Франц Рейндл

Franz Reindl, IIHF Council member and President German Hockey Federation (DEB).


 “Hockey is my passion and I really want to help to develop our sport with the VISION - For the Love and good of our Game”


Strategies and Techniques for augmenting the popularity of International Ice Hockey Competition

From a global perspective, the game of hockey is facing huge challenges in the coming years. In particular, we have identified five areas of the highest concern:

  1. I. Recruitment of young players – male and female - is a massive problem in almost every IIHF member country.
  2. II. Intra-league cooperation in the field of Player Development is another Challenge.
  • III. Positioning of hockey in the international marketing competition of sports, especially winter sports. This is particularly true for countries where hockey is not number one, two or even less.
  1. IV. Maintain Integrity a public and media perception of a lack of integrity and transparency within large international associations and organizations.
    We have to maintain our Integrity and set the best example!
  2. V. Coordinated international calendar More and more games at national and international club level and the national teams as well as the KHL and NHL World Cup of Hockey requires a carefully coordinated international calendar.

The following observations highlight point V. Coordination of all hockey activities worldwide created and develop by the different stakeholders and events showed at the slide below.


For example the 2016/17 season was by far the busiest on record with the operation of the following competitions around the world under the IIHF banner:

  • 2017 IIHF Championships & Qualifications 29
  • 2018 OWG Men’s Qualification Tournaments:   3
  • 2018 OWG Women’s Qualification Tournaments:   7
  • 2017 Asian Winter Games Tournaments:   4
  • 2017 IIHF Continental Cup Tournaments:   6

Total IIHF international Tournaments                                   49

In addition, the following games are played in different events:

  • National Team Games
  • Each of the Top 4 European Nations played 20 games
  • Each of the Top 24 Nations played an average of 12 games
  • With a total of approx.. 300 games
  • NHL games (not including Playoffs) 84 games
  • KHL games (not including Playoffs) 56
  • Leagues in Europe with a total # of games 52-78 games
  • CHL games 13 games
  • Continental Cup games   9 games
  • and others

Conclusion: A top player has to play more than 100 games at top level throughout on season. There is a pressing need to coordinate all of this in a common way.

Therefore, the IIHF will install a World Hockey Board with all major stakeholders: the IIHF, NHL, NHLPA, KHL, Hockey Europe and European Club Alliance to find a proper way. In addition IIHF has installed a Coordination Committee as described later in this document.

The discussion of the 10 Year International Calendar is still ongoing, with the goal of producing a long-range planning document for efficiently planning and scheduling the playing days each year for national leagues, National Teams, World Championships, Olympic Winter Games, World Cup of Hockey, Champions Hockey League and invitational tournaments.

The Role of IIHF: Besides controlling the international rulebook, processing international player transfers, and dictating and officiating guidelines, the IIHF runs numerous development programmes designed to bring hockey to a broader population. The IIHF also presides over ice hockey in the Olympic Games, and preside over the IIHF World Championships at all levels, men, women, juniors under-20, juniors under-18 and women under-18. Each season, the IIHF in collaboration with its local organising committees, runs around 25 different World Championships in the five different categories.

The IIHF is divided in 19 recommending bodies – the IIHF Committees.

One of them is the Competition and Coordination Committee, which was newly built after the Council election in Russia in May 2016. The former Competition & Inline Committee and the standalone Coordination Committee have been rebuilt to the Competition and Coordination Committee.

The new Committee was restructured to include more experienced members and ad-hoc members from different stakeholder groups, to work closely through the season to master the challenging topics that rise along the season.

The Committee not only faces the challenges of organizing and finding the best possible options for all IIHF Events and International Competitions, they also aim to find the best options in accordance with the Interests and Events from the Member National Associations, the Leagues and the Clubs.


Having a look at the different stakeholders, the Committee has quite a mission:

Furthermore, the committee focused on the following points:

  • Facilitate the cooperation and discussion amongst National Associations, leagues and clubs.
  • Securing the dates of International Breaks through 2023
  • Specifying dates for the operation of the IIHF Championship Program events
  • Establishing the dates for the operation of the World Championship through 2023
  • Setting the operational dates for the Men’s Division I tournaments through 2023
  • Establishing the dates of the World Junior Championship through 2023
  • Setting the operational dates for the Men’s Under 18 Championship through 2023
  • Addressing insurance for players participating in National Teams Breaks
  • Designing and developing a meaningful National Team competition to operate during National Team Breaks

A very busy 2016/17 season - including final Olympic Qualification Tournaments, the NHL/NHLPA World Cup operated from September 17 to October 1, 2016 in Toronto, Canada with the integrated operation for NHL-contracted athletes to compete in both. Team Canada won the final by beating Team Europe with players from 7 European Countries/Associations (outside the top 4: Slovakia, Germany, Suisse, Austria, France, Norway and Slovenia - ended with the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany). 

The international calendar up to 2023 is already in place as follows including

  1. Olympic games
  2. World Championships
  3. World Championships Div. I
  4. U20 World Championships
  5. U18 World Championships
  6. International Breaks

while leagues in Europe using all necessary playing dates planned around those dates


Succeeding in this mission requires

  • Willingness to work together
  • Listening
  • Being open for all kinds of proposals
  • Trying to coordinate all schedules
  • Creating the best possible option in a compromise
  • Start over again

A platform like the unique World Hockey Forum at Moscow will be very helpful for understanding each other. Fulfilling all the requirement our game of hockey will be growing and it will bring benefits to all of us.

Sources: IIHF, WHF, F.Reindl



Analysis of the Factors Influencing the Development of Ice Hockey

in the Global World



Sergey Altukhov, Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Sport Management Centre of Lomonosov Moscow State University, PhD, Russia


Владимир Агеев

Vladimir Ageev, Senior Consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers Counseling, graduate student of the Faculty of Economics, Lomonosov Moscow State University. Russia



Ice Hockey in China: Russian Role in China’s Ice Hockey Market Development

1. Introduction

Ice Hockey continues to strengthen its position all around the world. Success of this unique game is primarily due to the hockey leagues financial income increase in North America, Europe and Russia, the technologies and television broadcasts quality improvement, active internet and social networks access. But high growth rates do not automatically mean the same high rates of hockey development in the world.

World ice hockey is traditionally the object of regulation of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and occupies strong positions in the international Olympic movement. There are many reasons for pride when it comes to comparing ice hockey with other sports. But an indisputable fact is that the number of countries that make up IIHF does not increase. At present, 76 national federations are members of the IIHF. This is 35% of all possible options for membership in the international federation. There are objective reasons for this phenomenon – climatic conditions on different continents, ice rinks complex and expensive infrastructure, players specific sports equipment, power game culture, complex technical skills of hockey players, etc. But the evolutionary way of this development game dictates new approaches to solving these problems.

IIHF leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses of the world hockey project. The old product (ice hockey) released to the new Asian market strategy coincided with the decision of the International Olympic Committee to host the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeonchang (South Korea) and the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing (China). Asian sports market will be the focus of ice hockey experts and stakeholders attention around the world for the coming two Olympic cycles.

The ice hockey tournament final is a cherry on top of the cake and the most exciting moment for the organizers in all the Winter Olympics, since ice hockey is the only team sport in the winter games program. This dictates a special attitude to ice hockey.

2. Background and literature review

Chinese sports reform is rapidly developing and attracts scientists and experts’ attention from all over the world. A significant contribution to this process is made, first of all, by Chinese sports associations, institutes, universities, scientists and researchers. They are at the heart of it all and assess changes in real-time mode.

Rapid dynamics of Chinese sports transformation has not eliminated institutional and structural imbalance of market participants (Huo, 2011). And there is an explanation. At a time when the market economy in China was rapidly developing since the early 1990s, sports continued to remain in government-controlled planning systems. Consequently, conflicts between these state systems and professional market relations in sports seemed inevitable (Liu, Zhang & Debordes, 2017).

Studies on elite sport re-orientation in China demonstrate that elite sport in the country has transformed into different levels of commercial, state, amateur and joint structures (Liu, Sobry, Li, & Liu, 2010). All active participants adapt to changes in social and economic conditions in China, each sport develops so that to achieve the best balance between commercial and public spheres (Tang, Zou, & Zhou, 2006).

The ice hockey problems in the context of the Chinese sports community are investigated and analyzed quite rarely. Historical parallels and features of the emergence and development of ice hockey in China are presented in several articles (Guo, 1983), (Li & Feng, 2013), (Den & Guo, 2014).

The increased attention to ice hockey in Chinese and foreign researchers, is mainly due to the activity of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and the development of the eastern direction in the league. The political context of Russian-Chinese cooperation in the hockey program development attracts additional attention to the project. Responsible for sports policy, officials and managers must take into account in decision-making the historical experience and institutional environment of their sport (Washington, 2006). Hockey competitiveness is high enough at the international level, and in this context sports results are the main goal for everyone. However, there are times when stakeholders need to act interdependently and achieve the overall objectives (Stevens, 2017).

 It should be recognized that Russia can help develop the taste for ice hockey in China on the eve of the Olympic Games and will serve as a means to improve the quality of the Chinese national team game, a team that currently occupies only the 38th place in the world and plays in the fifth division of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships (Lerner, 2016).

Entering a new market for a well-known product (ice hockey) will necessarily be related to the specifics of the region's economy. In the process of forming mutual relations, risks and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the product must be taken into account. The success of a new firm entering the market depends on the product, process and organizational innovations (Twomey & Gaziulusoy, 2014). The expected challenges also have their positive sides. The sport evolution has led to formalized international norms and rules for all hockey community participants. But different cultural, political, economic and social conditions will influence the playing style of new participants (Cantelon, 2001). And it's great! National Chinese ice hockey will meet high standards of entertainment and will promote its original game model. Suffice it to recall the famous hockey game models of the Czech Republic, Sweden, Canada, Russia, Finland and other countries.

Some authors pay attention to the need for changes in  hockey’s vertical management. The China Ice Hockey Association faces a violation of stereotypes. In a market environment, subversive innovations create a process in which a small company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge existing companies (Christensen, Raynor, & McDonald, 2015). The China Ice Hockey Association is now in the status of a small (by Chinese standards) company. It is well known that football and basketball dominate the Chinese sports market and have their own long term development strategies. Ice Hockey, in the first place, faces a fierce competition in the sports services market for the Chinese with the dominance of these team sports.

The most important task for all participants of the hockey community is the creation of modern training methods and ways of hockey player development from the initial to the professional level. The ice hockey development is built on the pyramid model, where a wide recreational base of participants feeds the system to a professional level (Emrich & Güllich, 2013). In each country, such a system works in its own way, but no matter what country-specific way of player development is chosen, the pyramidal model provides the basic building block (Vaeyens, Lenoir, Williams, & Philippaerts, 2008). This system was mostly non-commercial in nature until recently. However, recently new forms of commercial development programs appeared in the framework of the youth hockey system in different countries of the world (Marr, 2014). And there is no conflict in this.

In the Russian research environment, works on analyzing the development strategies of joint Russian-Chinese hockey and sports projects, assessing the market and assessing the effectiveness of investment in hockey infrastructure and hockey clubs in China has not yet been fully presented. But Chinese wisdom teaches us all that the most distant path begins with the first step.

3. Case Study

Ice hockey in China. Historical aspect

China became acquainted with Canadian hockey in the early twentieth century. And the first official reports of ice hockey in China appeared in the 1920s, when a book about sports on ice was first published in Chinese. It already had a chapter on the rules of hockey matches, and it is commonly believed that ice hockey was first introduced by Western settlers in China during the colonial period (Guo, 1983).

 On January 26, 1935, ice hockey first appeared as a formalized sports competition in China at the first North Chinese sports games on ice. This date is considered to be the beginning of the official ice hockey competition in China.

Ice hockey did not cause any hype in the local population. The real development of this sport began only in the mid-1950s after the establishment of the present People's Republic of China. Chairman Mao proposed the initiative "Strengthen the national spirit through the development of sports" for the rise of mass sports and citizen activism. The population of China began to be actively involved in wider state construction through the sports movement, mass participation in winter sports, which was supported by the central and local authorities of the young republic.

Leaders in the winter sports development were the north-eastern provinces of the country. The climate in this part of China is sharply continental with hot summers and cold winters. Ice hockey has sparked interest among local residents, and various hockey fan clubs began to be created one after another in universities, schools and factories. 1953 was a milestone in the development of ice hockey, when this sport was officially included in the program of the first national winter games. The number of participating teams in the first three national games has steadily increased from 5 in 1953 to 9 in 1955, and 13 in 1956 (Li & Feng, 2013). As for the foundation of the national ice hockey association, the dates vary: in different sources, 1951, 1953 and 1957 are found. It appeared as a division of the Association of Winter Sports.

The growing popularity of ice hockey in the period after World War II was the result of the Cold War outbreak and the confrontation of the Soviet Union with Western countries. Sport became a substitute for war. The USSR national ice hockey team won the first for them at the 1954 World Championship in Sweden. The Chinese Communists noted this fact for themselves and supported the Soviet initiative. In 1953 there was a hockey league, uniting amateur collectives. Then it consisted of 8 teams, and later their number ranged from 6 to 12. In 1956, China joined the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). This was the beginning of the official exchange between the Chinese ice hockey and ice hockey in the socialist countries.

In the winter of 1956, China sent an ice hockey team to the 11th Winter Universiade in Poland, where Chinese hockey players first took part in official international competitions. The Chinese team also visited Czechoslovakia and the former East Germany after the Universiade. Despite the low result in the Games, participation in matches and visits became an impressive experience for Chinese young players, coaches and officials. China began to learn quickly from the leading hockey powers. And when the East Germany national team visited China in 1960, the Harbin hockey team from Heilongjiang Province, even managed to hold the score 0-0 after two periods (Li & Feng, 2013).

Since 1957, youth ice hockey competitions for players under the age of 18 years were held separately from adult competitions at national games in China. Although ice hockey was mainly limited to the northern part of the country for geographical reasons, these national games significantly increased the popularity of this sport among the Chinese.

Ice Hockey became a real ambassador of friendship and good neighborliness for the Soviet Union and China in 1958. For the first time in the history city of Blagoveshchensk hosted ice hockey match between China and the USSR players. The team of the Amur Region played three matches against the team of the Heilongjiang Province. The first match ended in a draw 5:5. The second and third matches were won by Blagoveshchensk hockey players 4:3 and 3:1, respectively.

The sports development in China, including ice hockey, was largely suspended in 1966 with the beginning of the 10-year Cultural Revolution – the socio-political movement initiated by Mao in China. This led to the fact that China's economic development, official state affairs and even the education system at the peak of their heyday experienced a virtual stop for a while. In the early years of the Cultural Revolution, national and local ice hockey teams, as well as many other sports, were disbanded, and sports facilities came to desolation. The national ice hockey team did not meet until 1972, when China began to establish contacts with the international community after relations with the United States became more favorable, and China's place in the United Nations was restored. In a slow pace, but the development of ice hockey in China resumed (Liu, 2017)

Since 1980, when China launched the so-called reform of open politics, led by Deng Xiaoping, the development of sports, including ice hockey, has entered a new and fast-growing era. In 1981, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association was officially established in Beijing. Since the early 1980s, the Hockey League has become very popular; competitions have become increasingly tense and entertaining, especially at the final stages of each season (Li & Feng, 2013). During its rise in the 1980s, 20 professional ice hockey teams were organized, about 1 million people regularly practiced ice sports, among which 100,000 people played ice hockey (Li & Feng, 2013). China also won the men's hockey tournament gold medals of at 1986 and 1990 Winter Asian Games. (Den & Guo, 2014).

Since the mid-1990s, the popularity of ice hockey started to decline both at the level of sport of higher achievements, and at the mass level. The state stopped financing professional clubs, many teams were dissolved, and the number of professional teams dropped from 20 clubs in the 1980s to 3 clubs in 2010. At the same time, all three teams were from Heilongjiang Province, which turned the national ice hockey championship into a provincial competition (Li & Feng, 2013). Amateur ice hockey clubs were also disbanded one by one, and the Chinese national team lost its leading position in Asia. Leading state-owned companies and industrial enterprises of China to stop financing ice hockey. But since the 1990s, this situation began to change. The impetus to change was the transition of the state from a planned economy to a market economy.

Chinese Sports Reform

In the course of implementing the policy of openness and reform proclaimed by the new communist leaders led by Deng Xiaoping, the transition from a planned economy to a market economy without a collapsing liberalization policy was made. Thanks to such a strategy, China managed to avoid the economic recession, the growth of inflation and many other negative phenomena. The agrarian country has received a powerful push in development, thanks to property reform, price liberalization, and foreign trade reform. Reforms of the social sphere at that historical stage were not considered. The state attention to the sports industry was manifested much later, when China got the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

It was the 2008 Olympic Games that became the impetus for the formation of a new main task in the development of China's sports industry – the transformation of China from a strong sports country into a mighty sports power.

