A Russian pathway for China's future ice hockey legends

Source: Xinhua| 2018-07-05 20:26:51|Editor: Yurou
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By Sportswriters Cao Jianje and Michael Place

SAINT PETERSBURG, July 5 (Xinhua) -- China might not be renowned for its ice hockey prowess, but that hasn't stopped Wang Fei from making an impact in a nation that is a global ice hockey superpower.

China-born Wang is the founder of the Legend Hockey Club in Saint Petersburg, which is helping to produce the next generation of stars in the winter sport.

The club's focus is on youth development and Wang is aiming to draw Chinese kids to its ranks via a burgeoning exchange program.

Legend was founded on December 1 last year, starting with a group of 10 children. It took part in its first tournament 22 days later: The New Year's Eve Fairytale, comprising six and seven-year olds.

The club has expanded rapidly in its first seven months and now has more than 80 children.

"We have won our first cups and medals, tasting the sweetness of victory as well as the bitterness of defeat," Wang said. "We are developing day by day and becoming stronger."

Legend has already participated in six tournaments, including one at an international level. In addition, a goalie school has been established, allowing children to learn from experienced top-level professionals.

Success on the rink is not the only aim for Wang. He also seeks to promote greater participation in the game from Russian and Chinese youngsters while instilling the values of playing in a team sport.

In addition, the club provides equipment and uniforms, taking away the financial burden for families.

"Due to the expensive nature of ice hockey, some children don't have the opportunity to play," Wang said. "The Legend Hockey Club's mission is to bring hockey to the masses to enable all children to prove themselves in this sport.

"We have an individual approach to each child. We want to teach children how to play and not to earn money. The likelihood of finding real talent will be much better because of the higher participation and these players will bring tangible benefits to the club."

He added: "The main goal of the Legend hockey club is to grow a generation of legendary players who will improve not only their skill level but also help to develop hockey in China.

"To that end, Legend is forging closer ties with Chinese clubs and associations in a bid to step up an exchange program for talented youngsters. One of the aims of the initiative is to help China build a competitive team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Wang, who studied at Tianjin University of Commerce before completing under graduate and graduate programs at the Bonch Bruevich Saint Petersburg State University of Telecommunications, has been working in Russia since completing his studies in 2008.

The idea to create a club came to him in 2015 after Beijing's successful Winter Olympic bid. He has been supported by the Leningrad state hockey chief Andrei Tochitckii, who is also the CEO of Saint Petersburg-based SKA Ice Hockey Club LLC.

SKA provided 15 of the 25-strong Russia team that won the gold medal at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in February and has since sent two of its players to Legend to interact with its younger players.

"We want to provide all of the necessary support so that ice hockey can receive a boost in a region that really needs it," Tochitckii said.

In the future, Wang hopes Legend will play a major role in the development of hockey in China while establishing itself as a famous brand in the sport on a global level. The club also intends to build its own ice arena and stage international tournaments.

"We want to develop ice hockey in China by providing opportunities to children and promoting participation," Wang said. "Hopefully we can also help to make children's dreams come true."