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The 2017 NHL China Games

Okay, Mr. Bettman, what did we learn?  That travel for Western Conference teams is bad enough as it is without compounding it with random excursions to the Far East?  I can’t imagine how badly jetlagged the players will be upon their return back to North America, but I know I’m pooped from it all, and I only traveled a few hours to Victoria, BC!  Crossing the international date line to play meaningless hockey (although at a very meaningful time) doesn’t seem like a worthwhile investment to me, and I think anyone who watched these two games would agree.  Now that the novelty is gone, I doubt I’ll stay or get up at past-midnight (PT) to watch any more of it should the league extend the initiative.

Mr. Bettman, while I understand the financial benefits of enticing the world’s most populated nation into becoming NHL fans, I believe you create the impression of being two-faced.  You are trying to make inroads with the hosts of the 2022 games in Beijing, while denying NHL participation this upcoming February in Korea.  Are you worried about the North, Mr. Commissioner?  Nuclear fallout from all those failed tests contaminating your players, who will then spread radiation throughout the ranks, destroying your precious league?  Really, explain the  mixed messages here…

With all due respect, Gary, if I can call you that, I’m not sure the Chinese were all that stoked about it anyway!  The first game, in Shanghai, was played in front of a reported 10,000+ people, which makes me think they counted a few spectators twice.  It was a smattering of fans comparable to what you see at a Canadian Junior game.  Not the worst, but certainly not overwhelming.  There was no bitching and moaning about not being able to get tickets!

The second game’s head count was reported as a sellout 15,000, which again is a generous count if you watched the game and saw all the empty seats (in all areas of the rink).  So, while I call BS on the attendance figures, I can also point to the overwhelmingly unenthusiastic looks on the crowd’s faces, unless the camera happened to fall on what I assume were either North American or European fans, just judging by appearance).  Even the cheerleaders made it look like an ordeal to be active participants in what was a nicely presented welcoming of NHL hockey.  The acqueil in China is always grand, but even this was somewhat subdued by contrast to the fanfare surrounding things like the world volleyball or ping-pong championships.

All this to say that I am not in support of growing the game in China this way.  Drop your dictatorial stance on the upcoming Olympics and I’ll consider the China experiment a fair (albeit misguided) attempt at establishing the NHL as China’s premier “Big 4” sports league for viewer consumption.  But, you can’t play these preseason games over there anymore!  I beseech you to stop the madness!  It’s gimmicky and counter-productive (split squads too, yeesh!) and I won’t watch any more of it.  Do it in the middle of the summer if you absolutely must, or wrap it into your World Cup tourney.  Nobody pays mind to that anyway, so it won’t interfere with the Occidental sleep schedule.

Gary, again, if I may call you that, somehow you manage to retain your Commission.  Despite all the idiotic things you’ve done along the way, I hate have to admit the NHL has grown in both size and strength under your leadership.  I can’t explain it!  So, I guess this is just a fancy way of giving you a heads up that I won’t be watching this junk any longer.

6:30am (PT)

OUT!

DR

 

Hockey (Night?) In China

Nothing better to do at 4:30 am?  Tune in for some Vancouver Canucks hockey, live from Beijing!  The Los Angeles Kings face the ‘Nucks in the first game of an NHL awareness project hoping to promote the game in China, who has an active program encouraging the uptake of winter sports.

1.3 billion people.  That is a large market to try to tap into, and the NHL likely didn’t do itself a great service by withdrawing from the upcoming games in South Korea.  But, they are (in my opinion) basically committing to 2020, when China will be the host.

The Chinese are already attempting to grow their hockey program, called “Red Star “.  In games against more established Red Star gets pounded into the ground, but that might be set to change, as they are offering incentives to North American Chinese players who come over to play on their team and in their program.  Notably, their women’s program has already tried to make inroads by adding a team which will play in North America.  Not sure about the status of all that…

All in all, I think growing the game is always a good thing and this is no different, even if it is a communist country.  The new Soviet?  NAH…

Anyway, this game will feature some top-line players, as the Canucks already played the other half of their split-squad against the Flames earlier in the night.  I know Doughty is playing for the Kings as is Muzzin, but it’s early yet.  Oh, there’s Kopitar!

Anyway, it’s late, so I won’t get into this too much save to say it feels strange being up this early watching non-Olympic hockey.

Notes:

  • In the earlier game, we saw some great play from Brock Boeser, who I think is an amazing prospect.  He has great instincts for a young defenceman, and can back it up with the skills to finish.  His goal tonight, while likely different against real NHL defencemen, was a thing of beauty, exhibiting great patience, a nose for open-ice, and the poised finish you see from the greats.

  • But the highlight of the night was a save by Calgary goalie, Jon Gillies.

  • The Ottawa Senators have lost center Colin White for 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist.  White looked like he was due to crack the opening night roster.
  • Jonathan Drouin made his long-awaited debut with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, grabbing an assist.  He looked right at home.
  • Blues forward Alex Steen will miss the rest of training camp with a hand injury.  Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, also of the Blues, will have his leg injury re-evaluated in three weeks.  Finally, forward Zach Sanford will be out a good 4-6 months rehabbing a dislocated/separated shoulder.
  • Erik Cole signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trochek will miss some time with an injury.
 
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