On October 20, 2014, the State Council, the Cabinet of Ministers of China approved the "Program for accelerating the development of the sports industry and encouraging the consumption of sports", calling on the General Administration of Sports of China, the supreme sports body, to weaken tight control and allow more organizations and private businesses to enter the market where state-owned companies dominated for a long time. In accordance with the plan of the national sports administration and its branches, the administrative centers will give up their organization and supervision rights for commercial and mass sports events.

"It is necessary to completely unload the enterprises of the industry for the development of the viability of all kinds of sports resources," – says a statement published by the State Council. In fact, it is believed that this centralized management system in itself has become one of the main obstacles that must be reversed and reformed to release the huge market potential of the sports industry in China (Liu, 2008).

At the 5th Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China of the 18th convocation in 2015, the "Proposals of the CPC Central Committee for the Development of the 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development of China" were adopted. In the section on sports development in the 13th Five-Year Plan, it is noted that by 2020, China's total sports industry will exceed 3 trillion yuan ($ 500 billion). The average annual rate of growth in this sector can exceed the rate of economic growth over a similar period of time, the share of the sports industry in the country's GDP will reach 1% by 2020 (compare 0.6% in 2012), and the share of the value added of the sports industry services sector will exceed 30%. The volume of so-called sports consumption in proportion to the average disposable income of residents will be more than 2.5%. The sports industry will cost more than 5 trillion yuan ($ 815 billion) by 2025, with an annual gross profit of 1.7 trillion yuan or about 1.2-1.5% of national GDP by 2025.

One of the key tasks of this plan will be the organization of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. Therefore, the city-organizer Beijing became a "strong point" in the popularization of winter sports in China. In the winter of 2017, a series of events and competitions was held in Beijing under the slogan "We will meet the Winter Olympics with popular mass sports, the implementation of a snow and ice dream". In addition, primary and secondary schools in the capital have introduced lessons on winter sports to stimulate the younger generation to engage in these sports outside the educational institutions.

Russia and China: Ice Hockey partnership

Ice hockey deserves a special attention in the program of sports reforms. The concentration of resources and the change in the goal setting in the Ice hockey infrastructure and sports reserve preparation allowed the Chinese leaders to form new strategies for Ice hockey development in the overall program of China's sports reform. Beijing status "a capital" of a 2022 Winter Olympic Games assumes Chinese national ice hockey team mandatory participation, team that currently occupies only 38th place in the world ranking. The prospect of creating such a competitive Chinese team by 2022 forced the Chinese authorities to seriously address this problem.

The Chinese played into the hands of the fact that another country is experiencing similar difficulties. This is South Korea. The Olympic Games in this country will be held in February 2018. Currently, the Chinese national ice hockey team is significantly inferior in the team rating to the South Korean team. But the Korean transformation in ice hockey began much earlier – in 2010. All Olympic Games organizers understand that the host country hockey team participates in the Olympic tournament without qualification and must be adequately presented to the public and home audience. To solve this problem Koreans turned to the program of hockey players’ naturalization and Korea citizenship assignment to players from other countries. This proposal helped in a short period to create a professional ice hockey team and solve the problem of entering the IIHF World Championship Division I. Today, all Koreans are optimistic about the ice hockey Olympic prospects and hope for a successful performance of their team.

Chinese sports leaders decided to go the other way. For the Chinese national ice hockey team preparation, they decided to take advantage of Russia's experience. The political rapprochement of the two neighboring states, cooperation in the sphere of economy, culture, education, and sports became a reliable basis for the creation of a joint program for the development of ice hockey in China according to Russian patterns. This decision was dictated by the logic and expediency of developing a new partnership between the two neighboring countries.

Russia, and earlier the Soviet Union, has a rich victorious experience in international competitions, infrastructure preparation, sports reserve education and ice hockey tournaments of various levels. In 2016 Russia’s ice hockey infrastructure included 583 indoor ice rinks. 528,000 Russian citizens regularly practice hockey, 98,000 children are trained in children's sports schools ( Chinese hockey statistics looked much more modest. About 20,000 people, of whom more than 1,200 are registered as professional hockey players are involved. Ice Hockey infrastructure is about 100 ice rinks, of which 48 are in closed premises. In addition, in China, 98 ice hockey referees are registered.

After the joyful announcement about the 2022 Winter Olympic Games organization, China announced an ambitious plan to attract 300 million people to winter sports in the next six years (Sun, 2016). The Russian side offered its vision on the implementation of this task.

On June 25, 2016, within the framework of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China, an agreement on the entry of the Kunlun Red Star hockey club into the Continental Hockey League was signed. The treaty was signed in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jingping, who thus once again demonstrated the existence of a "special level of relations" of the countries. Thus, in China the first professional ice hockey club in the KHL appeared, the formation of the domestic ice hockey market, the education of ice hockey and corporate culture, Ice hockey fashion in China has begun. Despite the costs of growth, the first partnership experience can be considered positive.

Traditionally in China, the phrase “Kunlun” hit the big time. Kunlun Mountain is an analogue of the ancient Greek Olympus, the habitat of the gods. Kunlun Shan in Chinese means "Moon Mountains". This is the name of one of the largest mountain systems in the country. The first Chinese scientific station in Antarctica also received the name "Kunlun". Now in Chinese history there is also a hockey club "Kunlun Red Star". In the first season in the KHL, the Chinese club got into the playoffs, and by 2021 the club's strategy provides the refusal from the foreign players in the team.

Promotion of youth ice hockey in Beijing shows excellent progress over the past two years. More than ten thousand students from sixty schools learned about this game and began regular training. This was reported by the Beijing Hockey Association (BHA). Under the auspices of the BHA, 116 club teams were registered, consisting of 2,000 children registered to participate in the 2015/16 season in the Hockey League of Beijing. This is significantly different from the first season of this league in 2008, when less than 20 official players were presented and only four teams were represented. Preparation of the sports reserve will also be undertaken by North American partners. Professional women's team will compete in the Canadian League – CWHL. Young men and girls from junior Chinese teams under 18 will be trained in Canada and Boston.

A significant step in the ice hockey partnership development of Russia and China is the resurgence of match meetings on the Amur River between Russian and Chinese hockey players. In the history of these countries there was once a memorable match – in 1958 a meeting was held in Blagoveshchensk between a team from the Amur Region and a team from Heilongjiang Province. Then it was played in three matches. January 14, 2017 a new meeting of Russian and Chinese hockey players on the border of two countries. This time, two matches were played and Russian hockey players won them. Organizers plan to make such matches annual; adults and children's teams will be able to take part in them.

The dynamics of positive ice hockey relations of Russian and Chinese partners led to a new step. The parties suppose that the new Asian Hockey League, in which hockey clubs of Russia, China, Japan, Korea and Kazakhstan will be able to participate, should become the long-term goal of cooperation. In the meantime, the new "Silk Road Cup" will be the new ice hockey ground. This is stated in the Memorandum signed on July 4, 2017 by Russia Ice Hockey Federation, China Ice Hockey Association and Center for International Cultural Relations of China in Moscow.

"Silk Road Cup" is planned to be started from the 2018/19 season with all teams competing in VHL Hockey League (both from Russia and Kazakhstan) included automatically and other 5-6 hockey teams from China to join. It is estimated that a total quantity of competing teams will be around 30. Starting from season 2019/2020  4-6 new teams from Silk Road countries (Korea and Japan) will be added, and so two conferences could be formed – European and Asian – which will allow reducing the travel expenses. The new tournament can replace national championships, and national titles can be rewarded to the most successful teams from their countries on the basis of the final standings.

RIHF and CIHA can build a brand – new ice hockey competition on the basis of the existing legal entity epovered by the Russian low – VHL – non profit organization. Board of Directors will comprise 51% CIHA members, 49% RIHF members.

The Russian law does not allow to create leagues as international organizations, which could be considered All-Russian competitions. In order for the Russian clubs to keep funding from the local budget, their participation should be approved by Russian Government and the Ministry of Sports of Russia.

RIHF suggests to found Silk Road Cup on the following principles:

  • NPO VHL jointly with the RIHF organizes the VHL competition for the Silk Road Cup.
  • RIHF will be in charge of the officiating, schedule and regulations development, contracts with the clubs, clubs application process, statistics.
  • RIHF delegates all TV and marketing rights to the NPO VHL for the compensation covering RIHF expenses for its services and travel expenses for Russian clubs.
  • Assessment of the compensation for the RIHF services – sport management plus officiating – 3.5 M USD a year (not including travel expenses)
  • No admission fees of the clubs – this money should be invested in infrastructure development (boards, lighting, ice surface, etc)

Sport principles of Silk Road Cup first season:

  • The Silk Road Cup will start from the 2018/19 season
  • All the VHL clubs will be included automatically
  • 5 or 6 Chinese clubs to join
  • Est. 30 clubs will start from the first season
  • Clubs of each country could be counted as separate regional Championship points, national titles should be rewarded

              Sport principle of the second season:

  • 4 or 6 extra teams of Silk Road countries (Korea, Japan) will be added
  • 2 conference could be formed (European and Asian), which will allow to reduce the travel expenses


New joint product by RIHF and CIHA should aim to become the third best professional Ice Hockey league. There for there is a necessity that is substantial investments in the participating clubs and stadiums infrastructure:

  • Brand identity and promo campaign launch – redesign, ad campaign on TV, outdoor, digital promo.
  • New standards of infrastructure for the clubs and stadiums (lightings, boards, etc) for the TV production and marketing needs
  • Production of the matches on the High quality, TV broadcasts of the best games, daily league content production for dedicated shows and highlights on TV and internet.
  • Game-center and live statistics application for fun.
  • Web-site, application for smartphones and Smart-TV, social network program development, media partners – web-sites, blogs, PR support of the partner media of the RIHF.

Business extension.

  • NPO VHL will focused on Chinese market and regional sponsors.
  • A series Silk Road events will be integrated in the launch and promo campaign (Culture, Business, Science events).
  • International players are welcome to play in the league.
  • Generate revenues from fans and sponsors outside the games.
  • Target break-even – year 2.

The signed memorandum also envisages that the Ice hockey clubs of Harbin and Jilin will be able to compete in the VHL Hockey League starting from the 2017 season. In 2018, three more Chinese clubs will appear in this league, and by 2022, 10 clubs from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong will represent China in the VHL Hockey League.

Such a development strategy should envisage mutual integration and market mechanisms for promoting ice hockey in new regions. Optimistic forecasts suggest that not only Russian and Chinese companies will sponsor this project. Involvement of Japanese, Korean, American, Canadian partnerships is a global task for the hockey market of China in the near future.

For the sake of what all these unprecedented efforts to create a new hockey market in China are made? The answer will not be original. Resources and influence. The expansion of the Continental Hockey League to the East in the future can bring the league a new audience and growing revenues from the television rights realization at a new market. In the event that only 1% of China's population is interested in ice hockey, the target audience of consumers will be about 15 million people, which is more than the total television audience of the final matches of the Gagarin Cup and Stanley Cup put together. This can already be considered a market control. In addition, a new hockey culture will help the Chinese to shape new relations with partners and a new policy. Ice Hockey is facing a new challenge. In terms of systemic changes in the global geopolitics such prospects are worth fighting for. 


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  11. Washington, M. & Ventresca, M. (2008). Institutional contradictions and struggles in the formation of U.S. Collegiate Basketball, 1880-1938. Journal of Sport Management, 22, 30-49.




Young Hoon Kim, Chair in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of North Texas, USA, PhD


Is Ice Hockey on the Right Track in the Republic of Korea?

2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Next

Thanks to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Korea, ice hockey in South Korea is now emerging into the new stage: New Era – “Post-Olympics.”  Addition to its promotional strategies in Korea, ice hockey became the key mediator for a historic Olympic run by the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team. The NBC News described the unified team’s game against Switzerland on February 10, 2018, “They may have lost in their debut game at the Winter Olympics on Saturday night, but the first-ever joint Korean women's ice hockey team easily won the crowd” (Ortiz and Abdelkader 2018). Now, ice hockey is not only for fans in the Korean peninsula but also, for both governments to open the table for discussion. 

Mega sport events (e.g., 2002 Korea-Japan World cup) always play a major role for a hosting country: i.e., tourism, culture, economy, and arts – even for politics. It is also believed that major hockey leagues, such as KHL in Europe and Asia are trying to make steps to create its own story in Korea. The current proposed chapter will be attempting to answer the following questions: 1) What are the current issues? 2) Journey for 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics 3) 2016 -17 Season Achievements 4) Strategic Plan of KIHA (Korean Ice Hockey Association) 5) Current Promotional Strategy and 6) New Era – “Post-2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. In addition, this chapter attempts to address challenges for Korean ice hockey by investigating any issues in Korea.

The Contents

  • Current issues
  • Journey for 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics
  • 2016 -17 Season Achievements
  • Strategic Plan of KIHA (Korean Ice Hockey Association)
  • Promotional Strategy after the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics
  • Conclusion and suggestions

Current Issues

Firstly, major challenges and issues of ice hockey in Korea can be explained by its administration system and governmental support. Although ice hockey is now one of the popular winter sports, the financial support by government is minimal. According to a personal interview with Jingmin Kim, the marketing and promotion director of KIHA (2017), “Korean National Ice Hockey Team has had a difficulty in attending international tournament because of its limited budget and financial support. Thus, the new appointment of Mr. Chung, the President to KIHA was one big moment for the Korean Ice Hockey Team.” Secondly, the restricted frequency of broadcasting and televising was one the major problems of marketing. Internal games was never televised live through Korea Broadcasting until 2013. In March 2013, Mr. Jungmin Kim, the former sport journalist was hired to increase the media attention and appearance. The popular portal website (i.e., was utilized for live broadcasting of 2017 World Championship games. Thirdly, costs. As one of the most expensive sports: equipment, gear, and place to play which is still one big challenge: the ice arena. Although we had many new arenas built for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, it is still in short.

Journey for 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics

It was not an easy journey for the Korea National Ice Hockey Team to advance to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The steps were:

  1. 2011: PyeongChang named as the host city for 2018 Winter Olympics
  2. 2012: Recommendation by Rene Fasel, the President of IIHF: the World Rank: 18th was suggested to be eligible for qualification
  3. 2013: Mr. Chung (CEO of Halla Group) was appointed as the President of KIHA – with two important objectives in the Strategic Plan: Going up in the World rank and qualification. Ranked 5th in the Division I Group A – 2 Wins and 3 Losses
  4. 2014: 5 Losses and down to the Division I Group B
  5. 2014 events:
  • In August, Jim Paek was hired as a Head Coach of the S. Korea National Team.
  • In September, Mr. Paek presented “Strategic Plan for South Korea Men’s National Team” at the IIHF Semi Annual congress; finally, both men and women teams was qualified for 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

One of the biggest turning points for the Korean National Team was 1) Mr. Chung’s (the President of KIHA: Korea Ice Hockey Association) appointment and 2) Mr. Paek’s joining as a head coach in 2014. Mr. Chung addressed his vision in his introduction, “it is not long enough to improve all areas for Korean Ice Hockey National Team but I believe it is not too close as we think. Let’s make it better day by day. There is no doubt that we can see our New Horizon on Ice at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics” (KIHA, 2018). In addition, Mr. Paek states, “It’d be great to say, ‘Yeah, we’d like to move up into the top 16 in the world first, and hopefully make the Olympics.’ But if it’s not the Olympics, so be it. What’s important is that we’re competitive and improve every day” in his interview with New York Times (Klein, 2014).

2016-17 Season Achievements

IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation)

  • Men: 2nd Place Division I Group A and World Championship
  • Women: Champion Division II Group A and Advanced to Division I Group B

2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Olympics

  • Men: Silver Medal
  • Women: 4th Place

IIHF World Ranking 2017

  • Men: 21st (32nd in 2007)
  • Women: 22nd Place (26th in 2007)

The results of 2016-2017 season was not as successful as expected but it has clearly proved that both Korean National Teams are now among the world class teams in the Division I. It was not exactly as Rene Fasel, the President of IIHF recommended but its rank was high enough to compete in the world-class tournament at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Strategic Plan of KIHA (Korean Ice Hockey Association)

  • Vision Statement: “One-Body” – One movement under one vision and mission to create new ice hockey history.
  • Mission Statement: To become an ice hockey leader and create new market in Asia through the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics by working with IIHF and KIHA.

