China’s men’s hockey team will keep its place in the 2022 Winter Olympic tournament despite concerns about its ability to compete against other nations.
During the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Council meeting last week, president Luc Tardif said evaluations are ongoing and that two games will be scheduled ahead of the Beijing Games to continue preparing the team.
“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,” Tardif said. “We are working with the CIHA [Chinese Ice Hockey Association] 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, 32nd in the IIHF rankings, is grouped with Canada, the U.S. and Germany. They were automatically entered into the tournament as the host nation, a tradition that began with the 2006 Turin Games.
After being elected IIHF president in September, Tardif raised concerns about China’s competitiveness in the men’s tournament.
“This question really arises for the men’s team, not for the women’s team,” he told Agence France-Presse. “There are going to be games for the China team that will be overseen by an IIHF official and a decision will be made afterwards. Watching a team being beaten 15-0 is not good for anyone, not for China, or for ice hockey.”
Tardif also mentioned that swapping China with Norway, which lost in the qualifying tournament in August, was ‘Plan B’ if they were going to replace the host nation.
The two November games will see eligible Chinese national team players evaluated as they play for Kunlun Red Star of the KHL. Following those games, the IIHF Council will meet “to discuss the next steps forward.”
Olympic men’s tournament groups
Group A: Canada, U.S., Germany, China
Group B: ROC, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark
Group C: Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Latvia
The 2022 Olympic Games from Beijing, China will air on the networks of NBC.