The biggest news was the congress decision to allow host China to enter a men’s and a women’s ice hockey team in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. Like in the case of Korea for the recent 2018 Olympics, China as the host will not have to go through the qualification process and get an automatic entry.
More details on the qualification process will be announced at a later stage. The men’s ice hockey tournament is planned with 12 teams as until now while for the women’s ice hockey tournament discussions are going on between the IIHF, the IOC and the Chinese organizer to extend from eight to ten teams. In 2019 the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will be played with ten teams for the first time.
Since being awarded the 2022 Olympics, promising changes have been made in China. The hockey program has gone through restructuring with an ice hockey federation that is separate from the ice sports centre and is now headed by Weidong Cao.
China has also reached out abroad for support both to players of Chinese origin abroad but also to other organizations. In men’s ice hockey China has a club team Kunlun Red Star, which participates in Russia’s top league KHL and China also has two teams in the second-tier VHL and a junior team in the top Russian junior league MHL. On the women’s side Kunlun Red Star and a second Chinese team played in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League last season and China also sent girls’ teams to compete in the United States.
The changes will be very welcome to make the Chinese teams more competitive. The men’s team is ranked 33rd in the world and the women’s team 20th. While the men’s team has never played in a top-level event, the women’s team has a history in elite ice hockey. China was fourth in the first Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament in Nagano 1998 and also participated at the Olympics in 2002 and 2010. China also played in the top-level IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship each time between 1992 and 2009 reaching fourth place in 1994 and 1997 and hosted the 2008 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Harbin.
- IIHF President René Fasel opened the 2018 IIHF Annual Congress with a speech and later invited the two delegations of the Republic of Korea and of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the stage. The Koreans from north and south united once again to receive an award – or actually two, one going to each part of the Korean peninsula – for their work and dedication to make the Unified Korean Women’s Ice Hockey Team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games possible. (Click here to read a background feature on how the team happened.) A unique team with in the previously troubled relations between the two Koreas with players from the north and south working together, this project with a strong peace message has since been followed up with a historic meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas at the inner-Korean border and an upcoming meeting of the U.S. President with the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to improve the relations and work on a peace deal 65 years after the end of the Korea War.
- During the first half day of Congress, the delegates got reports from the tournaments of the past season from the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program that included 30 tournaments in different categories and levels, the Olympic Winter Games and the Champions Hockey League and presented bids to host tournaments next year in the lower divisions before the allocation during the upcoming days.
- Plans for ice hockey at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, were also presented. They will include boys’ and girls’ ice hockey tournaments similar to the last two editions in Lillehammer and Innsbruck. Instead of a skills challenge event, a 3-on-3 ice hockey festival is planned and players qualify through national skills challenge competitions. More details will be announced during the off-season.
- Three changes in the IIHF membership have been approved by Congress. Kuwait and Turkmenistan have now full membership status after having played in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program this season. In Portugal the ice sports federation has been integrated into the Portuguese Winter Sports Federation (FDI), which is now the Portuguese member in the IIHF with associate member status.