Three Major Goals:

  • Based on Success of 2016-17 Season
  • Make a big step at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics
  • Promotion and advance to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

With three major goals, both women and men teams have their own strategic plan. Men’s team has two major plans: 1) international off-season/field training by having games and competing against world top-ranked teams and 2) cooperation with business teams. Especially, they reduced games in Asia League (AL) from 48 to 28 to spend more time in training and preparing for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. On the other hand, women’s team has four bold goals: 1) competition with world ranked teams, 2) international off-season/field training, 3) hosting 2017 women’s ice hockey league, and 4) develop a strong foundation for growth sustainability. However, one of the most achievements was the unified team. The game results was not successful but its contribution to the Olympics’ spirit is more than any medals.

Promotional Strategy after the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics

There is no question that the popularity of ice hockey will grow after the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics but there are many ways how to succeed in and to become more popular among many winter sports. Building a new bridge with NHL or having games with world top ranked teams can be the other opportunity. Summer camps and training programs with juniors and charity events with Korean National Team, NHL, and top ice hockey legend players will be providing us with a great opportunity in promoting. However, the most important thing is that maintaining the quality of team playing and world rank. Then, star player marketing which has been a keyword for Korean sports. KIHA’s promotional plans are followed:

  • Qualify for 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
  • Maintain world rank and stay in World Championship League
  • Establish an U-18 Women’s National Team
  • Build Ice Hockey-Rinks and utilize the Kangneung Ice Hockey Center
  • Support youth/junior programs
  • Leadership/management program for Ice Hockey

Conclusion and Suggestions

A CNN News article says, “As he made his way to the stadium with his family, his young son waving the now familiar flag of a united Korean peninsula, Jung Jin-suk, from Suwon in the north west, said he hoped the unified team could help improve the South's understanding of the North” (Lewis, 2018)

"Many people are excited," he told CNN Sport. "Maybe 99% of the people will be happy, but 1% aren't because they have bad memory about the Korean War. After this event, I hope that many South Korean people can understand North Korea better."

In conclusion, the question can be addressed, “can success of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics lead to the place where we want to go?” Maybe, the place is not only for political perspective but also for the ice hockey business in Korea. According to Wang (2011), “Olympic Games has a good public image and a unique social appeal” (p., 383). The die has been thrown for all stakeholders but we are not sure who will take the die for next turn.



Ortiz, E., & Abdelkader, R. (2018, February 10). Unified Korean women’s ice hockey team debuts at Olympics to heartfelt cheers. NBC News. Retrieved from

Chung, M. (2013). The introduction of KIHA President. Korea Ice Hockey Association. Retrieved January 3, 2018, from

Klein, J. Z. (2014, August 14). Jim Paek Is Building South Korean Hockey Program. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from

Kim, J. (2017, November 11). Personal Interview.

Lewis, A. (2018, February 12). Unified Korean ice hockey team proves that 'winning isn’t everything. CNN news. Retrieved from

Wang, H. (2011). Analysis of modern sports marketing of post-Olympic era. Journal of Human Sport & Exercise, 6(2), 378 – 384.





Jyri Backman, Master of Law and Sports Management, University of Malmö, Sweden.


Ice Hockey Organization and Innovation in Sweden and Finland


From a commercial point of view, the 1990s was a decade that changed Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey (in the following article I refer to men’s elite ice hockey due to the fact that women’s elite ice hockey lives under different circumstances). During the 90s television, Bosman case, sponsorship, increased (media) exposure and corporation – in addition to traditional public revenue – was a catalyst for increased commercialization. This decade can be seen as the period when Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey made a “commercial brake (run) away” to other national sports. The aim of this article is to address some key issues in the professionalization and commercialization – and especially corporation – of Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey. In the following article I will give – in a Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey perspective – an introduction to the organization of sport and ice hockey, a brief overview of the financial status and development of corporation. After this I will sum-up some of the key factors in the process of professionalization and commercialization in Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey. This essay is an enlargement of my presentation at World Hockey Forum in Moscow, December 14–15 2017.

The organization of sport and ice hockey in Sweden and Finland

Sweden and Finland are countries with strong historical, societal, religious and governmental ties with a similar tradition of organizing sport (amateurism, non-profit, fostering, youth, promotion and relegation etc.), and members of the European Union (EU) since 1995 (Backman, Jyri, 2012).


Swedish sport and elite ice hockey is organized according to the European Model of Sport with the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation as the governing body for all Swedish ice hockey. The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation is a member of the Swedish Sport Confederation, established 1903. The Swedish Sport Confederation consists totally of 71 sport federations, approximately 20,000 sport clubs and 3 million persons as members. The Swedish Sport Confederation and sport federations also consist of regional sports federations that act as administrative bodies for the Swedish Sport Confederation and sport federations. The Swedish sports model is further characterized by the fact that amateur sports, children´s and youth sports are combined with commercial and professional sports in the same organization (Swedish Sport Confederation, Annual Report 2016; Backman, Jyri, 2012).

The dominant view in Swedish ice hockey literature is that American film director Raoul Le Mat introduced ice hockey in Sweden in connection with Sweden´s participation in the Antwerp Olympics in 1920. According to historian Tobias Stark, however, this is a simplified explanation. Although Le Mat had an important role, the Swedish Football Association´s secretary Anton Johansson and the Olympic Committee´s treasurer Sven Hermelin should be highlighted as the main representatives of the initiative. During this time, there was no ice hockey organization in today´s opinion, even though the Swedish Football Association became a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (LIHG/IIHF) in 1912. As ice hockey grew in popularity and expansion, the idea of ​​a separation from the football was awakened. The final separation between football and ice hockey took place in 1922: The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation was founded (Stark, Tobias, 2010). The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation has since been the governing body for all Swedish ice hockey.

Characteristic for Swedish ice hockey is that the premier league (Elitserien/since 2013 SHL) is on sporting grounds open, i.e. promotion and relegation. Well established is also the principle of utility-maximization, in which economic profit should be reinvested in sporting activities, which is confirmed by the fact that non-profit sport clubs are tax-advantaged (Backman, Jyri, 2012; Malmsten, Krister and Pallin, Christer, 2005; Swedish Sport Confederation, Annual Report 2016).


Finnish sport is, on the other hand, by historical reasons fragmented even though harmonization work is ongoing. In Finland, there were several self-governing sports organizations in the years 1906-1993: Finnish Sport Confederation (1906-1993), Workers Sports Federation in Finland (established 1919 and still operational), Finland’s Swedish Central Sport Federation (established 1945 and still operational), Finnish Football Federation (established 1907 and still operational), Finnish Olympic Committee (established 1907 and still operational) and Finland’s Workers Central Sport Federation (1959-1979). In order to create an even more unified sports organization, Finland´s Sports, Young Finland, Finnish Sport Confederation and Finland´s Olympic Committee formed in summer of 2012 Valo (Finland´s National Sport Organization). By forming an umbrella organization, the four founders wanted to develop Finnish sports. In connection with the start of the formal activities of Valo on 1 January 2013, Finnish Sport Confederation was dissolved. Sport federations and other sport organizations were invited to join Valo in the spring of 2013. The major sport federations (such as the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation and the Finnish Football Association) and several other Swedish-language sport federations initially waited to join in the fall of 2014. Valo was active between 2013-2016 for on January 1, 2017 they were to be replaced by the Finnish Olympic Committee as umbrella organization for all Finnish sports as a result after the merger of Valo and the Finnish Olympic Committee. Although the Finnish Olympic Committee since January 1, 2017 is the umbrella organization for Finnish sport, the sport federations and other member organizations have very high autonomy and self-governing in matters relating to their own activities. In addition to the wishes of the founders with the new umbrella organization, the merger was driven by economic reasons. Since Finnish sports are largely financed by government funds through the Ministry of Education and Culture, the use of state grants is enhanced by an umbrella organization. Note that Finnish sports overall, ice hockey is the only exception, lacks major sponsors in addition to the state grants, which come from, among other things, the gaming company Veikkaus. In other words, the posture of the Finnish government can be seen as an approach to the pyramid structure of the European sport model. At the same time, there is a less well-established pyramid structure in Finnish sport since individuals become members of sport associations, which in turn are members of sport federations, such as the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation (Lämsä, Jari, 2017; Lämsä, Jari, 2017b; Backman, Jyri, 2012). In the review by the researcher Jari Lämsä, Finnish sports organization in 2015 comprises of approximately 1.1 million members as well as 9,000 sports associations and organizations. Regionally there were 15 sport organizations, 14 sport institutes and several other regional sport organizations. At the national level there were 70 sport federations and 38 other national sport organizations (of which 8 Swedish-language sport clubs) (Lämsä, Jari, 2017b). Non-profit sport clubs are like Swedish nonprofit sport clubs tax-favored (Finnish Tax Act, 30.12.1992/1535, 3 chapter 22–23 §§). In this context Finnish ice hockey is situated.

There are some different indications when ice hockey came to Finland. One states that ice hockey was played in the Finnish capital Helsinki for the first time in 1899. Another is that it was Leonard Borgström who tried to introduce ice hockey in Finland in the late 19th century. There is also information that it was Yrjö Salminen who introduced ice hockey in Finland in the late 1920s after learning the game in Canada. Regardless, the start of the new ice hockey sport in Finland was not entirely hassle free. Interwar times were a difficult time in Finland, at least not financially. The people had other things to consider than to play ice hockey (Otila, Jyrki, 1989; Mesikämmen, Jani, 2001; Kuperman, Igor, Szemberg, Szymon and Podnieks, Andrew, 2007). Unlike Sweden, Finland did not participate in the Antwerp Olympics in 1920. The reason why Finland refused participation was that Finland felt that the foreign rules and training difficulties made participation impossible (Stark, Tobias, 2010).

One major step in the formalization of the Finnish ice hockey was that the game was organized in 1927 under the Finnish Skating Federation, which also released the first game rules, based on the IIHF rules for ice hockey in Finland. Finland was taken up by the Finnish Skating Federation as a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1928 (Honkavaara, Aarne, 1978). As a result, ice hockey started to get a foothold and the organized ice hockey in Finland began to take shape. At the sporting level, the first historic international match between Sweden and Finland was played in Helsinki on January 29, 1928, which ended with a clear Swedish victory by 8-1 (Stark, Janne [ed.], 1997). At the organizational level, a major step was taken in 1929 when the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation was formed (Otila, Jyrki, 1989; Mennander, Ari and Mennander, Pasi, 2003). Since then, the Ice Hockey Federation has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Finnish Olympic Committee. In connection with ice hockey´s growth in Finland, the sport started to concentrate on the larger cities (Mesikämmen, Jani, 2001). In total, it can be noted that ice hockey was established approximately ten years later in Finland than in Sweden. The Olympic debut in 1952, which was 32 years later than Sweden´s Olympic debut, ended in Oslo with seventh place.

The organizational body for the Finnish premier league SM-liiga is SM-liiga Ltd. who is an autonomous organization from the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation, even though there is an agreement between the parties. The Finnish elite league SM-liiga is a closed sport league (i.e. no promotion or relegation), during 2000/2001–2008/2009 and 2013/2014–currently (Backman, Jyri, 2012). 

Financial status in Swedish respective Finnish ice hockey premier league in season 2015/2016

From a financial point of view the, the Swedish SHL clubs – despite the fact that SHL is “open” – had a turnover of approximately SEK 1.7 billion (SEK 1 688 million) a year. The SM-liiga clubs had, according to the Finnish business magazine Kauppalehti a turnover in 2015/2016 of about 92 million euros, note: Jokerit from Helsinki is not included in these numbers – the club plays in KHL since the 2014/2015 season (KPMG, 2015; EY, 2016; Kauppalehti, 2016-09-16). In relation to Sweden´s respective Finland´s GDP in 2015, the turnover was almost similar. Note: Sweden´s GDP is more than double the size of Finland, in 2015, Sweden´s GDP was SEK 4.181 billion, while Finland´s GDP was EUR 209 billion, corresponding to SEK 1.923 billion (GDP from Statistics Finland and Statistics Sweden).

Corporation in Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey – a historical background with current status

The elite ice hockey clubs should establish their own (league) now and then we will continue to make coffee and sell bingo lottery tickets in our amateur clubs as nothing - or maybe something little - has happened.

This quote from a Swedish evening newspaper Expressen (1997-10-21, p. 37), arises several interesting questions, problems and tensions.

During the second half of the 90s, there were several clubs who realized what opportunities corporation and a stock exchange introduction could lead to. The Swedish clubs that went in front were Djurgårdens IF from Stockholm and Leksands IF from the landscape of Dalarna. Stock experts considered that Djurgården Hockey Ltd.´s (Plc.) stock market introduction in 1997 was only the beginning, and more and more elite ice hockey clubs would follow Djurgården Hockey Ltd. on the stock exchange. The chairman of Leksands IF Björn Doverskog clearly stated in Expressen in 1997 that the only thing that was counted for Leksand IF was corporation and stock exchange (Expressen, 1997-04-17).

It was at the annual meeting in 1997 that Djurgården´s IF Ice Hockey Club presented the proposal to list Djurgården Hockey Ltd. on the Stockholm Stock Exchange. Before that, Djurgården had received – from the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation – a principle decision to operate as a limited company. Introduction date was set to October 20, 1997, and introduction stock price was SEK 75. The interest was so big that it was over-subscribed (reported interest greater than issued shares) and the calculation was SEK 45 million. Through corporation Djurgårdens IF Ice Hockey Club had converted its debts of SEK 7.5 million to a substantial surplus. While the introduction date was approaching, critical votes in sports Sweden began to be heard, and among the main critics there was the chairman of the football federation. In this process, the requirement for exclusion of Djurgården´s IF Ice Hockey club from the Swedish premier league (Elitserien/since 2013 SHL) was expressed. In an attempt to solve the problem, Djurgården´s IF Ice Hockey Club changed its agreement with Djurgården Hockey Ltd, but found no mercy at the Swedish Sport Confederations board. As a result, Djurgården Hockey Ltd. abandoned stock introduction. Djurgården Hockey Ltd. was forced to pay back all of the SEK 45 million plus interest corresponding to SEK 6 million, to shareholders (Expressen, 1997-04-12, 1997-04-17, 1997-06-05, 1997-09-04–1997-09-26, 1997-10-11–1997-10-23). As a consequence, of the occasionally powerful corporate debate, that followed, the Swedish Sport Confederation took the historic decision – in May 1999 – to allow sport Ltd./Plc. (corporation). However: restriction that a non-profit sport club must have share majority (voting) in the sport Ltd./Plc. (company), so-called 51-percent rule (Backman, Jyri 2012).

In the table below, part of corporation in the Swedish premier league (SHL) season 2017/2018 will be displayed. The table has the purpose of showing which of the SHL-clubs performing their activities as sports limited companies and those of SHL-clubs who owns whole/and/or part Ltd.´s and holding company´s. The commercial purpose of a holding company is to be the parent company of (a) Ltd.´s. The reader should keep in mind that ownership can change and vary.

Mother company: Non-profit sports club

(not translated)

Sport Ltd.

51-percent rule


Whole/and/or part owned Ltd.´s and holding company´s

Brynäs IF Ishockey-förening




Djurgården IF Ishockey-förening



Djurgården Hockey Ltd. (Public limited company, Plc.)



Hockey Club



Färjestad Bollklubb






Karlskrona Hockey Club


Karlskrona Hockey Club Sport Ltd.


Holding company: Karlskrona Hockey Holding Ltd.


Hockey Club


Linköping Hockey Club Ltd.


Holding company:

Linköping Hockey Club Ltd.

Luleå Hockeyförening


Mora IK



Malmö Redhawks


Malmö Redhawks Ice Hockey Ltd.


Holding company: Malmö Redhawks Holding Ltd.

Rögle Bandyklubb




AIK Hockey



Lakers Hockey, VLH


Växjö Lakers Idrott Ltd.


Holding company: Sport Development Sweden Ltd.


Hockey Klubb


Örebro Elite Hockey Ltd.


Holding company: Örebro Hockey Holding Ltd.

Corporation in the Swedish premier league (SHL) season 2017/2018, (X = yes, - = no).

As my compilation shows corporation is well established in Swedish elite ice hockey, even though several clubs operate as non-profit sport clubs meanwhile 6 clubs have transformed into Sport Ltd.’s.

When the Finnish premier league SM-liiga was established in 1975, the representatives of Finnish elite ice hockey discussed the need for all associations to be transformed into limited companies, all in order to increase commercialization and professionalization. However, the proposal would prove too big to take at this time (Backman, Jyri, 2012). The first club to become a Ltd. in SM-liiga was when Jokeriklubin Tuki ry. sold its rights to play in SM-liiga to Jokeri-Hockey Ltd. 1988, nowadays Jokerit in KHL (Aalto, Seppo, 1992). Unlike in Sweden, there is no 51-percent rule in Finland – no restrictions on ownership – and none of the clubs´ in SM-liiga (all are Ltd:s) are a public limited company (Plc.) registered for trade on the Helsinki stock market. The Finnish development can be explained by historical reasons – fragmented Finnish sport.  According to law professor Heikki Halila, the Finnish Sport Confederation could during the 90s not influence or regulate the development like the Swedish Sport Confederation in Sweden (Backman, Jyri, 2012).

