By Len Catling – UBC Thunderbirds
In an event that will be a combination of international relations and ‘the good old hockey game’, the Chinese National Women’s Ice Hockey Team will be at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre to face the UBC Thunderbirds on Monday, October 17th. The puck will drop at 8 PM.
This game will be the first in the “Harmony Through Hockey Series”, which will see the Chinese play four lower mainland squads, including the T-Birds, over the course of seven days in Metro Vancouver.
The Chinese women’s team became a member of the IIHF in 1963 and is nicknamed the “Lady Dragons”. They sport an all time record of 88 wins – 116 losses – 12 ties.
There was a time where the Chinese women look destined to become powers of women’s world hockey. They finished fourth at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, losing to Finland in the bronze medal game. China followed that up with a 7th place finish at Salt Lake City in 2002 and another 7th place finish right here in Vancouver in 2010. Currently the Chinese are ranked 15th in the world and have been relegated to the second tier in the annual World Championships.
With the 2022 Winter Olympics awarded to Beijing, the Chinese have made ice hockey a priority in their national sports programs and are looking to rebuild their women’s ice hockey program back to international prominence.
“We will promote winter sports and develop winter sports industry in a bid to attract 300 million people to ice and snow,” said Chinese Olympic Committee President Liu Peng, also Beijing 2022 Executive President. “In terms of competition, we are going to mobilize the resource all over the nation to achieve excellent results.”
The Chinese team has faced CIS opponents before. Their most recent meetings were in a 2015 friendship tour where they lost 5-1 to the Laurentian Voyageurs but followed that up with a 5-2 victory over the McMaster Marauders.
In international play, the Chinese had an up and down tournament at the 2016 Division 2 World Championships. They finished in tied for fourth in the six-team tournament with 2 wins and 3 losses.
UBC boasts one of it’s strongest teams in the Thunderbirds history of women’s hockey. Last year’s CIS silver medalists have been bolstered by NCAA transfers and another year to develop chemistry amongst veteran players. The ‘Birds are widely considered the team to beat in Canada West for 2016-17. They topped the annual Canada West coach’s rankings for the first time since 2014.
Players To Watch
Minghui Kong – China – (F, #15) – Kong tied for the scoring lead at the Tier 2 World Championships with 8 points in 5 games.
Menying Zhang – China – (F, #7) – plays with Kong on the top forward line for China. Zhang was named to the World Championship All-Star team after recording 4 goals and 3 assists
Tiffany Chiu – UBC – (F) – the redshirt freshman will get a chance to play her first game in a Thunderbirds jersey. It should be a special moment for the Chinese-Canadian Chiu, who starred for the Greater Vancouver Comets program.
“We are very excited to host and play the Chinese National Team. The game is growing so fast in China, I was very encouraged to hear how committed the Chinese are to improving and growing the game in preparation for the Olympics,” says UBC Head Coach Graham Thomas. “They are currently building 120 stadiums and have exciting plans to start new leagues and infrastructure for Men’s and Women’s Hockey.”