Vancouver Canucks set to play L.A. Kings twice in China

Centre Bo Horvat: ‘It’s going to be fun. Hopefully we can put on a good show.’

About to turn 37 years old, Henrik Sedin didn’t sound overly thrilled about the prospect of having to fly across the Pacific Ocean to play a couple of exhibition games ahead of the gruelling NHL season.

The captain of the Vancouver Canucks at the same time also understands what getting a foothold in China, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, could mean for both the league and its players.

“It’s a big market,” Sedin said last week in Vancouver. ”If we can get that market on our side and interested in our brand and sport, it’s going to be huge for us. “It’s a good start.”

The Canucks will meet the Los Angeles Kings in Shanghai on Thursday and Beijing on Saturday in two showcase games as the NHL makes its first foray into the country.

“You’ve just got to take it for what it is and enjoy the trip (and) make the best of the two games,” added Sedin.

The Canucks departed on a roughly 10-hour flight from Vancouver to China around noon local time Sunday and, with the 15-hour time difference, arrived in Shanghai early Monday afternoon.

While probably not an ideal scenario for a rookie head coach trying to drag a team that finished 28th and 29th in the NHL the last two seasons back to respectability, Travis Green is embracing the chance for his group to bond and experience something different.

“I’ve never been one to worry about things I don’t control,” Green said at the start of training camp. ”It’s a great opportunity for guys to get together on the road and go to China — I’m going to gather that most of them have never been there — and see a part of the world you might never get to again.”

Vancouver forward Sam Gagner, who signed a three-year free-agent deal this summer, said he’s eager to get to know his teammates in a unique environment.

“It’s a positive, especially for a new guy,” he said. ”You’re away from everything. It’s going to be a good experience.”

While the NHL isn’t sending its players to the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February, the league has a keen eye towards the 2022 Games in Beijing as China continues to invest heavily in winter sports, including hockey.

The Canucks — who along with the Kings are among a number of NHL teams that have already held youth camps for Chinese players — are looking forward to the chance to help grow the game in the world’s most populous country, which has embraced the NBA over the past couple of decades.

But what the NHL doesn’t yet have is a marquee player like former basketball star Yao Ming, meaning fans in China need an introduction to the sport in other ways to get them interested.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Vancouver centre Bo Horvat. “Hopefully we can put on a good show.”

With long road trips and cross-continental flights a fact of life playing on the West Coast, the Canucks have invested heavily in sleep science in the past. General manager Jim Benning said the club has done everything it can to ensure things goes as smoothly as possible.

“When to leave to fly over there … when to come back to give the players the best opportunity to get their rest,” said Benning. ”We’ve talked about everything from meals (and) making sure the players have some of the things they like to have.”

Fans back in Vancouver will have to wake up early or stay up late to see the games, with Thursday’s opening faceoff set for 4:30 a.m. PST and Saturday’s scheduled for 12:30 a.m. PST.

Apart from practising and playing, the Canucks will also get to play tourist, with a trip to the Great Wall of China among the planned outings.

“Getting to see a new culture is not something we usually get a chance to do,” said centre Brandon Sutter. ”I’m sure we’ll have a couple fun days.”

But in the end, the trip is about business as the NHL looks to expand its footprint in a country seen as having vast and untapped potential.

“It’s growing,” said Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin. ”It’s good for our league to get in there.”

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Radium water restored after boil-water advisory

Pioneer tours through the plant to learn how the water quality was affected and what was fixed

RCMP Report

Some of the more notable files from Columbia Valley RCMP week of August 12-18th

For the love of reading

Join the End of summer read-a-thon at Invermere library Wednesday, August 28th

Rossland council urges minister to kill Jumbo Glacier Resort project

Mayor writes letter panning ski resort on environmental, legal, and economic grounds

Legend of the book bike

Book fairy hands out books to lucky recipients who spot her

VIDEO: Title of 25th Bond movie is ‘No Time to Die’

The film is set to be released in April 2020

B.C. seniors allowed more choice to stay in assisted living

Province doesn’t need to wait for a complaint to investigate care, Adrian Dix says

Liberals block hearings into scathing ethics report on SNC-Lavalin affair

Dion concluded in his report last week that Trudeau broke the Conflict of Interest Act

Retired Richmond fisherman wins record-breaking $60M Lotto Max jackpot

Joseph Katalinic won the biggest Lotto Max prize ever awarded

‘Unsubstantiated’ bomb threat against CP Rail in Revelstoke

On Aug. 18, a bomb threat was made against CP Rail in Revelstoke

Victoria father charged with double murder of his daughters takes the stand

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

New ‘Matrix’ film set with Keanu Reeves and Lana Wachowski

Fourth installment to feature Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity

Catholic church buys $7.5M equestrian facility in B.C., plans ‘agri-retreat’ centre

Church hopes to grow crops, host students and others on Bradner property

Most Read