Madame Zhao Yan is the chairman and executive director of Bloomage BioTechnology Corporation and owns Cadillac Arena, where the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames played on Wednesday in the second game of the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games. Bloomage International has partnered with the NHL and O.R.G. Packaging to put on the NHL China Games during the past two preseasons. Through a translator, Madame Zhao sat down with NHL.com for an interview before the game on Wednesday to discuss the partnership and the future of the NHL in China.
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How did you begin working with the NHL?
"We actually started the cooperation with the NHL in 2016 because we had worked with the NBA for about 10 years, so we have a very good knowledge about the American (sports) leagues, so we know well about all the big leagues. Also in 2016, the Cadillac Arena was confirmed to be the ice hockey venue for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics Games, so at the time we felt we needed to bring the world's toughest level of ice hockey into China, so that's why we chose to cooperate with the NHL, and also we hope through the NHL China Games we can let more and more Chinese people know about ice hockey and start to like it and then we can give them a good way of knowledge about the game, which is good preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games."
How have you been involved with the NHL's mission in China?
"We have signed the agreement with the NHL for eight years for the NHL China Games and all the games they will launch in China will be implemented by Bloomage.
"As you know, we rebuilt the Cadillac Center to match the NHL standard for the use in the NHL China Games. Also, we built another ice rink in Chongqing, that's another city in China, which has even a higher standard, better quality than this one. So we hope that we can help to bring the NHL China Games into different cities in China so that more of the cities, more and more people there can know about ice hockey. Especially for the kids. They have more opportunity to see the game themselves.
"As you know, last year was the first year of NHL China Games. We launched it in Beijing and Shanghai, so this year we choose Beijing and Shenzhen, so one more city could learn about the game. So as you know, more people can be attached by the game. As you can see, the atmosphere of here is much better than last year.
"And not only the spectators, the number has increased very much, but also the government is here. We have the officials from the general administration of sport of China and also the city government, they are paying more attention on this event. More than last year."
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How are you helping with the mission to teach kids to play hockey?
"We are in discussions with the NHL to develop the ice hockey industry in China. I think the most important thing, it's to develop the habit of the kids to play ice hockey, so that's why we think the coaching system is very important for them. I think at the moment China lacks very good ice hockey coaches. So that's the thing, we need to work on that. So we think we need to have very good coaches from the NHL to teach the Chinese coaches. When we have enough of these good local coaches here, we can let them coach more and more kids here. When the kids know that they like the ice hockey, that can be their possible career in the future. They will like the teamwork of the ice hockey, so they can see how maybe ice hockey could be their future career, how they can be a professional player in the future."
What are you building outside the arena to help teach ice hockey?
"As you can see we are building a new center called Ice Center, just on the southeast part of the Cadillac Center, that will be a training center for the kids and the coaches. That is a standard ice rink with the seats for about 3,000. So we think with the very good system from the NHL, the training system for the coach and for the kids, also by the support of the government, we can have more and more kids get involved in ice hockey."
How can that impact kids?
"I personally very much like ice hockey. I think it's very good sport that can show the passion and the speed.
"I think the very priority thinking from me about ice hockey is the teamwork. It's for all the players, they need to be very good at teamwork on the ice. But also off the ice, everyone is a gentleman. So I think the teamwork is very important for the Chinese young generation because, as you know, a lot of them are the single child because of the (one child) policy and maybe some of them don't know very well about how to communicate or how to cooperate with each other, so I think ice hockey can be a very good way for them to learn that. And also they can learn to respect their opponents, their teammates. It's a good thing for them to learn."
Is there anything specific about ice hockey that would lead to that teamwork aspect, vs. basketball or another team sport?
"To compare with ice hockey, for basketball or football, it's more concentration on the individuals, that one player can lead the whole game throughout one round or the whole game. But for ice hockey it's too difficult because it's very fast, so for a player physically speaking it's too hard for them to play the 20 minutes by himself. So that's why I think hockey can show the teamwork better than these two games."
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Is it important for the current generation to find those teamwork skills, and how can ice hockey be the vehicle?
"As I just mentioned, ice hockey is a game that one person cannot finish by himself. It's more about teamwork. So that's the thing I think most of the Chinese kids lack. They rely on the internet too much. They can do everything by themselves. So their lack of communication, cooperation, collaboration, this kind of thing with the people, the real people also. But ice hockey can give them a very good way to get in touch with people, with their teammates, with their friends. So if they like ice hockey they can have the chance to talk to people or come with people together. So that's very good for them to change their current lifestyles.
"Also, you know, the requirement of the physical ability for ice hockey players are very high. That's also one thing that is lacking for the Chinese kids because they just stay at home and go onto the internet. They lack physical exercises. But if they like to play ice hockey, that can be a very good time for them to do the exercises, practice themselves."
[Game-used Pucks from the 2018 NHL China Games available on NHL Auctions]
What do you see for the future of the NHL and Bloomage?
"I believe that we have a very smooth communication and cooperation during these years, and also the most important thing is we share the same goal. So I'm looking forward for our future cooperation. Besides the NHL China Games, I think there is a lot of things we can do for the ice hockey industry in China.
"I said just that before we may work on the training for the youth and also the training for the coaches, and we will work on the ice hockey facilities, the equipment and also we will perhaps have the youth league, the games for the children."