In the table below, corporation in the Finnish premier league (SM-liiga) season 2017/2018 will be displayed. The table shows which of the SM-liiga clubs who are part or wholly owned by a Ltd. All SM-liiga clubs also own a share in Ice Hockey´s SM-liiga Ltd. The reader should keep in mind that ownership can change and vary.

Mother company: Non-profit sports club, registered association (ry./rf.)

(not translated)

Ltd.´s that runs elite ice hockey


Ltd. without owner restrictions

Whole/and/or part owned Ltd.´s and holding company´s

Turun Palloseura ry. (Turku)

HC TPS Turku Ltd.



Porin Ässät ry.


HC Ässät Pori Ltd.



Vaasan Sport Ry-Vasa Sport rf.


Hockey Team Vaasan Sport Ltd.



Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho ry.


HPK Liiga Ltd.



Ilves ry.


Ilves-Hockey Ltd.




Kamraterna Helsingfors (I.F.K.

Helsinki) rf.

Ice Hockey Ltd. HIFK-Hockey Ltd.



Mikkelin Jukurit ry.


Jukurit HC Ltd.



JyP-77 ry.


JYP Jyväskylä Ltd.



Kalevan Pallo (KalPa) ry.


KalPa Hockey Ltd.



Kouvolan Kiekko-65 ry.



Hockey Ltd.



Reipas Lahti ry.


Lahden Pelicans Ltd.



Saimaan Pallo – SaiPa ry.


Liiga-SaiPa Ltd.



Rauman Lukko ry.


Rauman Lukko Ltd.



Liiga-Tappara ry.


Tamhockey Ltd.




Kärpät 46 ry.


Oulun Kärpät Ltd.




Corporation in the Finnish premier league SM-liiga season 2017/2018 (X = yes, - = no).

The trend is clear. Corporation is the norm within SM-liiga, although none of the Ltd.’s are a public limited company (Plc.) registered for trading on the stock market. All ice hockey Ltd.´s are also wholly or partly owned by other Ltd.´s (subsidiaries).


Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey has both similarities and differences in the process of professionalization and commercialization. One similarity from a commercial point of view is that corporation is a relatively new phenomenon that began at the same time in the 90s through inspiration from the cooperation between Swedish-Finnish sports law associations, a time of sharp rising stock prices. One difference, however, is that there is no 51-percent rule in Finnish ice hockey like Swedish ice hockey. The main reason for the different paths representatives for Swedish and Finnish elite ice hockey has chosen is the organization of sports. Representatives of Finnish elite ice hockey chose to go their own way in the 70s, meanwhile Swedish sport is characterized by consensus. The main reason for this decision was that the representatives of Finnish elite ice hockey did not think that small clubs and sport federations should affect their activities.

A key factor in the development of corporation in Swedish sport is that the Swedish Sport Confederation, since its establishment in 1903, have been governing body for Swedish sport movement. A effect of this is that Swedish sport was long characterized by deprecation against professionalization and commercialization. At the same time, a market transformation of Swedish society occurred in the 1980s and 90s. It was during this time that the Swedish elite ice hockey was transformed into a more market-oriented business. The consensus character, however, is confirmed by the fact that the Swedish Sport Confederation decided on a couple of occasions that the 51-percent rule should remain. A question that arises in this context is why representatives of the Swedish elite ice hockey clubs did not choose to go their own way in the 90s, or on latter occasions. The answer to this is that the consensus tradition is strong in Swedish sport movement and the hegemonic position the Swedish Sport Confederation has over Swedish sport. One opinion that could arise in this context is that it would be rational to abandon the 51-percent rule. By separating non-profit and commercial activities, business logic could be fully implemented. However this is not the case in Sweden, at least not yet.


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  10. Mesikämmen, Jani (2001), ”From Part-time Passion to Big-time Business: The Professionalization of Finnish Ice Hockey” in Howell D. Colin [ed.] (2011), Putting it in Ice, Volume II: Internationalizing ´Canada´s Game´, Gorsebrook Research Institute, Saint Mary´s University, Halifax.
  11. Otila, Jyrki (1989), ”Tästä se alkoi” (It started from this, own translation) in Kaukalon leijonat – Suomalaista jääkiekkoa 60 vuotta (The Lions of the Rink – Finnish ice hockey 60 years, own translation), US-Mediat, Rauma.
  12. Stark, Janne [red.] (1997), Svensk Ishockey 75 år: ett jubileumsverk i samband med Svenska Ishockeyförbundets 75-års jubileum, Del II, Faktadelen (Swedish ice hockey 75 years: an anniversary book in conjunction with the Swedish ice Hockey Federations 75 year anniversary, Part II, Fact, own translation) Strömberg/Brunnhage, Vällingby.
  13. Stark, Tobias (2010), Folkhemmet på is: Ishockey, modernisering och nationell identitet i Sverige 1920–1972, (Folkhemmet on ice, Ice hockey, modernization and national identity in Sweden 1920–1972, own translation), Diss. Linnéuniversitetet, Idrottsforum, Malmö.

Swedish and Finnish sport movement (printed material)


Finnish government sport council

Finnish Ice Hockey Federation

Finnish Olympic Committee

Valo (Finland´s National Sport Organization)


Swedish Ice Hockey Federation

Swedish Sport Confederation

Newspapers and Magazines


Hockey: Officiellt organ för Svenska Ishockeyförbundet


Conference presentation

Lämsä, Jari (2017b), ”Threatend Legitimacy: Stakeholders Criticism Towards The Finnish Olympic Committee” in The 25th EASM Conference, Bern and Magglingen, Switzerland, 5–9 September 2017.

Home pages

Statistics Finland,

Statistics Sweden,



Guillaume Bodet, Professor of Sport Marketing and Management at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, at the Univ Lyon, University Claude Bernard Lyon-1, L-VIS, (France)


Alan Gaudefroy, Univ Lyon, University Claude Bernard Lyon-1, L-VIS, (France)

Guillaume Routier, Univ Lyon, University Claude Bernard Lyon-1, L-VIS, (France)

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank the French Ice Hockey Federation (FFHG) for their support in the data collection.

Who are they?

A focus on French ice-hockey participants’ profiles


In France, sport participation in clubs has reached a mature level and the numbers of participants has tended to stagnate (+1.5% on overage per year since 2000[1]), whereas it was 5% between 1991 and 2011 (Tribou and al., 2015). The overall ‘sportification’ of French society as well as the arrival of numerous commercial organisations that focus on profit-making since the year 2000s, and the lack of change and adaptation of not-for-profit organisations to new participants’ needs (Bodet, 2009) are reasons why the number of participants within traditional sport clubs has not increase much. This situation alongside the significant reduction of public funding create more difficult conditions for sport federations to achieve their main goals that are the representation, valorisation and above all the development of the sport. Furthermore, with the rapid evolution and growth of sport marketing, broadcasting and commercial rights, and sponsorship, almost all federations are oriented towards a crucial objective that is the mediatisation of their sport. However, very few of them obtain clear positive outcomes from this “mediatisation competition” and many of them, particularly the smaller ones, run short of resources to develop the sport and grassroots levels.

Many studies have demonstrated that sport participation is before all a social and cultural practice that respond to various ambitions and motivations (e.g. Pociello, 1981; Defrance, 2011; Bodet, 2009; Seippel, 2006). People participate in sports for exerting, for having fun, or to assess oneself to others, and we can find specific expectations behind each participant that are influenced by individual characteristic such as gender, age or social identity (Lefèvre and Thiéry, 2016; Widdop, Cutts and Jarvue, 2016). Although this could appear as a constraint, it represents a great opportunity for low-mediatised sport organisations that are able to shift their sight towards their non-traditional participants and to adjust to them. To develop their sport and their participation base, they will have to aim to satisfy their participants and prospects’ expectations that is the essence of the marketing orientation. However, in order to conduct an efficient marketing strategy these sport organisations first need to know their participants and their needs. Unfortunately, this information is often basic, elusive and rather corresponds to the managers and decision-makers’ perceptions, than a true picture of who the participants are. How satisfying expectations when they are not specifically known and even less when looking at various participants’ profiles? Therefore sport federations and organisations need to first of all know their members and their motivations.

With only 21 000 members, the French Ice Hockey Federation (FFHG) is not one of the main sport actors in France[2]. Ice-hockey remain a sport with less attention, and a game from the top league, the Ligue Magnus, will attract low audiences in comparison with other team sports in France (see Bodet, 2017). Therefore, in order to develop without relying on the benefits of mediatisation, the French federation should concentrate on its members and their expectations. Therfore, we conducted an online questionnaire-based study with 1,056 members of the FFHG to identify their motives and their socio-demographic characteristics, especially for those who are less represented. The results of this study demonstrate the presence of various participant segments whose expectations are diverse and sometimes in opposition.

The French ice-hockey participants’ portray

The first result confirms that FFHG members are essentially men as they represent 89% of the respondents. This very important share of male participants can partially be explained by the sport image that is often seen as very physical and potentially dangerous, which seems distant from the common social representation of what a sport practiced by female should be. In term of age, members are overall young, with a median age of 27 years old, and 25% of members are less than 12 years old.  As for other individual and social status, more than 64% of respondents come from the middle and upper class, and about 70% of them hold a degree from higher education (33% of them hold a Masters degree). Consequently, we can say that the French ice-hockey participants mainly come from well off social and economic background. This characteristic may represent an opportunity regarding sponsorship if numerous participants are economic, decision-maker, executives and entrepreneurs. We can observe here that there is a certain contradiction with the traditional image of the sport previously mentioned and the socio-economic status of participants, as individuals from higher social groups are rather associated to motives centred around aesthetics and keeping fit (Pociello, 1995; Bourdieu, 1979). Another important result is the multi-participation characteristic of ice-hockey participants: 70% of respondents participate at least one other sport activity alongside ice hockey. This phenomenon, often called omnivorism (Peterson and Kern, 1996), is not surprising considering the socio-economic background of the members (Lefèvre and Ohl, 2012). This characteristic may represent a threat as if participants are not satisfied by the services offered by the ice-hockey clubs, and they may switch to another organisation and sport, more easily especially if they practice in a non-competitive and more leisure-oriented logic.

As for motives, the study demonstrates that FFHG members have a very passionate attitude toward their sport, which may reduce the switching risks discussed earlier. Passion is the most cited motive, followed by fun, exerting, and improvement (see figure 1).


Figure 1: Motives for participation

As for many sport activities, being interested in ice-hockey mainly comes from through socialisation. About 37% of the respondents were introduced to the sport by a relative, 32% started as a child because of their parents, and only 25% we introduced via the viewership or attendance of live games. In line with the motives for participating, ice hockey seems therefore to be a shared passion even before joining an ice-hockey club, and this seems thus to be a promising lever of development to recruit new participants in comparison with mediatisation and TV broadcasting. This is also illustrated with the fact that the first term associated with the sport is passion, followed by pleasure, speed, and skating/gliding (see Figure 2).


Figure 2: Terms associated with ice hockey

When focusing on members’ expectations regarding the services offered by the federation and the clubs, it is quite surprising to observe that the most important element is conviviality. Although this aspect does not appear among the main motives for participating to the sport, and joining a club, this appears as a central factor of French ice-hockey members that should undoubtedly be taken into account by the federation to satisfy them. The other elements are more traditional aspects that deal with the basic sporting offer such as the number of competent coaches, the personalised focus on individuals, or more simply the quality of training sessions. In that regard, these results are not that different with those found in other sports and contexts (e.g. Bodet and Meurgey, 2005; Bodet, 2006).

As we have seen, FFHG members mainly chose participating in ice hockey because it is a passion and a mean to have fun in a convivial atmosphere. This shared vision among members appears quite different from the image of ice hockey that is held among the general public. The physicality and aggressiveness dimensions do not appear central and members’ expectations are mainly oriented towards the quality of practice sessions and the central service. However, when looking more closely at motives and expectations, differences appear mainly between two profiles: recreation- versus competition-oriented participants. Similar to many sport organisations, federations offer two types of membership giving access to different services. Mainly the recreation-oriented membership does not give access to traditional and official competition and ranking system whereas games can still be organised. Because of safety issues, it should be noted that recreation memberships are not accessible for participants under 18 years old, which surely has an impact on motives and expectations regarding the sport service. In this line, we can see that 50% of competition-oriented members are less than 13 years old and took their first membership before they were 6 years old whereas most recreation oriented members are more than 39 years old and first took a membership before 28 years old.

Recreation versus competition

As expected, and beyond the age differences described previously, other socio-demographic characteristics can be observed between these two participant segments. First, there is an over-representation of executives among recreation members (55%) while the majority of competition members (56%) come from lower social categories.

Logically, competition constitutes a key factor for competition-oriented members although instantaneous pleasure appears more important for recreation-oriented members. However, competition does represent the most important aspect for the former. The most important element is passion for ice hockey that is exacerbated in comparison with recreation-oriented members. The level of investment, personal and financial, is one of the characteristics that distinguish both groups. The majority (54%) of recreation-oriented members train once a week or less, whereas 86% of competition oriented members train at least twice a week. This strong involvement is made at the detriment of other sport and activities because 40% of competition oriented members do not participate in any other sport while only 20% of recreation oriented members declare the same exclusivity. From a financial point of view, differences are also conspicuous: 62% of competitors spend more than €300 per year to purchase sport equipment while 55% of recreationists spend less than this amount per year.

For recreation oriented members, ice hockey does not represent a role as central as for the other groups, which make them participate in other sports such as skiing (cited by 38% of recreationists). The link between ice-hockey and skiing is quite interesting, especially when observing that 32% of recreation oriented members consider that speed characterizes ice hockey the most, and we should keep in mind that ice-hockey has historically had a very strong presence in French mountain regions (Branchu, 2007).

The main participation motive for competition-oriented members is their passion of the sport. However, it is not similar for recreation oriented. We can see that 40% of them have started participating to do a sport, to the need to exert. Unsurprisingly, competition is of low importance for them although having fun and improving are important. Surprisingly, the tournaments and games organised for recreation-oriented participants are among the factors that drive their satisfaction, which can be seen as paradoxical. This result could mean that it is not the competition they do not praise but the performance orientation and/or format of traditional competitions.

Competitors’ expectations are naturally oriented towards the desire to get better and to surpass oneself. Coaches’ competences, leagues’ format, training sessions’ quality are very important for the majority of them (51%). Nevertheless, having fun and the search for pleasure remain noticeable aspects for the participants of this category, which tends to indicate that two profiles may exist among competition-oriented members. This is an important result, so that should encourage not considering recreation and competition oriented members as homogenous categories and then to further cluster them into sub-segments to avoid gathering individuals with different motives and needs.

Four motivation profiles with distinct expectations

In line with the detailed segmentation approach discussed, 4 groups have been identified: kids, competitors, former competitors, and recreational beginners.

Kids: a category of priority for the federation

Children participants correspond to all respondents that were under 14 years old. Their expectations are mainly gathered around two dimensions that are improving and having fun, which contrasts with the groups of other competitors. If the competition aspect remains present (27% of them mention it), it is largely secondary. They are essential to the guidance and support that they receive in their learning (decisive aspect for 50% of them) and to the presence of competent coaches that deliver good quality training sessions. However, despite being engaged in traditional competitions, pleasure remains a key factor to characterize ice hockey (cited by 45%). Therefore, to satisfy them, it is necessary to think about sport formats and deliveries that favour fun ways and dynamic ways of learning and improving.

The core category: the competitors

This category seems to have always benefited from a strong and particular attention from the federation that focuses its resources and investments towards competition and performance. However, according to the results, it represents the smallest number of participants. Their expectations are quite simple to identify as they are centred around the institutional dimension of the sporting offer with satisfaction criteria based on coaching programmes and experts, the organisation of games, the quality of training sessions, etc.

Most of these members are highly passionate – 63% declare it, and have started playing ice hockey at a very young age. Their motivation relies upon two main aspects that are the competition and surpassing oneself. Consequently, their investment and involvement are more important than all the other groups. Specifically, 86% participate at least twice a week (games are not taken into account). It is legitimate to consider that this involvement strongly influences their individual timetable and that ice hockey is a way of life susceptible to influence their professional and personal life. Considering their attachment to the sport and the role it takes in their life, it is likely that they will remain passionate and remain and loyal to the sport even if they are not highly satisfied. They are not considered as a “population at risk” for the sport, however, it is likely that they switch to other sport clubs if they are not satisfied, as members in general are ready to travel quite significant distance to reach an ice hockey rink (between 10 and 30 km for 43% of members). Loyal to the sport does not mean that they are loyal to their club.

