An ambitious plan previously laid out by President Xi Jingping stated that it wanted to have 300 million ‘winter sports enthusiasts’ in the country by the time the games began. The league first brought two exhibition games to the country in 2017, repeating that in 2018 and with a deal with the NHLPA to host games in the country in six of eight years.
READ MORE: NHL Getting Assist From Players, Media Partners In Growing European Reach Across the week, Ovechkin made a stop at the Great Wall of China, participated in on-ice and ball hockey clinics and dropped the puck at a local tournament.
He also participated in business development meetings and toured some of the new hockey facilities being built in the city, as well as met with local press.
The big day was Sunday, and before their date Ann and her family spent the day with the Caps captain and the team before, during, and after their preseason game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
As Alex Ovechkin’s flight arrived at the airport early this month, there were already scores of kids wearing his #8 Washington Capitals jersey just waiting to catch a glimpse of one of the NHL’s top goal scorers of all time.
Coverage of Ovechkin prompted a spike in the number of followers across the NHL’s social channels in China, with the league now approaching one million followers.
To date, the NHL’s video of Ovechkin’s trip to China has had more than 8.7 million video views.
However, the country has quickly emerged as one of the most exciting growth opportunities for the NHL.
While the penetration of the sport is still low in China for some of the same reasons as in the U. – lack of available rinks and ice time as well as the cost of playing – both the Chinese government and investors are looking to grow the sport quickly ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing.
“Within our plan to grow hockey in China, engaging with our players and bringing them over to promote the sport is a logical next step,” said David Proper, NHL executive vice president of media and international strategy.