Ovechkin Traveling To China In August As Official NHL Ambassador
Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin this summer will become the NHL's "first active player to make an individual trip to China as an ambassador for the league," according to Scott Allen of the WASHINGTON POST. While the league will not be "hosting preseason games in China this September as it has for the past two years," it still is making "continued efforts to grow hockey's footprint in the country." Ovechkin will travel to Beijing on Aug. 4 and "spend the week in China," where he will "visit youth hockey clinics and participate in business development meetings." The NHL has made a "concerted effort to tap into the Chinese market over the last few years, striking a leaguewide partnership with China-based ORG Packaging and broadcasting games" on CCTV. Ovechkin's agent, Bruin Sports Capital Exec VP & Principal David Abrutyn, said that he and Ovechkin "had been discussing a possible trip to Beijing" for a couple of years. Ovechkin's visit also is an "opportunity for the Capitals to increase their presence in China." The team has its own partnership with ORG Packaging, and since '17 it was "hosted 25 youth Beijing Hockey Association players in conjunction" with ORG. Monumental Sports & Entertainment announced a deal with Alibaba in April (WASHINGTON POST, 7/19). Capitals radio announcer John Walton noted growing in the Chinese market is a “great opportunity for our sport." Walton: "Given the size of China and given the NHL teams that have now gone there over the course of the last couple of years, who better to send?” (“NHL Tonight,” NHL Network, 7/18).
AFRAID OF COMMITMENT? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote the NHL "actually making a commitment to send their best players" to the '22 Beijing Games would "really exhibit the NHL and NHLPA's commitment to grow the game globally and make inroads with China." The time to "start laying the groundwork for NHL participation in a market as large as China is now," not in '21. Campbell: "Imagine if Ovechkin were going to China riding the momentum of Olympic participation instead of having to answer questions in every one of those interviews addressing the issue of whether or not the NHL will be there" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 7/18).