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China Games

NHL optimistic about hockey's future in China

Daly says League will analyze plans for long-term growth after preseason games in Shanghai, Beijing

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

BEIJING -- The NHL sees a bright future for hockey in China after the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging.

"I think we're coming away from this very encouraged with respect to the plan and the viability of the plan longer term," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said during a news conference Saturday.

The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks played two preseason games in China, the first NHL games ever staged here, as a first step toward growing the game in the world's most populated country.

The Kings defeated the Canucks 5-2 before 10,088 at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai on Thursday and4-3 in a shootout before 12,759 at Wukesong Arena here on Saturday.

The teams also held youth clinics in Shanghai, and the NHL held a Fan Fest in Beijing.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association will evaluate this experience before deciding on the next step. But Daly said his early impression of the Chinese market and the opportunities in it were very positive.

Video: Canucks and Kings travel from Shanghai to Beijing

The Chinese government wants 300 million people to participate in winter sports as part of the ramp up to the 2022 Beijing Olympics and asked the NHL for help in growing hockey. Central to the request was that the League lend its expertise in building hockey infrastructure and a national team, and play games in the country

"It certainly is our hope and intention to continue to help grow the sport in China, both at the grassroots level but also bringing the best players and best teams in the world here hopefully on a regular basis going forward," Daly said.

"It is a fact that we understand that to grow the sport here in China, we do have to invest in the infrastructure, help build the infrastructure from children on up, to make hockey relevant in the Chinese marketplace, and I think we're prepared to do that."

Daly said the size of the crowd in Shanghai did not affect the NHL's enthusiasm.

Video: NHL Fan Fest in China teaches kids hockey

"We didn't really know what to expect," Daly said. "I can tell you that all the tickets were distributed, so we didn't really know what percentage of the building would end up being filled. Would we have liked more people in the building? Sure.

"But I think, again, stepping back and looking at the big picture, I don't think anything we saw on Thursday night came as a huge shock to us. I think in terms of laying the groundwork and building interest, it can sometimes be a relatively slow build."

Asked what the NHL would need to see in the future to keep investing in China, Daly said he didn't know the exact criteria yet.

"We're in the early stages," Daly said. "This is our first time in China. We've learned some things with respect to these two games -- what we did well, what we can do better and what we shouldn't do again. Obviously as we move forward, we're going to apply what we've learned and build. Rome isn't built in a day. …

"Looking back on this, we'll think it's a good first step for greater influence in China."

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