Former competitors: a category of loyal members

When focusing on recreation-oriented members we can identify two sub-segments. The first one is made of members who started playing ice hockey quite early – before 20 years old and participated in competitions in the past. They can represent one later stage than the competitors’ in the career or life cycle of a competition-oriented ice-hockey player. Their characteristics are close to competitors’ ones however their motives have changed, possibly due to getting older and having more family and work commitments, and are now oriented towards having fun and social interactions. Perceiving themselves as good players, these participants keep on playing due to the passion they have of the sport, and remain consequently loyal to it.

Despite holding a recreation membership, they keep interested in competition-related issues, which differentiate them from the other participants from the same membership. Even if it is less present in their lives, ice hockey may have represented a core component and possibly for a large part of their lifestyles and have consequently developed a close and loyal relationship with their sport clubs and/or federation. They therefore need a particular attention even if they are less involved and participating in other sporting activities. Having in mind the strength of the socialisation factor for children, they could be considered as the “breeders” of the future generations. The criteria that they give the most value to are the social and convivial dimensions, the chance to receive more individual practice, as well as the frequent friendly games and tournaments.

A growing category: the recreational beginners

This category of participants constitutes the second sub-segment of recreation-oriented members. They started ice hockey after 20 years old and had never played in competition. Ice hockey is a difficult sport from a technical point of view for beginners. Thus, they probably have had a slow progression, and improving may represent the main motives for them to keep on participating. Alongside this motive they also want to have fun and keep fit: this is a motive for 43% of them. As previously mentioned, this sub-segment should receive quite some attention, as they are not highly loyal, even if about 46% of them see ice hockey as their passion. This might reduce the volatility of this sub-segment. This can also represent a positive and promising result if we consider that many of them came at first to do a physical activity and progressively got passionate about it. The other important motive is the desire to progress and becoming better players. Cited by 34% of the 326 respondents who started playing ice hockey after 20 years old, this constitutes an element to focus on and it is a core dimension of its know-how. However, clubs’ willingness to focus on these players and dedicated resources may represent the main obstacle. Already in place for kids and competitors, formation is marginally addressed to the population of recreational participants, although highly demanding of getting new skills and improving in general. This willingness to improve significantly influence their satisfaction criteria and, coaches’ competences, the quality of training sessions and individual support to progress, and their level of expectations are higher comparing to the other recreation-oriented members.

Finally, we can observe that the motives of recreational beginners are quite similar from the members aged below 14 years old. The only slight difference in terms of motives between these two groups is the recreational beginners complete disinterest in competition in contrasts with the growing desire of kids members as they get closer to teenagers’ categories. Recreational beginners are more motivated to practice for health and fit purposes.

As we can see these four profiles have distinct expectations and it is important for the federation and clubs to take that issue in consideration to implement their marketing operations and try to make them loyal.

Under-represented segments among FFHG members

This first phase of the analysis focused on current members in order to identify the most important factors affecting for their satisfaction, to in turn make them loyal. In complement with this approach, and in line with a marketing that focuses on attracting more participants), we have noticed that several groups were under-represented among the members of the FFHG and that could hold a promising potential for growth.


With only 10,5% of respondents, women are largely underrepresented within FFHG members. This very low figure ranks the FFHG in the bottom four of the less womanized federations, and it is very far behind the federation of equestrian sports, of swimming and volleyball that have 83%, 54% and 49% of women respectively. Feminization is a key stake for sport federations, especially when considered that they receive a public funding and a delegation from the French Ministry of Sports to organize the sport. The main obstacle may be the overall image of the sport that can be seen as rough and violent, which may not appeal to a large proportion of women. However, this perception may also be the perception of current male leaders and managers that should then first be convinced that this is a sport for both men and women. This change consequently may pass by a change of mentality and a better gender representation among leaders within sport organisations. Finally, developing new practices, whether it is for women or beginners is always a challenge when resources, particularly the access to ice rinks, are scarce, and that competition is seen as the key priority by sport organisers. Being open and happy to welcome more women participants is one thing; giving up training sessions used by men competitors to women competitors or beginners is another thing.

When analysing women’s motives for participating, we can observe that they are mainly interested in keeping fit and exerting, which tend to indicate that these specificities should probably be taken into consideration to promote the image of the sport and to propose specific sport formats.


The results of the study show that only 6% of members are above 50 years old. This low representation of “seniors” for ice hockey can be explained either by the lack of attraction and the lack of loyalty after a certain age. This is not unique to ice hockey and many team sports that have always had a strong competitive culture struggle to keep their members when they get older because the core offer – i.e. the traditional competitive system – does not fit anymore with their expectations, health conditions and/or their availabilities. As about 9% of respondents are aged between 45 and 50, we can see that this decline is progressive and that it starts to decline significantly form 40 years old (25% of respondents are more than 39 years old). Again, if they constitute one segment clubs and federations would want to see more, they should probably think about particular formats, for instance keeping fit and the environments. It is always less costing to keep current members than to attract new ones.

Students and young adults

Another group that appears under-represented gathers young adults and students: members between 17 and 25 years represent only 8.5% of the overall members. Although this category of individuals is more and more difficult to keep loyal (Bodet, 2009), this group still represents a big group for numerous sports and federations. However, involved in studies and/or working, their availabilities are not regular and they are increasingly reluctant to engage in sport activities requiring significant time investments.

For competition-oriented members for which ice hockey is a lifestyle, stopping their participation must be due to external factors that can hardly be controlled. However, it can be hypothesised that if clubs and the federation were able to propose low-commitment competitive formats, they would manage to keep more young adult and student members in their organisations.

Participants from lower socio-economic groups

Our study showed that ice hockey in France is mainly a sport involving individuals from middle and upper socio-economic status. This can be partly explained by the cost of the equipment and material, and membership fees but certainly also because of socio-cultural factors and obstacles. Only 27% of members come from lower socio-economic status positioning the sport as quite elitist. In order to democratize the sport, it is necessary to break down economic, cultural and perceptions barriers.

From a demographic perspective, people from lower economic background constitute an interesting perspective. Opening the sport to these segments would probably require acting on making the price variable of the memberships, which also represent the main constraint for the majority or current members. However, this “volume strategy” may not be the wisest option considering that the capacity are limited and the number for ice rinks is limited, just under 200 over the country. Nevertheless, considering the geographic development of ice hockey towards big urban centres (Bodet, 2017), there might be opportunities to do so depending on the contexts of the cities and clubs.


This study about ice hockey participants in France allowed us to identify various profiles, with different expectations, and different levels of loyalty. In addition, it also allowed us to identify categories and groups that are under-represented and could represent targets with interesting potential. However, before trying to attract new members, it appears key to keep the current ones loyal by possibly concentrating efforts on kids and recreational beginners because they are the most volatile segments.

As previously mentioned the number of arenas able to host ice hockey activities and games remain quite low in France and the construction projects are scare, particularly for the arenas that could host official competitions. Therefore, if the majority of ice rinks have a competitive sporting function (133 versus 65 that are only dedicated to leisure), they cannot all host ice hockey games and competitions. When combining this element with the potential new segments they could target (kids, women, senior and leisure-oriented), we could imagine that the French federation could still benefit from the construction of ice rinks that are too small for official games and competitions in developing alternative offers, that could eventually later nourish the stream of competitors. In that case, the federation and its clubs might have to accept the idea that certain clubs would remain or become leisure-oriented and occasionally producers of competition participants that would go in other structures that would better satisfy their needs and expectations in terms of competition and performance.

The realisation of this type of study represents a very important step for all federations, clubs, to clearly set the scene to identify the priorities in terms of development and promotional actions. This can offer a more objective view of real motives and elements of satisfaction that are often different from sport managers and leaders’ perceptions and representations. Segmentation is one key step from strategic marketing and it seems very risky to do it without specific and reliable data as it directly informs organisations’ targeting and positioning.

In order to complete this type of study it would be relevant to conduct a survey to assess the image perceived by non-participants and people who are not familiar with the sport. This information could first help to reduce an eventual gap between the way the federation, sport clubs, ice hockey actors and participants perceive the sport that represents its identity, and its external image, and the way it is perceived by the general public. This would also represent an opportunity if favourable factors are identified to attract new segments of participants.


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Хунсин Ли

Hongxin Li, International Sport and Event Management Research Lab University of North Texas, USA.





John Nauright, PhD, professor of International Sport and Event Management Research Lab University of North Texas, USA


The Kunlun Red Star Phenomenon

as a Case Study for Hockey Growth in Asia

Ice Hockey is one of the most popular sports around the world. Internationally, ice hockey has been growing in many countries and its leagues have expanded beyond national borders (Nauright, 2017). According to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), over 1.7 million people play ice hockey worldwide (IIHF, 2016). Currently, there are 77 members after Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines became the newest members in 2016 (National Teams of Ice Hockey, 2016). Although ice hockey is played throughout the world, the development of ice hockey in the world is still unbalanced. Hockey is the most expensive team sports to play and operate, and it is seen as a North American and northern European white person’s sport (Nauright, 2017). Therefore, ice hockey is more popular in those areas. While in Asia, the development of ice hockey is restricted due to the climate and lack of resources (McComb, 2004).


Growing Ice Hockey in Asia

Asia’s region is seen as the new market for ice hockey because there is a rapid growth in the number of players (Nauright, 2017). In recent years, many Asian countries started to work on developing their ice hockey market and national teams. In addition, winning to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing have brought a unique opportunity for the development of ice hockey in Asia. Internally in the continent, the development of ice hockey is different in regions such as South Asia, West Asia, and East Asia, and each region has its own characteristics.

Since the late 2000s, ice hockey has developed rapidly in countries and regions of South Asia. IIHF and its subgroup, Asian Strategic Planning Group (ASPG) provided considerable support to the hockey development in this area. With ASPG’s help, more countries established national ice hockey teams and participated in the regional games. The most popular game is the “Challenge Cup of Asia” tournaments, which aims at smaller Asian nations and intends to provide competitive opportunities for those teams that either are in the lower divisions of the IIHF World Championship or do not compete in the IIHF World Championship. The first event was held in Hong Kong in 2008, currently this tournament has grown to be the biggest ice hockey championship in Asia, and many countries are participating in tournaments with different age groups and different genders (IIHF, 2017). Since the first tournament, it has helped many countries for their ice hockey development.

In 2015, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust spent HK$ 470,000 on the 3-year program “Jockey Club Ice Hockey Generation Next 2016-2018”, to build a new generation of local ice hockey players to sustain continuous development of the sport in Hong Kong by bridging the  gap  between  junior development  and  competitive  ice  hockey (Merk, 2016). Thailand hosted the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in 2013. Because of the IIHF event and more rinks are being built, the number of registered ice hockey players went up from 114 to 145 in 2016 (Nauright, 2017), and skyrocketed to 359 in 2017 (IIHF, 2017). In addition, in Malaysia, Philippines, and India, influenced by the tournaments, more rinks are built and more people started to play ice hockey.

The Gulf countries also benefited from the tournaments. In United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, ice hockey is flourishing (IIHF, 2011). In UAE, despite the high temperature that reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for half of the year, a growing number of men and women are taking to the ice inspired by their national team playing in the “Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments” and the broadcasting of National Hockey League (NHL) games on television. Influenced by UAE, more Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait started their national teams since 2012. However, the biggest problem for developing ice hockey is the lack of ice rinks. Sponsors for ice hockey do not like to go to Gulf countries, so players have to pay more on renting the hockey rink. Although in some richer countries like UAE, money is not the main issue, whereas how to bridge the gap with traditional hockey countries is more desperate (The Brunei Times, n.d.).

In East Asian countries, Japan, South Korea, and mainland China have a relatively longer history of ice hockey development. The economic development and climate are more suitable for the ice hockey development in those countries. Japan is the oldest and biggest IIHF member in Asia and it has the longest history of ice hockey. Since the establishment of the Japanese Ice Hockey Federation in 1920, most of the developmental milestones of ice hockey in Asia took place in Japan. Besides, in 2007, Japanese goalie Yutaka Fukufuji became the first Asian-trained player to play in theNHL (IIHF, 2015).

The Asia League Ice Hockey (ALIH) was founded in 2003. In the first season, four professional teams from the former Japan Ice Hockey League (JIHL) and one Korean team joined the league. One year later, the league expanded to China and Russia’s Far East, and there were eight teams in the league. The league brought competition in East Asia to a new level and helped clubs from Japan, South Korea, and China improve their level of play. Currently, it consists of eight teams from Japan, South Korea, and Russia. The team from China bowed out of the league since most of the players went to HC Kunlun Red Star and started to play in Supreme Hockey League (Vysshaya hokkeinaya Liga, VHL; Russian: Высшая хоккейная лига (ВХЛ). Although the league represents the best level of hockey playing in Asia, it only received a dissatisfying response from the market. The most-watched club, Nikko Ice Bucks only has an average number of 1,449 fans in ALIH (IIHF, 2017).

It seems that all of the East Asian countries want to get a better performance in the Winter Olympic Games hosted in their countries. For example, in the late 1990s, Japanese ice hockey team naturalized some players from Canada and USA to play ice hockey, in order to get a better performance in that Winter Olympics (Chiba, 2014). Similarly, South Korea has naturalized six ice hockey players from Canada for their national teams, trying to get a better performance in 2018 Winter Olympics (Rutherford, 2017).


Hockey Development in China

Strong governance worked effectively for the ice hockey growth in China. Backed by the Chinese government and influenced by the Russians, the development of hockey is experiencing a prosperous period. After winning the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Chinese government pledged to get 300 million people to participate in cold weather sporting activities before 2022 (Guan, 2017). One of the particular target areas of growth is in the ice hockey market. Since 2007, cities such as Beijing have realized the expansion of numerous hockey clubs and youth teams because of the HC Kunlun Red Star ice hockey club. However, this growth has not been without challenges. For example, when Red Star was formed, there were few sheets of ice in the Beijing region suitable for professional ice hockey. Hockey is not a traditional Chinese sport, nor one that had much popularity. Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and NHL entered the Chinese market respectively in 2016 and 2017. However, their seasons conflict with seasons of NBA and England Premier League, both of which enjoy a long history and great popularity in China. Consequently, few people choose to watch KHL or NHL matches.

Two government policies laid the groundwork for developing winter sport in China. 1) In 2014, the State Council of China issued a guideline to boost sports industry, named ‘Opinions on Accelerating the Development of Sports Industry and Promoting Sports Consumption, Guofa [2014] No. 46’ (‘No. 46 File’) (Sun, 2014). This guideline aimed to achieve “CHY ¥ 5 trillion (USD $780 billion) scale of sports industry by 2025”. The No. 46 file was regarded as the milestone of the sports industry in China. (Yi, 2016) After Beijing and Zhangjiakou successfully bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, China aims to encourage a staggering 300 million people to be involved in winter sports by 2022. In accordance with this plan, the total size of winter sports industry in China will reach CHY¥ 600 billion (about USD $93 billion) by 2020, then ¥ 1 trillion (about $158 billion) by 2022 (Ye, 2017). With funding from the government and private sector, China plans to build 650 skating rinks by 2022, which will bring great opportunities for the development of ice hockey.

In 2016, Winter Sports Management Center, the subsidiary of General Administration of Sports of China, issued “winter sports development plan”, as a guideline to boost the development of winter sports in China. This guideline emphasized a sub-plan, “school winter sports plan”, which indicates that elementary schools and middle schools should include those winter sports games, such as skating, ice hockey, and skiing, in their PE curricula, and the local governments should allocate grants to schools, so that they can cooperate with winter sports training centers to train their students. To be specific, there are three goals included in the “school winter sports plan”. With this plan, 2000 schools will become specialized in winter sports by 2020, and 5000 schools by 2025, and there will be 5000 winter sport full-time/part-time PE teachers in China by 2020 (General Administration of Sports of China, 2016).

In 2016, Beijing Municipal Government issued another policy, “Opinions on accelerating the development of winter sports” and seven ancillary plans (“1+7” Plan; Beijing Municipal Government, 2016). This plan was the first winter sport developing policy established by a local government. According to the Beijing “1+7” Plan, by 2022, the annual revenue of the winter sports industry will be ¥40 billion (about $6.3 billion), and more than 8 million people will participate in winter sports in Beijing. According to the commissioner of Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports, Beijing will create its “Hockey brand image” with the current development foundations and great potential of ice hockey. Therefore, cooperating with nearby cities and provinces, Beijing aims to build a ‘Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Youth Hockey Circle’, to cultivate professional hockey clubs, and expand the school hockey tournaments (Wang, 2016).

