BEIJING — Ni hao! Greetings from the other side of the world.
The Bruins’ first-ever official visit to China kicked off in Beijing on July 13, with current Bruins Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak joining Bruins alumni Andrew Raycroft and Bob Sweeney, and members of the Boston Bruins Youth Hockey Development Team for “Bruins Global: China 2016.”
The crew will be in China from July 13-July 23, hosting several youth hockey clinics in Beijing and Shanghai for more than 150 Chinese youth hockey players. The clinics will consist of both on and off-ice training.
The trip came about through a partnership with Beijing-based company O.R.G. Packaging to help grow the sport of hockey in China, while also strengthening the connection between the Bruins and the local Chinese community in New England and educating North American residents about the growth of hockey in China.
O.R.G. Packaging Chairman Zhou Yunjie grew up playing hockey in Beijing and is passionate about working with the Bruins to cultivate the sport in China.
The trip is unique on a number of different levels, mainly because the players have never been that far overseas, and also because of the cultural experiences the group will encounter. There is something about hockey, though, that transcends. The Black & Gold work to grow hockey around New England, and now that approach is being taken abroad.
“I never even thought about going to China, and because I always thought it was so far,” smiled David Pastrnak.
“And it was a nine hour flight [from the Czech Republic], so I don’t know what I was thinking,” he laughed. “But it’s cool. Obviously we are here on the second day, so we didn’t get much to see and hopefully we’re going to see some good stuff and bring some memories home.”
“Bruins Global” began with a ceremony and press conference announcing the partnership with O.R.G. Packaging. But it wasn’t your typical Claude Julien post-game press conference.
The event was held at the “Bird’s Nest,” the main stadium built for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. The city will also host the Winter Olympics in 2022.
The red carpet was rolled out for the Bruins and local leaders.
There was an emcee and round-table to discuss growing the sport of hockey in China with Chinese officials, state media and industry insiders, with hundreds in attendance. The event featured Bruins highlight videos, a Q&A on-stage with Pastrnak (who is now featured on cans of milk in China — more on that later), and even a local children’s choir singing a beautiful rendition of Josh Groban’s “Raise Me Up.”
“It’s been great. It shows how passionate they are about this partnership,” Beleseky said of the big-time media event.
“They put on a great ceremony here — and we saw that David Pastrnak has his own beverage here now too,” he laughed. “So it’s been pretty exciting so far.”
As part of the partnership with O.R.G. Packaging, the Bruins hosted 24 Chinese youth hockey players from the Beijing Hockey Association back in February, with the kids participating in clinics and seeing their first pro hockey game. The group also competed against local New England tough teams. More players will be brought over to the U.S. each year to take part in the experience.
“I think we share similar visions with Mr. Zhou, in developing hockey and its core principles,” Glen Thornborough, the Bruins Chief Revenue Officer, said during the media event. “We start at the grassroots and really work our way up with the children.”
“We also are trying to grow the game back at home as well. The struggles that you face here in China, I think there are 20,000 in Beijing, we have 50,000 in Massachusetts. Obviously we’re a little bit more organized and structured, but every day, you’re trying to grow the game of hockey as well.”
After the partnership ceremony, the Bruins’ crew toured the Summer Palace in Beijing. Other highlights of the Bruins’ first-ever visit to China will include sightseeing at The Forbidden City, Prince Gong’s Mansion, Great Wall of China, The Bund, Huanpu River and Canal Town.
“I’m just excited,” said Beleskey. “I think to see hockey players over here in China and a game that’s just kind of starting to kick off here — it’s going to be exciting to teach some kids and help them learn.”
With only day one in the books, there is sure to be much more to share. Be sure to stay tuned on BostonBruins.com, the Bruins Mobile App, and across our social channels for the next week and a half, as we bring you the latest from “Bruins Global: China 2016.”