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Canucks in Olympics and China not playing in China?!

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Exactly one week ago we put together an update on the Vancouver Canucks and their likely participation, or not, in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. How about Mr. Demko stepping it up and becoming a favourite for Team USA in net. But then again, another American goalie John Gibson goes out and gets named the NHL second star of the week last week for the Anaheim Ducks. The beauty of competition.

You won’t see head-to-head however on Tuesday evening. As we told you two weeks ago on the Sportsbar Radio podcast with Rob Fai, Jaroslav Halak would start this game for the Vancouver Canucks against Anaheim. Just a lucky guess, I guess.

Meanwhile, our friend Brian Pinelli updates us on one of the more interesting, if not sketchy, stories leading up to Beijing. Will the host Chinese get booted from the their own hockey tournament. With his permission, we re-print BP’s article from a couple of days ago. Pretty wild.

By Brian Pinelli from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Ice Hockey Federation president Luc Tardif confirms China’s men’s ice hockey team will lace up the skates for Beijing 2022, however questions still remain about the status of eligible players.

Tardif briefed the new IIHF Council this week about the host country’s participation in February’s Olympic tournament, and the eligibility status of their players submitted on the initial team roster list.

According to Tardif, the IIHF and the Chinese Ice Hockey Association are attempting to schedule two important contests for the Chinese national team in an effort to further evaluate the team’s ability to field a competitive team for Beijing 2022, as National Hockey League stars return to the Olympic fold. Eligible Chinese national team players will skate with Kunlun Red Star, a struggling Beijing-based team relocated to a city near Moscow in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League, on Nov. 15 and 17, as part of regular team games. According to the IIHF, they will reconvene after the games to discuss the next steps forward.

Despite previous comments in which he questioned whether China being blown out in Olympic games would be beneficial for anyone, Tardif said: “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.”

“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,” said the French Canadian hockey president.

Luc Tardif, IIHF President. (this photo not part of the ATR story)

China is currently ranked 32nd in the world and is slated to play preliminary round contests in Beijing as part of Group A versus the defending world champions Canada, the United States and 2018 Olympic silver medalists, Germany.

The men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament opens on Feb. 9 in Beijing at the Wukesong Sports Center. China and the United States are scheduled to face-off the following day in the featured evening match-up.

As the host nation, the Chinese hockey players are supposed to be granted an automatic qualification, however Tardif has expressed serious concern, particularly considering that China’s national team has yet to skate together on a regular basis.

“We’ve tried to explain to the Chinese people that if we have the best players from the NHL, the best players in the world coming to the Olympic Games and if they don’t do anything to bring a competitive team, it’s not going to work,” Tardif told Around the Rings on Sept. 28.

“It’s not going to be good for ice hockey to see a 15-0 game, and it’s not going to be for China also,” he said. “They didn’t do their job properly preparing for the competitions.”

The Olympic tournament, with NHL players hitting the ice, further consists of Group B including the defending gold medalist Russians, the Czechs, Switzerland and Denmark, participating in their first ever men’s Olympic tournament. Group C consists of Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Latvia.

The three-day meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, Oct. 31 – Nov. 2, was the first Council meeting to be held under Tardif, who assumed the IIHF Presidency from René Fasel following elections held in St. Petersburg on Sept. 25, in which he defeated German hockey president Franz Reindl in an election decided in the fourth round.

The IIHF Council also proceeded through a series of intensive orienteering sessions, where they were briefed on all IIHF Office operations and met with IIHF Directors and other staff members.

Other key topics covered were the IIHF Ethics Code, disciplinary procedures and future tournament operations. The IIHF Council also committed to the development of its’ Strategic Plan being created in cooperation with the IIHF Member National Associations, which would be prepared and presented in May 2022.

(**Journalist Brian Pinelli writes about ski racing and other Olympic sports for Around The Rings (ATR). He’s covererd a half-dozen IIHF World Championships for USA Hockey and six Winter Olympics, initially for CBS Sports. Pinelli also contributes stories to North American publications like The New York Times. He’s based in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, site of the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. Follow on twitter @Brian_Pinelli and @AroundTheRings)

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