Nov. 9 (Reuters) – China should prepare for a string of blowout losses at the Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament in Beijing 2022, unless the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) steps in and throws a lifeline to hosts, two international warned Trainer.
One of the most respected names in international ice hockey, Dave King has headed Canada’s men’s national team at three Olympics and worked with Japan to prepare for the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, told Reuters that the results with China were “scary” could be a group alongside the powerhouses Canada and the United States.
Jim Paek, who coached and prepared South Korea for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, raised similar concerns, particularly with the world’s best player returning to the Olympic stage after the NHL left the storefront four years ago.
“If you have host countries that qualify automatically, you get that,” warned King, who has also trained in the NHL, Russia, Sweden and Germany. “It’s very important to have a plan and stick with it and I think the Chinese didn’t do it very well, they were all over the map.
“For me there is currently nothing a coach can do, there is no magic wand.
“It’s scary, it really is.
As the host nation, China is guaranteed a seat at every event at the 2022 Games, but IIHF President Luc Tardif said in September that the men’s team could be prevented from playing due to its “poor athletic standard”.
With China apparently determined to participate in the men’s tournament, the IIHF Council confirmed earlier this month that it will not attempt to block the hosts from participating.
China’s plans to form a competitive team have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictive nationality rules that largely prevent it from prosecuting dual citizenship players, as South Korea, Italy and Japan did when hosting the Winter Games.
The Kunlun Red Star, a China-based team with Olympic hopefuls competing in the Continental Hockey League (KHL), was developed as the basis for a program.
But after 26 games, Red Star is bottom of the league with 24 teams.
“The situation with COVID and the fact that they cannot compete in international competitions … their preparation time has been reduced,” said Paek, the first Korean-born hockey player to play in the NHL and a member of the Stanley Cup winning team Pittsburgh Penguins 1991. “We had four years of proper preparation, but China doesn’t have that luxury and that time is coming to an end very quickly.
“That’s a lot of things that are against her right now.”
The IIHF said it is working with the CIHA (Chinese Ice Hockey Association) but with the Beijing Games February 4-20 being only 12 weeks away, limited fixes are available.
There won’t be a game China can look forward to in what can only be described as the Group of Death.
In addition to geopolitical rivals Canada and the USA, which are filled with NHL all-stars from top to bottom, the pool also includes Germany, silver medalists of the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
In addition to the potential for embarrassment, the goal differential is a tie in Olympic hockey, thus providing an incentive for the teams to improve the score.
“The potential for embarrassment is there,” said King. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t have a solution.
“I think the IIHF needs to find a way to correct this.
“You (IIHF) may need to make some sort of agreement with Canada, the US and Germany that at some point they will be high enough in the game that you can cancel.
“But they are competitors who play every game to win every game.
“The goal differential is also an important point, it is an additional incentive to pump up and score points.
“It has the possibility of not being a very good experience for the Chinese or for the Olympics.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.