Under the influence of those guidelines and policies, a special ice hockey club, HC Kunlun Red Star, was established in Beijing. Since then, this team has achieved phenomenal success in both the KHL and Asia.

Kunlun Red Star Phenomenon

Kunlun Red Star Hockey Club

Beijing Kunlun Red Star Hockey Club (HC Kunlun Red Star), founded in March 2016, is the first professional club participating in the world first-class ice hockey league in China. In fact, the idea of building Kunlun Red Star Club was initiated on September 3, 2015, two months after Beijing winning the bid of holding the 2022 Winter Olympics (Gao, 2017). The establishment of HC Kunlun Red Star was supported by different organizations from both China and Russia, and the team was made of international well-known coach team and super players (HC Kunlun Red Star, n.d.). As a part of the achievements of Russia’s President Putin’s visit to China, Kunlun Red Star’s joining in the KHL was an important integral part of the sports cooperation of China and Russia. Moreover, it was greatly supported by the Russian Sport Department, the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and the Chinese General Administration of Sport, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association. At the signing ceremony, the presence of heads of government of China and Russia illustrated the high level of official support for HC Kunlun Red Star.

In 2017, this club built another six teams, including one men’s team playing in VHL, one men’s junior team playing in the Junior Hockey League (Molodezhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga MHL; Russian: Молодежная Хоккейная Лига (МХЛ), two women’s hockey teams playing in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), and two under-18 squads. The annual investment of this club’s first five-years’ budget, is $60 million (Ives, 2017).

The unit in charge of the club is China’s International Culture Communication Center, and its mother company is China Environmental Energy Holdings Co., Ltd (Gao, 2017). In the 2016-2017 KHL season, HC Kunlun Red Star successfully achieved Conference Quarter-Finals. Currently, this team is made up of a cosmopolitan mix of players from eight different countries.

Although HC Kunlun Red Star is a private club, it has the responsibilities for the hockey development in China and Asia area. According to the vice chairman of the management board, Emma Liao, there are two missions for HC Kunlun Red Star. First, they are committed to helping China achieve its hockey goal in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Second, it is their responsibility to promote hockey in China, increasing its acceptance and popularity among Chinese people (Zhao, 2016).

The Developing Strategies of HC Kunlun Red Star

“National Club Mode”

With its men’s national ice hockey team ranking 37 in IIHF, currently, China is playing three rungs below the elite level (IIHF, 2017). According to the IIHF’s rules, the national team of China cannot even have a chance to participate in the qualifying competition (Peng, 2016). However, in 2022 Winter Olympics, China aims to have its men’s ice hockey team “qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics and perform well”. For the women’s national team, the goal for 2022 is to “hold a medal and go for the gold” (Guo, 2017).

Appointed by the Chinese government, Kunlun Red Star’s aim is to manage the Olympic hockey program for China. On March 17, 2017, Winter Sports Management Center, the subsidiary of General Administration of Sports of China, issued “2022 China Hockey Plan”. Within this plan, the China Winter Sports Management Center signed a cooperation agreement with HC Kunlun Red Star. According to this plan, both sides will cooperate in building China men’s U20 National Ice Hockey team, men’s U18 and women’s U18 National Ice Hockey teams. Based on the three national teams, Kunlun Red Star will build three “National Hockey clubs” in China. As the first club to participate in the KHL, using their international team of experts, knowledge and resources, HC Kunlun Red Star will “develop comprehensive training plans and provide competition and physical fitness, assessment, nutrition, health care, rehabilitation and other training and security system” to the national teams (Nong, 2017).

In accordance with the plan, these three new national hockey clubs started to compete in three different international leagues to enhance the level of Chinese ice hockey. To be specific, Kunlun Red Star established Kunlun Red Star Heilongjiang Club as the National Men’s Club in Heilongjiang province and joined the VHL in Russia. Working with National Men’s Youth team, Kunlun Red Star Junior Club joined the MHL in Russia.

With regard to the National Women’s team, two women’s clubs, Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays, were established in Shenzhen, China, participating in CWHL in Canada.

In June 2017, HC Kunlun Red Star and national teams went to North America to recruit Chinese-American and Chinese-Canadian hockey players. There were around 1,000 players who would like to play for China and the recruited players need to play for the “national club” for two years, then they could be naturalized (ISPO, 2017). After this recruitment, there were more Chinese players playing in KHL and VHL.


Youth hockey strategy

However, in HC Kunlun Red Star which is playing in KHL, there were only five players who were born in China. Therefore, HC Kunlun Red Star started to put the effort in developing youth talents for the club and the national team. In January 2017, the club announced that it had purchased 70% of the ownership of “Little Wolves Hockey Club”, the most famous youth hockey club in China, as the first step to build its youth hockey athletes training system. Another strategy is trying to find hockey talents overseas and naturalizing them. Co-sponsoring with the Chinese national team, Kunlun Red Star set tryout camps in cities of Toronto and Vancouver, to select qualified players who were born in Canada but have Chinese ancestors. This task aimed to help the national team and itself recruit potential talented hockey players and boost national teams’ Olympic prospects. According to the director of the National Winter Sports Administrative Center, as long as the foreigners of Chinese ancestry are willing to give up their current citizenship, the national team will recruit them. Zach Yuen, the defenseman of Kunlun Red Star, is planning to change his citizenship into Chinese in order to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics (Sun, 2017).

Another important strategy is building Kunlun Red Star Hockey School. As a part of the “2022 China Hockey Plan”, cooperating with China Ice Hockey Team, this strategy is going to lay the foundation of cultivating youth hockey players and finding hockey talents for China. Furthermore, based on HC Kunlun Red Star’s resources, this school aims to help youths improve hockey skills, and promote the long-term development of ice hockey in China.

In March 2017, cooperating with Canadian International School of Beijing, HC Kunlun Red Star opened hockey classes in four cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Harbin. In 2017, the school opened classes for the students from age 4 to age 16. In the school, students receive their academic study in the international middle school, and HC Kunlun Red Star provides students with the hockey facilities, equipment, coaches, and classes (General Administration of Sport of China, 2017).

Furthermore, HC Kunlun Red Star started to build a hockey school in Boston, the United States. In 2018, the club will build more hockey schools in other countries such as Canada and Finland. Students in China can get their further education in those schools abroad and improve hockey skills. In the future, students will have more opportunities to play hockey in universities and professional leagues in different countries. HC Kunlun Red Star will select excellent students for its teams. If the students are good enough to play for the club and the national teams, they will get full scholarship offered by the club (General Administration of Sport of China, 2017).


Large Investments

HC Kunlun Red Star’s successful joining of the KHL was a milestone in the history of ice hockey development in China. However, on the other hand, it also means huge investment. According to Emma Liao, the first couple of months in the KHL cost tens of millions of dollars on the renovation of the two home arenas in Beijing and Shanghai, seventy percent of which was spent on rental of facilities, transportation, and salary of the players (Lanxiong Sports, 2016). Currently, the yearly salary for each player of HC Kunlun Red Star in KHL is from $50,000 to $500,000 (Lanxiong Sports, 2016). In spite of the lower player costs compared to most teams in NHL, the club has to spend more on the transportation due to many away games in different countries.



Regardless of the huge investment, many enterprises were willing to the sponsors of HC Kunlun Red Star. For example, in its first season in the KHL, the title sponsor and official sponsors from China and Russia sponsored HC Kunlun Red Star more than ¥ 100 million (about $15 million), which was higher than the sponsor fee of most of clubs in Chinese Super League (CSL) and Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) (Lanxiong Sports, 2016). Furthermore, in the season 2017-2018, the sponsorship was even higher than the first season. With this trend, in the next few years, HC Kunlun Red Star is expected to get higher sponsorship.

Social Media

For a professional sport club, beside the sponsorship, the revenue from broadcasting and box office is also important. Currently, HC Kunlun Red Star’s KHL games are broadcast on a nationwide state-owned cable channel (China Central Television Sport Plus; CCTV-5+), and other three local media corporations. However, due to the beginning status of the ice hockey market, it is hard for the club to make a profit from selling the broadcasting copyrights. Nevertheless, promoting ice hockey in China is the club’s priority (ISPO, 2017). In addition, Kunlun Red Star has about 290,000 followers on Weibo, which is China's premier social media channel. From the IIHF, HC Kunlun Red Stars’ first KHL season attracted an average number of 2,952 fans for each match, which made it the most-watched hockey club team in Asia (IIHF, 2017). Although HC Kunlun Red Star has the most spectators in Asia, the attendance is still lower than most teams in the KHL.


National Heroes

Rudy Ying

Rudy Ying is the most famous Chinese professional hockey player. Currently, he is playing for HC Kunlun Red Star in the VHL and Kunlun Red Star Junior in the MHL. Born in China, he first played hockey in a youth hockey club of Beijing Youth Hockey League. At age 9, he moved to the United States to further his career. From 2008, he started to play hockey in Canada and joined the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL). Later in 2012, Ying moved to Boston and joined the Boston Junior Bruins U18 team in the Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League. Since then, Ying has played for many teams in Canada, the United States, and Beijing. In 2016, Ying returned to Beijing and signed a 2-year contract with HC Kunlun Red Star, becoming the first Chinese-born player to play in the KHL (Rosso, 2016).

Internationally, Ying has played at both the junior and senior levels for China. In 2014, Ying played in IIHF World U18 Championship Division II for China. In this championship, Ying made seven points and two assists in total five games and was selected to the All-Star team. In 2017 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, Ying played for the Chinese U20 national hockey team as the captain. Ying made 9 goals and 10 assists in five games. Because of his dominant performance, he was awarded “the best forward” of the championship, and the best player of Team China (IIHF, 2017).

Zach Yuen

Zach Yuen is another “national hero” in HC Kunlun Red Star. As a Chinese-Canadian ice hockey defenseman, he is the first Chinese player to score in the KHL and the KHL playoffs, and the first Chinese player to win the MVP. In 2011, Yuen became the first Defensemen of Chinese descent to be drafted to the NHL. Later the same year, he was selected to the Canadian Hockey League All-Star Team. Although he was born in Vancouver, both of Yuen’s parents were born in China and later immigrated to Canada. When talking about his performance in the KHL, Yuen said, “I have been working hard every day, and all I have done is the limited playing time in the games. Whenever I got the chance to play, I will try my best. Therefore, I am not surprised at my good performance, I deserve it.” (Hu, 2017).



The aim of this paper was to provide an insight into the ice hockey growth in Asia. Although the establishment of HC Kunlun Red Star has its unique background, its developmental strategies still set a role model for the development of ice hockey in Asia. HC Kunlun Red Star used “National-club Mode” for training players for the club and for the China national ice hockey teams, in which way they got the players’ skills improved, which was a win-win situation for both the national teams and the club itself. Focusing on youth training, and building hockey schools in domain areas and abroad is another strategy. Have some role models who could represent the ice hockey can also help to progress ice hockey development and keep a sustainable developing status. Finally, making larger investments and trying to get more sponsorship will be very helpful for establishing a mature ice hockey market.

For the different parts of Asian regions, we should use different strategies based on the different characteristics of those areas. In East Asia, the foundation for building ice hockey market already exists, the next step could be adding more investment, and advocating the professional leagues since there are more registered players and ice hockey already has a long history. Japan and South Korea have naturalized some hockey players for their men’s national ice hockey teams, which helped them improve the performance. In South Asia, there are more young ice hockey players. Beside the IIHF’s Asian Challenge Cup, supportive policies for developing ice hockey would be very helpful. In addition, Using the “national club mode”, and joining professional leagues such as KHL or ALIH would be another efficient way for developing their hockey market and improving the level of the national teams. For the Gulf countries, there should be more youth players to maintain a sustainable development of ice hockey. Therefore, ice hockey schools could be built by cooperating with traditional ice hockey countries.


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Liangjun Zhou, Professor and Dean of Sport Management and Leisure College, Guangzhou Sport University, PhD, China


Huanxian Dong, graduate student, Faculty of Leisure Sport and Management Guangzhou Sport University, China

Xiaoying Chen, graduate student, Faculty of Sports Media, Guangzhou Sport University, China

How to Promote the Development of Ice Hockey in China and other Asian Countries? A Case study of Guangzhou

1. Introduction

Ice hockey is one of the most competitive and popular sports in winter Olympic Games, and it is also the most professional collective winter sport professional development. Its level of development often reflects the overall level winter sport development in a country or region.

Due to geographical factors and other reasons, the development of ice hockey is not satisfactory in most parts of China and other Asian countries. In recent years, with the efforts of the International Hockey Federation (IIHF) and Asian countries, the ice hockey event in Asia has been developed to a certain extent, but its level of development lags far behind those in Europe and North America. The development of Asian hockey is mainly concentrated in the eastern regions; Asian countries of the International Hockey Federation (IIHF) are also mainly concentrated in East Asia. Japan was the earliest and most comprehensive country in the development of ice hockey in Asia. It joined the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in 1930, while Qatar did not join until in 2012. The Asian hockey league is also mainly composed of hockey teams from China, Japan and South Korea.

The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in Korea and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Asia consecutively, bringing good opportunities for hockey in China and other Asian countries. However, would the ice hockey achieve rapid development in China or other Asian countries with the approaching of these two Olympic Winter Games? How could the ice sports organizations seize these opportunities to promote the development of ice hockey in China and other Asian countries? Those become the focus of many of the hockey organizations.

Located in southern China, bordering Hong Kong, Maucao and Taiwan, Guangzhou is the capital city of Guangdong Province and a frontier position for China's reform and opening up. It is also an important front in the process of urbanization in China with a huge number of migrant workers from the extensive countryside and town. Guangzhou has a long history, good business tradition, and good sports fitness atmosphere. It could provide an important data related to the development of hockey industry in China and Asian countries when the status quo, problems and potential advantages of Guangzhou hockey development were analyzed as a case.

2. The present situation of the development of Guangzhou hockey movement

The development of the ice hockey movement in Guangzhou is in the beginning stage, and the development level is not high, but it has a certain development foundation and potential.

2.1 The Natural Conditions for the development of the ice hockey in Guangzhou

The first and fundamental condition for the ice and snow events is the resources of "ice" and "snow". Guangzhou is located in subtropical coastal areas with an oceanic subtropical monsoon climate, warm and wet, with plenty of heat. The annual average temperature is 20-22 degrees centigrade, which is one of the largest cities in China with the smallest annual temperature difference. The hottest month of the year is July, with the average monthly temperature of 28.7 degrees centigrade; the coldest month is January and the monthly average temperature is 9 to 16 degrees centigrade. Consequently, Guangzhou has no unique advantage in the events of ice and snow.

2.2 Favorable conditions for the development of the ice hockey movement in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is a city of sports. Guangzhou is popular with a sentence – ‘It is much better to invite your guest to have sweat than to invite him to eat.’ It can be seen that the fitness awareness is deeply rooted among the residents of Guangzhou. Guangzhou sports management departments have made great efforts to guide the residents for fitness. Guangzhou Sports Bureau has launched a "Group Tong" electronic platform, in which it incorporated all of the public sports venues in cities, districts and county-level. Residents can conveniently reserve stadiums and gymnasiums online. In addition, the national fitness is more emphasized from children. The youth Sports Games in Guangzhou is built into a sport festival that discovers competitive sports talents and active campus sports atmosphere.

In addition, Guangzhou is the core city of Guangfo metropolitan area, and the urban circle of the Pearl River Delta. The city competition has attracted a large number of migrant population. According to the data released by Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of statistics, in the end of 2016, the resident population of Guangzhou was 14.0435 million, of which 8.7049 million were household registration, and the number of permanent residents increased by 370.94 thousand compared with that in 2015. In the past ten years, the population of Guangzhou has increased by nearly 3.50 million people, with an increase of about 1.293 million from 2011 to 2016.

The floating population, especially from the north, has little change in the way of playing ice and snow sports from their childhood. It will inevitably bring the integration of northern sports to some extent. The demand for ice and snow sports in the south is likely to grow with the migration of northern population. From the perspective of talent competition, especially the opportunity of the Winter Olympic Games in 2022, Guangzhou will devote a lot of human and material resources to develop ice and snow sports.

3. Problems of Developing Guangzhou Ice Hockey

3.1 Lack of Professional Management Organization and Scientific Development Planning

In Guangzhou, there is no ice hockey association. The Guangdong Ice and Snow Sports Association was established in September 25, 2017. It is mainly responsible for strengthening the promotion of winter sports in Guangdong, broadening the mass base, and standardizing the operation of winter Sports Association, and promoting the winter sports market.

Even in the whole China, there are only three city-level ice hockey associations affiliated with the Chinese Hockey Association which is responsible for the mass ice hockey event. The three city-level ice hockey associations are: Chengdu Ice Hockey Association, Beijing Ice Hockey Association and Shenyang Ice Hockey Association.

