Maple Leafs hope to become China’s hockey team

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The Toronto Maple Leafs want to expand their brand and they see China as a place of substantial potential growth. Four executives from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment will leave today to visit Beijing with the objective of growing the game of hockey in the world’s most populous country, according to TSN.

MLSE already has roots in China as the Toronto Raptors have secured multiple sponsorship deals within the country. However, MLSE has also been in touch with members of the Chinese government about the Maple Leafs as China is interested in becoming a competitive hockey country ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. The Chinese are currently competing with Kazakhstan to host those games.

“China wasn’t a sports nation before the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but it is now,” MLSE chief commercial officer Dave Hopkinson said. “The president of the country attended the Team Canada men’s hockey games in Sochi and said he fell in love with hockey. What’s important to the president of China is important to China.”

Consequently, the Chinese government is open to promoting the Maple Leafs’ brand if MLSE aides them in growing the nation’s grass-roots hockey programs.

The Maple Leafs aren’t the only team competing for China’s attention. The New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks have also been trying to expand into the country. Meanwhile, Chinese government officials have reached out to the NHL in the hopes of hosting a regular season game as soon as the 2015-16 campaign.