Seeking to increase the strength of its national teams in preparation for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, Team China announced a new club program. The strategic plan sponsored by the Chinese includes international recruitment camps, increased national team player payments, and the addition of four teams in top-tier international leagues.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference in Beijing on April 28, hosted by the Chinese Winter Sports Federation, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, the Heilongjiang Provincial Sports Bureau, and HC Kunlun Red Star. CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress was in attendance.
HC Kunlun Red Star to join CWHL
According to the Chinese Winter Sports Federation, a women's professional team will play the 2017-18 season in the CWHL. The job postings for CWHL general managers state that the upcoming season will feature a 30-game schedule instead of the previous 24 ― exactly enough games to include one more team.
The women's professional team will be coached by Digit Murphy, who led the Boston Blades from 2012-15. Rob Morgan, an associate head coach at Yale, who coached at the 2016 Hockey Canada National Women's Development Team Summer Showcase, will serve as assistant coach.
The team's training base is in Shenzhen, China, and it is not yet clear where the team will call home during the season in North America.
HC Kunlun Red Star's men's team will continue playing in the KHL, with a men's youth (U20) team slated to play in the Russian MHL and a men's U18 team playing in North America.
A series of international trips is also planned for the club teams. China looks to increase the competitiveness of their teams in the Olympics, hoping the women take home gold.
The Ice Garden has reached out to the league, HC Kunlun Red Star women's head coach Digit Murphy, and assistant coach Rob Morgan for comment. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
June 2, 2017: The CWHL appears set to confirm the addition of HC Kunlun Red Star at a press conference in Toronto on June 5.