In terms of development planning, National Development and Reform Commission, General Administration of State Sport, and other two national administration departments launched the Winter Sports Development Planning(2016-2025) to promote the prosperity and healthy development of Winter Sports in throughout China. However, Guangzhou did not formulate similar development planning according to the situation of winter sports in Guangzhou.

3.2 Lack of Ice Hockey Venue and Equipment

Guangzhou, located in the subtropical region, has no ice period as its average temperature of the coldest month is above zero degree. There is neither natural ice area nor artificial outdoor ice rink available in this city.

At present, there are only two indoor artificial ice rinks in Guangzhou (Glacier Bay Real Ice Arena in Zhengjia Square and ice Rink in Chasing Ice World) with the surface area over 800 Square meters and over 1,400 square meters respectively. Both of these ice rinks are located in shopping malls mainly for entertainment. Ice hockey training and competition are only available during non-business hours or ice hockey class, because it needs sharing the ice rink with ice skating which is the core business of the venue.

Table 1 and Table 2 showed the top seven sport venues in amount and the top five in size in Guangzhou. It can be seen that the top seven venues have 15,094 totally, and account for 76.81% of the total amount in Guangzhou, including basketball courts, national fitness path and badminton court, etc. In Table 3, the top five sports venues in size include golf courses, basketball courts, urban fitness trails, small playgrounds, and field and track, totaling 23.0062 million square meters, accounting for 74.69% of the total. Compared with the number and area of these sports venues, ice hockey venues are fewer and smaller in size, which is the major factor restricting the development of ice hockey in Guangzhou.

Table 1 The Top 7 Sports Venues (in amount) in Guangzhou

Sports Venues











 There are 267 more for basketball games including 174 basketball courts with three players and 93 basketball  rooms.

National Fitness Route







There are another 252 badminton rooms (indoor badminton court) .

Small Playground




City Fitness Trail




Table Tennis



There are another 482 pingpong rooms.

Outdoor Swimming Pool



There are another 153 swimming pools, 6 outdoor diving pools, 4 diving Halls..

TAble 2 The Top 5 Sports Venues ( in Size ) in Guangzhou

Sports Venues

Area(million square meters)











City Fitness Trail



Small Playground



Track and Field



3.3 Lack of Participant, Reserve Talents and Coach

According to the interviews and surveys, the number of Guangzhou hockey participants is about 400, of which half are adolescents and all of them are amateurs. There are only 15 retired professional ice hockey athletes. In terms of coach, Guangzhou has only 10 ice hockey coaches. There are three national ice hockey coaches. However, for other coaches, teaching ice hockey is only their part-time jobs. There are two youth hockey clubs in Guangzhou, the Rachel Lightning Hockey Club and the Glacier Bay Ice Hockey Team.

Compared with the soccer development in campus, the development of ice hockey in Guangzhou lags behind as it lacks training, systematic competitions, and a mature training system for reserve talents. In 2016, Guangzhou established 500 soccer schools, 5,000 campus soccer teams, and 75 Guangzhou-based campus soccer special schools, attracting 50,000 young students to participate in all kinds of campus soccer training and competitions at all levels.

Table 4 The situation of all kind of sport events participating in Guangzhou


Participants Frequencies

Clubs Amount


14.52(million per year)



7.28(million per year)



12.90(million per year))



16.48(million per year)


Ice hockey

(ice skating)

0.10(million per year)


3.4 Lack of High Level Ice Hockey Competitions

As the most competitive and professional sport, ice hockey competition always plays an important role in its development. However, neither regular competition nor league is held in Guangzhou. Every year in May, Guangzhou ice hockey team would participate in Asian international invitational competition in HongKong. Another event is Guangzhou-HongKong-Macau League in October and November. The lack of high level regular competition of Guangzhou ice hockey team results in the inability to increase its level and popularity. Consequently, it is also unable to gain greater market growth or attract new participants.

4. The strategy of ice hockey development in Guangzhou

4.1 To build a set of completed and efficient organization and make scientific developing planning

Firstly, Guangzhou should establish Ice hockey Association and introduce a set of professional management personnel. Association management should be regulated and the organization should be improved to run systematically and scientifically. Secondly, according to the current situation, Guangzhou should make full use of the high-quality resources of its sports industry to formulate a specific ice hockey developing plan including organizational goals, detailed plans, and the best ways to the best results based on several national policies such as Water Sport Development Plan (2016-2025 )and Several Opinions of the State Council on Speeding up the Development of Sports Industry and Promoting Sports Consumption, with the short name ——the policy of No.462014.

4.2 To increase facilities supply and develop ice hockey equipment

The government should accelerate the construction of public ice hockey rinks, encourage foreign and domestic capital to invest in building rinks. The construction planning needs to be based on the flow of people, their actual needs, the level of economic development and marketing development. The economic efficiency of the rinks should be improved by improving their operation efficiency, themarket development status and avoid single profit model. Guangzhou ice hockey enterprises should make use of the advanced manufacturing industries and the area economic advantages of Guangzhou, the "factory of the world", to enhance the ice making technology.

Furthermore, the importance of research on ice hockey industry should be emphasized. More scientific researches on products related to ice hockey field, equipment, ice making, maintenance of ice rinks and other related industries need to be strengthened. Additionally, co-operations between enterprises, clubs and universities with high quality scientific researches in winter sports industry should be promoted to develop the achievements of ice hockey industry research. Also, we should encourage ice rink builders (natural or artificial ice) and the equipment suppliers to support the construction of ice hockey league as sponsors, and work together to cultivate more consumer groups for the hockey market. The Hockey League needs not only both government and business support, but also commercial development and social responsibility in forming a virtuous hockey industry chain.

4.3 To promote ice hockey in school and cultivate ice hockey coach

Making full use of the advanced development of roller skating sports, Guangzhou should build a completed system for ice hockey development and increase its participation in realizing the goal of “transforming roller skaters to ice hockey players”. Guangzhou should also make efforts in training more ice hockey coaches, especially for teenagers, to promote youth ice hockey development. It includes the promotion of campus hockey, the ice sports courses, and the co-operation of primary and secondary schools and the ice stadium or snow sports clubs. On the weekdays, students should be trained in ice hockey on the ground at school, and on the ice on the weekend, making the most of the limited space.

Guangzhou ice hockey association should combine the ice rinks, clubs and schools together, as well as integrating a wide range of resources to make ice hockey better and stronger. Starting with the children, Guangzhou ice hockey development should provide the youths with the professional and exemplary ice hockey teaching. In this case, they would have a great chance of participating in the various youth training programs and events to ultimately achieve an overall improvement of Chinese young ice hockey. The formation of the campus (primary and secondary schools) ice hockey education and league should be formed with the urban amateur hockey league as the basis and the national hockey professional league as the core to create a healthy development system of the ice hockey industry, with the alliance with commercial capital, media, fans and other stakeholders.

Guangzhou ice hockey association could gather domestic and foreign experts to establish the qualification training and certification system for ice hockey coaches learning from the IIHF. Each year, ice hockey association need to invite experienced coaches to open coach training course.

4.4 To establish ice hockey club and attract high level player to construct super hockey league

Ice hockey club plays an important role in the development of ice hockey. Guangzhou ice hockey association should issue preferential policies to encourage social forces to establish ice hockey clubs, and train professional talents to strengthen the ice hockey clubs. Guangzhou ice hockey clubs shoud sign global high level players and coach, and cultivate local players to improve its competition. Ice hockey clubs should not only promote ice hockey and training player, more importantly they are the main factor of high level league.

Guangzhou ice hockey association should construct special ice hockey match, enrich amateur school league, and complete primary league system in order to train youth. Based on the successful experience in hosting big events, Guangzhou could hold tournaments or invite high-level teams to Guangzhou. With the advantage of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Bay Area’s developed economy and convenient traffic system, Guangzhou could create south-eastern super league with foreign countries like Singapore and Thailand.

4.5 To Strengthen the Cognition of Ice Hockey Culture

With the opportunity of Beijing Olympic Games Preparation, Promoting hockey culture through media industry (television, newspapers, internet, urban public space) is encouraged by government and social forces: Primary and secondary education popularize the knowledge and culture of ice hockey; Celebrities in political, sports, entertainment circles actively participate in ice hockey activities; We-media and traditional media increase the report of ice hockey (Ice hockey film, ice hockey Culture Festival, high level ice hockey competition). The purpose is to arouse mass interest in ice hockey, popularize ice hockey culture and to cultivate the population of ice hockey.

Guangzhou, as a developed coastal city, could encourage business forces and associations to introduce and host the high-level worldwide ice hockey competitions in a commercial operation mode. Guangzhou should actively merge into the process of NHL globalization, broadcast NHL games in multiple channels, and introduce hold NHL pre-season games. Meanwhile, Guangzhou needs to promote the localization of ice hockey, develop ice hockey enthusiasts and cultivate the local ice hockey culture.

  • Summary

Ice hockey developing in Guangzhou is still at the primary stage, which is facing many challenges such as lack of facilities and participants. In order to achieve the success of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the government has issued the strategy to promote winter sports, and to introduce 0.3 billion people to participate in winter sports. With this unprecedented opportunity, by establishing complete organization, formulating scientific developing plan, expanding participate population, cultivating youth player and coach, constructing facilities and developing ice hockey match system, Guangzhou ice hockey would achieve a rapid growth.


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  2. NING Wen-Jing & WANG Shu-Hua, Restricted Factors and Countermeasures for the Development of Chinese Ice Hockey Players, China Winter Sports, Vol. 35 No. 6 Nov. 2013
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  5. WANG Fu-quan, Research on Defensive Tactics of China Dragon in Asian Ice Hockey League——Take 2013-2014 season for an example, Journal of Harbin Sport University, Vol. 33 No. 5 Oct. 2015
  6. Nico Kivilahti, Youth Ice Hockey Development in Qatar, 2016
  7. CAO Ke-qiang & XU Wen-qiang, Current Situation         and            Development  Strategy          of Sports Venue Construction in China, JOURNAL OF SHANGHAI UNIVERSITY OF SPORT, Vol. 41 No. 4 July. 2017
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Economy and marketing

in ice hockey





Vladimir Ageev, Senior Consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers Counseling, graduate student of the Faculty of Economics, Lomonosov Moscow State University. Russia



Sergey Altukhov, PhD, Associate professor of Lomonosov Moscow State University, Deputy Director of the Sport Management Centre of Lomonosov Moscow State University. Russia


Ice Hockey in the Metropolis: A Supply and Demand Analysis for Ice Infrastructure in Moscow



The history of hockey was originated in Canada, where in the winter months rivers and lakes were covered with ice, and people could entertain themselves by inventing various competitions for skating and playing on ice. Gradually ice fun has gained increasing popularity in countries with a temperate climate, which helped in the future to popularize ice hockey and scale this game around the world. Evolutionary development processes led to the creation of new organizational formats for competitions – hockey leagues. This decision contributed to the commercialization of hockey and creation of its own special game rules and common technical standards for the infrastructure.

It is the infrastructure that makes ice hockey an expensive and costly sport. Care of sport spectators and providing comfort for them became a decisive factor for the transfer of ice arenas under the roof. At the same time, artificial ice appeared. Further hockey scaling was accompanied by the hockey centers movement to major cities and megapolises with convenient logistics, high-tech services and the new comfortable arenas operation organization. Current multifunctional indoor arenas are not only for hockey, but are constantly operating concert platforms, bringing arena owners and show business representatives high incomes. The hockey audience has also changed. People come to a hockey match in a modern palace not only to cheer for their team, but also to have a pleasant and fun time, relax, have dinner, meet friends, chat. The ice arena becomes the core around which fan zones, numerous retail outlets, places for activities and entertainment of fans are concentrated.

The hockey tournaments’ right holders requirements for the large-scale sporting events preparation are primarily related to the facilities and equipment of arenas, convenient logistics, safety and comfort for athletes, spectators, the press and the guests of the tournament. Therefore, the general trend of hockey popularity, associated with the transfer of major sports tournaments in the megapolises, catalyzed the process of building ice arenas in other major cities.

Moscow has become a major hockey center for a long time and, hosted seven ice hockey world championships. This fact, of course, contributed to the city ice arenas infrastructure development. In this article, we will try to examine if the hockey infrastructure in Moscow is able to meet the increasing demand? Separately, the training conditions of children's and youth hockey representatives, women's hockey and sledge hockey will be considered. We will also conduct a numerical comparison calculation of the aggregate supply and the aggregate demand for Moscow ice areas rental as of the beginning of 2017 year.


Background and literature review

Academic research examining the development of ice hockey infrastructure in modern cities pays great attention to exploring the influence of building new facilities; the researchers suppose that the building of sport facilities is a catalyst for urban and economic development of the city.

D.S. Mason, E.A. Buist, J.R. Edwards, G.H. Duquette (2007) point out that today, cities are facing new challenges within a more integrated and competitive environment, small and medium-sized Canadian cities have to struggle to attract additional cash inflows to boost the economic development of city. Typically, the construction of a new arena for one of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) teams is undertaken under the assumption that new facility can act as a catalyst for economic development of the city. The authors analyze whether publicly funding an arena is an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money. The resources of small and medium-sized cities are limited, so the decision to publicly fund an arena may be at the expense of other development opportunities, for example, instead of building a museum, theatre, art center, etc. The authors find out that the ability of the arena to attract significant amount of visitors depends on whether nearby cities have similar facilities or not.

The research paper by B.P. Soebbing, D.S. Mason, B.R. Humphreys (2015) extends the research of building new sports facilities in small Canadian cities and examines the existence of novelty effects of sport facilities – a brief period of higher attendance after the opening of the new arena. The authors conclude that the novelty effect does exist and during the period of 3-5 years there is an initial boost in attendance and after that the attendance rate declines.

In accordance to this there is the risk of overestimation of projected cash flows that a new arena would generate. It may turn out that these cash flows are not sufficient to cover service debt (in most cases cities pay most, if not all, of the construction cost). For cities, this means either finding additional sources of revenues (for example, raising tax revenue) to pay off the debt or exploring public-private partnerships to help reduce the city’s cost and the taxpayer’s burden of servicing the debt. Modern arenas are multi-use facilities, so it should be considered that the new arena could be used not only for hosting ice hockey games and offering ice rentals, but also for the other events – for example, concerts. In this case the generation of revenues will also depend on arena’s management company efficiency in booking other events beyond hockey.

  1. J. Nauright (2017) is considering countries with massive growth potential for hockey, taking into account such factors as the share of registered hockey players and ice hockey facilities (indoor/outdoor) from the country population. According to both indicators (0.1% and 21/148, respectively), Russia, like the traditional hockey country, has excellent prospects for further development.

The growth and sustained support for hockey players and teams is totally contingent on the number and quality of facilities. In much of the world indoor ice arenas are necessary to sustain the game, and in all regions allow for use year round. As a facility dependent sport, the growth of hockey requires expansion of facilities. In core countries, construction of hockey arenas and commercializing their use are important economic activities. Hockey specific facilities are ideal, though if not in use for hockey, free skating time provides economic growth potential for the facility and for development of skills essential for success in hockey.

In the study of Russian scientists P.G. Grabovyi, R.V. Volkov and S.I. Belyakov (2016) it is stated that at the moment the peoples’ sports objects provision in Russia is at an insufficient level.

The sports facilities provision standards set by the Government of the Russian Federation and the population of the region make it possible to determine the total area of ​​a certain type of sports facilities. And then, knowing the sports facility average area, it is possible to determine the required number of sports facilities of a certain type.

The region sports facilities population provision is determined on the basis of the ratio of the capacity of existing sports facilities to the amount of necessary capacity, calculated using the standard of a one-time capacity of sports facilities (1,900 people per 10,000 population).

As of 2016, the sports facilities population provision reached 30%.

The authors of the article note that in addition to increasing the level of the regions sports facilities provision, for the mass hockey development in Russia it makes sense to introduce a standardized set of special hockey equipment in gymnasiums of general educational institutions, which will allow students not engaged in special hockey sections to join this sport.

Sweden ice hockey team is the reigning world champions. S. Soderman (2017) notes that of Sweden’s 10 million inhabitants, 3.5 million belong to a sport club and 2.4 of those compete regularly. Hockey along with football is the most popular sport. The number of registered players: 55,000 males and 5,000 females.

The Ice Hockey Association is proud to announce that Sweden is the only country which takes care of sports individuals in the age span of 5 to 40. A recruiting campaign as well as a coach education program is developed and launched. There are presently 32 colleges and about 1,000 students/players (boys and girls) following courses.

The 32 Swedish Hockey colleges are important as demonstrated by 400 hours of hockey training per year during three years of education. Besides these 32 main colleges there are some local gymnasiums, these local colleges have 200 hours per year program.

