The NHL and the United States Embassy in Beijing combined to spread the message of hockey in China on Thursday.
The League and the embassy held a "Hockey Night" designed to introduce the League's popular youth program in China and increase interest in the sport. The standing room-only event at the Beijing American Center was held one week before the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks begin the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G Packaging.
The Kings and Canucks will play at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai on Sept. 21, and Wukesong Arena in Beijing on Sept. 23.
"Hockey Night" received widespread media coverage. The 50-minute program, which included activities and demonstrations to engage youths and adults, also was streamed on platforms that generated 1 million video starts. It was the first stream from the U.S. Embassy allowed by the China government in a year.
Alan Clark, the assistant cultural affairs officer of the U.S. Embassy; Canada minister-counselor for public affairs Martin Laflamme; David Proper, NHL executive vice president of media and international strategy; Kevin Westgarth, NHL vice president of business development and international affairs and a former NHL player; and Joe Zhang and Conor Smith from Beijing International Ice Hockey all attended the event, which was designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to hockey and present the NHL's development plan in China.
"The NHL was honored to host 'Hockey Night' with our friends at the U.S. and Canadian embassies, and we greatly appreciate all of their help in bringing the NHL games to China," Proper said. "The NHL has a passionate vision and commitment to growing the game of ice hockey at all levels in China and the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging are an historic step for the NHL in this regard. We look forward to all of our events and initiatives that will continue to expose ice hockey to as many people as possible."
With Beijing set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the NHL is promoting hockey in various programs for China, aiming to let more people experience the sport. The NHL Hockey School hosted seven clinics in major cities this summer; nearly 250 youth players were taught the skills of the game while also focusing on fitness, health and teamwork.
The NHL also added Chinese elements to its annual Player Media Tour last week. More than 30 NHL stars, including Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars greeted fans across China in Chinese for the first time through the League's official Chinese social media platforms. They also tried Moon cakes and participated in the "Hockey Puck Challenge," stacking hockey pucks in 30 seconds with chopsticks.
Fans across China can get to know NHL players through the fun interactions and also recognize the League's effort to bring the sport to China.