After months of speculation, the men’s Chinese national hockey team will play in Beijing, with IIHF president Luc Tardif confirming the decision on Tuesday.
In a release posted on the organization’s website, the IIHF and Chinese Ice Hockey Association will work together to use Chinese national team players in two Kunlun Red Star KHL games on Nov. 15 and 17. The IIHF will use it as an opportunity to evaluate the status of the team’s work leading up to Beijing while still working with the CIHA on its player eligibility rules.
“To be clear, the IIHF is not going to remove the Chinese team from the Olympic Games, the status of the men’s national team as a host nation participant in the Olympic ice hockey tournament was confirmed by Congress and remains unchanged,” new IIHF president Luc Tardif said in a release. “We are working with the CIHA to confirm their player eligibility according to IIHF rules, and we will continue to assist them as they work towards preparing their team for the Olympic Games.”
China is eligible to play in the Olympics based on being a host. But questions were raised early on after the country became Olympic hosts back in 2015 as to whether they’d be included or not. China is currently ranked 32nd in the IIHF rankings, most recently playing in the Division IIA event in 2019 – the fourth highest IIHF event. China avoided relegation with a 4-0 shutout over Belgium in the final game, sending the Belgians to Division IIB.
On top of that, there were discussions about player eligibility, with very few national team players participating with Kunlun in a meaningful capacity.
The projected roster for China is still unclear, especially with the team having sat out international play the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. China is set to play in a group containing Canada, USA and Germany, with most expecting games against China to be very one-sided.
This will be China’s first men’s Olympic hockey tournament, with the women’s team finding some success in the past.