The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) announced today a historic 5-year deal that will see the Kunlun Red Star (KRS), join the league for the 2017-18 season.
After long months of discussions and planning, CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress and CWHL Board of Directors officially accepted the application of the Chinese-based team for the next five seasons. The historic announcement to welcome Kunlun Red Star to the CWHL took place in Toronto at the Hockey Hall of Fame in which CWHL Commissioner, Brenda Andress, and Alex Zhao, Chairman of the Board of Directors for KRS, revealed that the league would be adding a new expansion team.
The idea of bringing professional women’s hockey to China aligns with the country’s overall mission to develop sports, from grassroots to a national team and professional levels. KRS will also encourage the growing interest in hockey and female sport in China in advance of the country hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. Through this partnership, KRS aims to have an immediate impact on growing the interest in hockey, more specifically in women’s hockey.
Commissioner Andress said “This is a historic moment in time for women’s hockey to grow on a global stage, creating a template for many winter sports to follow heading into the 2022 Olympics to be held in China. This is not just about hockey it is about the opportunity for the growth of women in all sports and creating career opportunities.”
With the addition of KRS, the league will see the 2017-2018 schedule increase from 24 to 30 regular season games with each CWHL team travelling to China to play a three (3) game series. KRS will be located in Shenzhen, China (considered to be the Silicon Valley of China) and will play out of Shenzen Universiade Center arena. In return, KRS will travel to North America and visit each of the existing CWHL teams in a similar three (3) game series. The KRS roster will feature a core group of Chinese National team players, and top international talent.
“We’re extremely excited to announce this exciting partnership with the Canadian Women’s Hockey league,” said Alex Zhao, Chairman of the board of KRS. “As part of the CWHL, the premier professional women’s league, our mission is to develop a top-tier professional team in order to develop a strong base of female players for our national programs, and new audiences for the sport in China, in the lead-up to hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.”
Julie Chu, who plays for the current Clarkson Cup championship winners, Les Canadiennes de Montréal, and former USA National Team Player was also on hand at the announcement, and described the deal as “a great step in the continued growth we have all been working hard towards at the CWHL. It will be a great opportunity to showcase and develop elite women’s hockey not only in North America, but globally as well.”
More than 400,000 fans watched CWHL events this past season on Sportsnet, and audiences have grown exponentially for the league over the past 10 seasons. The CWHL regular season schedule will be released in mid-June, with opening weekend scheduled for October.