed a “China Ice Hockey 2022 plan” with China’s General Sports Administration to develop and create a Chinese team. The Olympics and an automatic spot as host were on the team’s plans.
Ngok was unable to be reached to discuss the matter.
Kunlun was beset by instability, changing from Beijing to Shanghai before returning to Beijing and flying across vast distances to play in the remote KHL.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease, the team has been based out of Moscow because of China’s strict border control.
Different strategies were being used by the club’s management, mainly foreign coaches, and the government-run Chinese Ice Hockey Association (CIHA), as stated by Mark Simon, a Canadian consultant for Kunlun, until the beginning of 2020.
“It’s just a lot of moving parts, you know, going in different directions,” said the man.
The turnover of personnel was high. In 2020, many Russian players were recruited for a few months. This season, we saw an influx of domestic Chinese players.
“It was wild like there would be games where guys play well. Then, in the next game, they would not even play because they want to play a native Chinese guy or mainland Chinese guy to get the experience playing games,” an ex-player who would not reveal his identity.
The team’s performance deteriorated, which prompted the sport’s ruling body to review China’s participation in the Olympics before eventually accepting it. As a result, Kunlun is by far the lowest KHL record of the year.
In the last few months, foreign athletes were urged to sign documents to allow them to be Chinese citizens during Beijing Games.
However, Beijing Games, five people who have personal knowledge regarding the situation said to Reporters they would not be identified due to the nature of the issue.
China is not a country that generally allows dual citizenship.
One document viewed by Reporters as an apparent attempt to ease the worries of a player stated that Red Star Culture & Sports Holding Ltd in Hong Kong would handle Chinese citizenship agreements and would cover legal costs and assistance in the event of legal challenges in the restoration of his Canadian citizenship after the Games.
The article also states that if a player is stuck in China due to a “passport-related issue,” he is eligible for food, accommodation in Shenzhen, transportation, and starting august. 1in 2022 an opportunity to coach until he could go back to Canada.
The amount of the compensation was not stated. The former player noted that no one signed it.
Several players chose to withdraw from the Games.
After what was described as a “back and forth” discussion, many decided to move forward to apply in the hope of obtaining Chinese citizenship. The participant claimed it was unnecessary to surrender his passport and not have a Chinese one.
“I was not handed it. Instead, I was told we have a Chinese passport for sports reasons, like a sport passport,” said the man. Stated.
The Chinese foreign ministry has not responded to a request for comments.
The China team was greeted with a cheer from the crowd in the home stadium after it defeated the heavily-favored Canada until its final game.
The players expressed their satisfaction in representing China and expressed thanks for the opportunity and a pledge to continue to expand hockey across China.
Kane 31, whose professional career has been a journey all the way from Ferris State University in Michigan to the North American minor leagues and the Czech Republic, said the Olympics was the top highlight in what Kane called “tough times” over the recent five years.
“Every year, I think we had one new coach, some bad losing streaks, a lot of guys in and out of the locker room, and there’s just a lot of other stuff that goes in the background, but it was all worth it,” said the coach. Stated.
“We got here, and that opening ceremony – that was crazy – probably top five moments of my life.”