16 December 2020
China’s national hockey championship reached its climax at the weekend – and there was a strong Kunlun Red Star influence on the grand final. Team Beijing, a rising star on the local hockey scene, edged out Harbin, from China’s traditional hockey heartland, with a shoot-out victory following a 2-2 tie. Both teams had several players with experience in the KRS system and Beijing captain Rudi Ying scored the decisive goal in that shoot-out.
Ying, of course, made history when he became the first Chinese-born player to score in the KHL. Now the young forward is continuing his progress – and sharing his experience of life at the top – with his team-mates in Beijing. Alongside him, Zhang Zesen, Zhang Pengfei and Li Zihao also formed part of the KRS family: Zesen had three seasons in the VHL, Pengfei divided his time between VHL and JHL, while Zihao has two seasons of JHL experience. All four were part of the organization last season
For Harbin, four more players with recent KRS experience were involved. Huang Qianyi played as a center for our juniors and VHL teams, collecting 10 (5+5) points for our farm club across two seasons. Fellow forward Wang Jing made his VHL debut last season after impressing with our juniors. He also had 15 points for China’s U20 roster when it won promotion from Division III in 2019. Guo Jianing is still awaiting his senior hockey debut after three seasons of JHL action and Zuo Runcheng, a goalscorer against Beijing in Sunday’s final, will be looking to build on his first steps in the VHL. In addition, Harbin featured the Xia brothers, forward Tianxiang and goalie Shengrong. Both were involved in our first season, with Tianxiang making 15 KHL appearances.
For many of these players, the Chinese domestic championship is a vital opportunity to keep playing at a time when Chinese teams are unable to compete in the VHL and JHL due to the pandemic. The coronavirus situation also meant that the tournament was played on neutral ice in Tengchong, a city with a proud military history that made it a natural choice to host a final played on National Memorial Day.
In unusual and challenging circumstances, the team from Beijing thrived. You have to go back to 1956 to find the last time China’s top hockey prize went to the capital. Since then, the trophies have been almost exclusively in the hands of Harbin and Qiqihar – and the long wait was not lost on captain Ying.
“I’m ecstatic that we’re going home with the gold,” he said. “It’s been a long time in coming. Most of the players here last won a championship four years, but for the city of Beijing it’s the end of a 64-year wait.”
The team had to overcome several difficulties – not least a hasty recruitment process and little preparation time – before lifting the trophy.
“We wouldn’t have won this tournament if we were missing any of the players we had – and that obviously includes the guys with experience in KRS,” Ying added. “Everybody makes his contribution and that’s how we were able to win.”
Once again, in difficult circumstances, the Dragons’ indomitable spirit shines through. And our club’s role in spearheading the growth of Chinese hockey continues to have a positive impact – right down to the grassroots of the country’s game.