Development of hockey infrastructure in countries where hockey is not the most popular sport is also a red hot issue. The development of hockey in France has its own special aspects. Delorme (2011) notes that the geographical diffusion of the elite structure of ice hockey has been marked by three phases over time: The bi-polar phase (1910-1962): Paris and the Alps region; the Alpine phase (1962-1988) and the “plain” phase (1988-2006). After 2016, this trend was reinforced, with diffusion towards new areas and the setting in major cities in France (e.g. Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice).

Guillaume Bodet (2017) explores the state of the ice arenas in France and concludes that many ice arenas of France are old and publicly owned representing limits for the staging of great spectator services and experiences. The fact the majority of them signifies that they were not created with fan experience in mind and that, from an economic point of view, do not comply with the current professional business model that relies upon significant incomes coming from hospitality services and business boxes. These arenas are generally limited in terms of capacity, which again reduces potential income and does not really allow French clubs to compete on the European level. For many people ice hockey is considered as a winter sport – the fact that it belonged to the winter sport federation during many years contributed to this representation, the winter Olympics and generally speaking the mountain and the Alps region. Consequently, broadening the geographical distribution of the sport in the country will require a change of perceptions from the stakeholders, parents and spectators in particular.

  1. G. Foster (2006) notes that today, ice hockey is an integrated part of society, to construct ice halls is seen as a part of the welfare state. Young Hoon Kim (2017) in his study concludes that quality and quantity of ice objects is one of the key challenges for sustainable growth of ice hockey.

Scientific research related to the development of ice hockey for girls and women is relatively small. But there are very interesting and pragmatic assessments and recommendations based on work experience. Although feminization of sports has occurred in France in recent decades, ice hockey remains a male dominated sport (B. Lefevre and P. Thierry, 2010).

  1. J. Stevens (2017) It is important to reflect upon the state of the game from within – that is for other stakeholders who play the sport but in a different manner than professional men’s hockey, such as female hockey, para ice hockey and other mass forms.

There are many different examples about how to build these areas of the game that may be drawn from women’s hockey. In 1987, Canada hosted the first large women's hockey tournament. During the 30 years since the tournament, numerous hockey federations have developed the women’s and girls’ game via community teams and national programs. But despite this focused effort one key question remains – what will it take to establish a sustainable female hockey system around the world? In order to advance the female game, hockey leaders must not only conform to the established programs and regulations of these sophisticated commercial and high-performance men’s hockey models, but also recognize how to modify the hockey structures and programs in order to generate a “made for women and girls” approach.

The article of I. Baradachev (2017) is devoted to the issues of development of sledge hockey. In his article he notes that this Paralympic sport is taking its first steps in Russia – there are currently only 7 senior teams. The situation is complicated by the fact that none of the ice arenas in Moscow is fully adapted to this sport. From the management point of view, both female hockey and sledge hockey can be considered as new participants in the existing market.

It is interesting to review the experience of managing ice arenas that are owned by the city of Toronto (Toronto, 2016). 8 arenas (11 ice rinks) are managed by The Arena Boards of Management. We should mention that to get additional revenues arenas also have snack bars, pro-shops, and offer meeting room rentals. Some arenas offer dry floor rentals (ex. floor hockey) during the summer.

Administration and operation expenditures including permanent staffing costs and utilities account for more than the half of gross expenditures (56%). Repairs and maintenance expenditures including ice refrigeration and resurfacing costs, and facility repairs is 28% of gross expenditures and specific expenditures such as  purchases for snack bar and pro shop is 13% of gross expenditures. User fees and donations account for 89% of gross revenues and the remaining 11% is sundry and other revenues. In prime time (evening ice times during weekdays and weekends) ice utilization in 7 out of 8 arenas is about 96% that is equal to industry benchmark. In non-prime time (daytime during weekdays) the ice utilization rate is about 60% while the industry benchmark ranges from 25% to 40%.

To measure the effectiveness of The Arena Boards of Management they use the following measures:

“Total Cost Per Hour of Available Ice Time” is derived from the total operating costs of an arena divided by the hours of ice time available to be booked;

"Cost Recovery Percentage" is derived from the total revenue of an arena divided by its total expenditure. Since arenas are city-owned the goal is to generate sufficient revenue to fund operations in order to avoid the need for funding from the city. It should be noted that almost all arenas reach this goal and Cost Recovery Percentage is about 100%.


Case Study

Ice arenas in Moscow are quite notable infrastructure objects. In accordance to official information provided by the Department of Sport and Tourism of Moscow as of the beginning of the 2017 year, there are 58 indoor ice rinks in Moscow, including 5 indoor ice rinks in federal ownership, 35 – in municipal ownership (city-owned), 18 – privately owned. We should mention here that we are talking about autonomous ice rinks, not about arenas, because usually one arena has two, three on even four ice rinks. So, in Moscow there are 46 ice arenas (or 58 ice rinks). But only 45 ice rinks (located at 36 arenas) could be used to host ice hockey game.

Let us consider whether ice supply in Moscow is sufficient to cover the demand for ice rental. Spreadsheet 1 presents the dynamic changes in the number of indoor ice rinks. We can see the trend towards the increase of the number of indoor ice rinks (most of which could be used for ice hockey games and figure skating), on average 2.4 new ice rinks are opened every year in Moscow. Also we should mention an increase in utilization rate – 93.6% utilization rate in 2016 indicates that all ice sport facilities are working at almost full capacity. We should mention here that this data include all 58 indoor ice rinks, while only 45 indoor ice rinks could host ice hockey games. And this allows us to make the assumption that in fact there is a significant deficit in the rental of ice in Moscow.

Spreadsheet 1. The number of indoor ice sport facilities in Moscow







Total, incl.






in federal ownership






In municipal ownership












Utilization rate (in % of full capacity)






It should be noted that the current situation with ice sport facilities in Moscow is unique. Spreadsheet 2 shows the most popular sport facilities in Moscow and their utilization rates.

Spreadsheet 2.  Sport facilities with the highest utilization rates in Moscow in 2016

Sport facility

Number of sport facilities

Utilization rate (%)

Indoor ice rinks



Facilities for shooting sports



Indoor swimming pools



Sports halls



Indoor arenas



Planar sports facilities



All sports facilities



We can see that the utilization rate of indoor ice rinks is the highest and it exceeds the utilization rate of the second popular sport facility (for shooting sports) by 14%. However in Moscow there are 72 sport facilities for shooting sports and only 58 indoor ice rinks. Then goes indoor swimming pools with 75% utilization rate, there are 364 indoor swimming pools in Moscow. We can conclude that there is obvious shortage of ice sports facilities in Moscow.

We observe growth in ice hockey and figure skating participation (indoor ice rinks suitable for ice hockey games also could be used for figure skating). Spreadsheet 3 represents ice hockey participation in Moscow in years 2012-2016. The number of people engaged in ice hockey has almost doubled in the last 5 years – from 85.5 thousand people in 2012 to 160 thousand people in 2016. The number of registered hockey coaches at the same time has increased by 130% – from 230 to 529 people.

There is a negative trend in female hockey participation rate. The number of women undertaking ice hockey has decreased by 21% during the last 5 years – form 1,517 people to 1,194 people.

Spreadsheet 3.  Ice hockey participation in Moscow







Change in the last year (%)

Change in the last 5 years (%)









Incl. women








Number of ice hockey coaches








In figure skating participation we observe a similar trend: growth in participation (by 137% in the last 5 years – from 16.1 thousand people to 38.2 thousand people), increase in number of ice hockey coaches (by 55% – from 182 to 282 coaches). In contrast to situation in ice hockey women’s participation in figure skating is also growing and even at an accelerating rate – by 153% in the last 5 years from 10.7 thousand women to 27.2 thousand women.

Spreadsheet 4. Figure skating participation in Moscow







Change in the last year (%)

Change in the last 5 years (%)









Incl. women








Number of figure skating coaches








Number of ice hockey sports students in schools is 6,937 (including 110 girls), number of figure skating sports students in schools is 3,174 students (including 1,776 girls). Obviously, the development of women’s ice hockey in Moscow is given little attention. Currently only one ice hockey school sport for girls exists in Moscow – Women’s Hockey Team Meteor. There are no ice hockey clubs from Moscow in adult Women’s ice hockey league.

The number of children's coaches in municipal sport schools in Moscow is 141 people (of which only 3 specialize in women's hockey). There are 529 coaches in Moscow, that is, 388 coaches train amateurs or work in private schools. In contrast in figure skating there are 184 coaches in municipal schools sports (out of all 282 coaches in Moscow), that is, only 98 coaches train amateurs or work in private sports schools.

After reviewing the official data of the Department of Sport and Tourism of Moscow, we are going to estimate quantity demanded and quantity supplied in the ice rental market of Moscow.


Aggregate supply

Ice arenas’ schedule is a key assumption to assess the ice supply as at the beginning of 2017 year. We assume that each ice rink operates from 7:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. Obviously this assumption is a kind of averaging. It is known that as there are ice rinks operating around the clock, so there are also those facilities, the working day of which is much shorter.

One more important assumption in our model is that all ice rinks are open all 12 months a year, 7 days a week. We know that some ice rinks (especially built in the Soviet period) are closed for several summer months for ice defrosting and facility repairs, but in the presence of existing restrictions and tolerances, we consider it acceptable to apply the assumption for the year-round operation of each ice rink in Moscow.

As mentioned above, not all officially declared indoor ice rinks are suitable for ice hockey. Accordingly, we will consider our adjusted list, consisting of 45, rather than 58 ice rinks.

Since ice rental is almost always provided on an hourly basis, we will measure ice supply (and ice demand further), in ice rental hours available per year.

Thus, based on the assumption about that all of the 45 ice rinks operate 365 days a year from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., the aggregate supply of ice rental hours in Moscow is 279,225 hours per year as of at the beginning of 2017 year.


Aggregate demand

First of all, we have to determine a few key user groups, which form the quantity of ice rental hours demanded. We identify the following three main groups: professional ice hockey teams and professional figure skaters, children and youth hockey and figure skating schools, amateur ice hockey teams and organization of tournaments of different levels.

Professional ice hockey in Moscow

Professional ice hockey in Moscow at the moment is represented by three teams performing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL): Hockey Club Spartak, Hockey Club Dynamo and Hockey Club CSKA. Each of the teams in the regular season holds 28 home games. Also periodically they participate in a series of playoffs. Suppose that each team on average holds 6 home playoff games.

Also, all three clubs have youth teams performing in the championship of the Junior Hockey League (JHL): Junior Hockey Club Spartak, Junior Hockey Club Dynamo and Hockey Club Krasnaya Armia. However, Junior Hockey Club Dynamo holds its games outside of Moscow – at the Balashikha Arena in the suburbs, and thus, the games of this team are not taken into account in the calculation. At the same time, the Moscow team of Hockey Club Krylya Sovetov also plays in the Junior Hockey League. In the Junior Hockey League in the regular season each team plays 28 home games. The number of home games in the playoffs will also be estimated at 6 games per team.

We should mention here that holding one game in professional ice hockey takes two days: the day before the game (preparation for the game, training of the participating teams) and the day of the game for the whole day, therefore no other events on the ice rink are held on these days. We also assume that two ice rinks are necessary for the game: either for training of both teams or because it is impossible to rent the second ice rink in the arena if the competition is held at the first ice rink by professionals.

Also two ice hockey tournaments among professional teams are regularly held in Moscow: the Mayor's Cup, lasting 4 days, and the Russian stage of the Euro Hockey Tour (EHT), lasting 5 days. We assume that the total number of days necessary for holding these tournaments, when ice arenas where games are held, are not available to third-party users, is 22 days a year. As well as during professional games, both ice rinks are not available during the tournaments.

Thus the total number of hours used by professional ice hockey teams is 14,600 ice hours per year.

Professional figure skating in Moscow

It is quite difficult to estimate the exact number of days in which the ice arenas are involved in organizing official competitions and training for figure skating professionals. Our assumption is that ice skating rinks are provided for the whole working day for professional figure skating 30 days a year and are not available to others. As with professional hockey, two ice rinks located on one ice arena are used to organize training / tournament in figure skating (for warming-up/ training, etc.). Thus, the total time that professional figure skating occupies on ice arenas of Moscow is 1 020 hours per year.

Children and Youth Ice Hockey in Moscow

In total, there are 19 ice hockey sports schools in Moscow: "Belye Medvedi", "Vympel", "Grad", "Dynamo", "Krylya Sovetov", "Marino", "Meteor", "Pingviny", "Rus’", "Severnaya zvezda", "Serebryanye akuly", "Sinyaya Ptitsa", "Snezhnye barsy", "Sozvezdie", "Spartak", "Tsentr", CSKA, "Yantar" and "Yastreby". In each of the schools an average of 9 groups are trained at the same time, and each group has 4 trainings per week on ice, lasting 1 hour. In total, the training sessions take place for 40 weeks per year. Thus, the total number of hours children and youth ice hockey schools use is 27,360 hours a year.

According to official data, the above-mentioned ice hockey schools hold 2,500 games per year with duration of 2 hours each. Thus, the total number of hours to hold the games of children and youth ice hockey schools is 5,000 hours per year.

Children and Youth Figure Skating in Moscow

According to official data of the Department of Sports and Tourism of Moscow, a total of 3,174 children are engaged in figure skating in Moscow. We assume that one figure skating group consists of 15 students, has 3 training sessions on ice per week, each lasting 1 hour, and that the training sessions take place for 40 weeks per year. Thus, the total number of hours used by children's and youth’s figure skating schools is 25,390 hours per year.

About 150 children's and youth’s figure skating tournaments are held annually in Moscow. We assume that holding one tournament takes the whole day on one ice rink. Thus, the total time taken by tournaments of children's and youth’s figure skating schools is 2,550 hours per year.

Amateur ice hockey games

In total there are 4 amateur ice hockey leagues, whose games are held on a regular basis in Moscow: the Night Hockey League, ROSTEH United Corporate Ice Hockey League, the Amateur Ice Hockey League "LHL-77" and the Russian Friendly Ice Hockey League. Each league holds about 1,000 games a year, lasting 2 hours each. Thus, the total number of hours booked to hold the games of amateur ice hockey teams at ice rinks in Moscow is 8,000 hours per year.

Training sessions of amateur ice hockey teams

According to official data of the Department of Sports and Tourism of Moscow, 160,382 people play ice hockey in Moscow. Subtracting from this number the number of children engaged in ice hockey (6,937 people), we get that the total number of adults engaged in ice hockey is 153,445 people. We assume that one ice hockey team consists of 25 players (thus, in Moscow there are 6,138 amateur ice hockey teams), that one team on average has one training on ice per week, lasting 1 hour, and that  training sessions take place for 40 weeks per year. Thus, the total number of hours booked for training sessions of amateur ice hockey teams is 245,500 hours per year.

Training sessions of amateur figure skaters

According to official data of the Department of Sport and Tourism of Moscow, 38,229 people are engaged in figure skating in Moscow. Subtracting from this number the number of children engaged in figure skating (3,174 people), we get that the total number of adults engaged in figure skating is 35,055 people. We assume that one group engaged in figure skating consists of 25 people. Thus, total quantity of groups in Moscow is 2,337, and one group on average has 1 training on ice per week, lasting 1 hour, and that training sessions take place for 12 weeks per year. Thus, the total number of hours booked for trainings of amateur figure skaters on the ice arenas of Moscow is 28,000 hours per year.

Summarizing the data, we obtain that the aggregate demand for ice rental in Moscow is 357,420 hours per year as of at the beginning of 2017 year. Aggregate demand for ice rental among different user groups in Moscow, aggregate supply, their comparison and the resulting deficit of ice surfaces are presented in Spreadsheet 5.

Spreadsheet 5. Aggregate demand, aggregate supply and the resulting deficit of ice surfaces in Moscow, ice rental hours per year

User group

Aggregate demand

Professional ice hockey


Professional figure skating


Training sessions of children and youth ice hockey sports schools


Training sessions of children and youth figure skating sports schools


Games of children and youth ice hockey sports schools


Tournaments of children and youth figure skating sports schools


Games of amateur ice hockey leagues


Training sessions of amateur ice hockey teams


Training sessions of amateur figure skaters






Resulting deficit

78,195 / 28%

The total deficit of ice rental hours supply in Moscow is 78,195 hours per year or 28% of the aggregate supply. Even taking into account all the simplifying assumptions of our model it is obvious that the existing ice provision in Moscow is not enough to satisfy ice surface needs. It should be noted that despite the existing deficit, only construction of new privately-owned ice arenas is expected. Currently, the construction of municipal/state ice arenas is not planned.


Based on the results of the calculations, several important factors affecting its results should be noted:

  1. The above calculation is based on official data provided by the Department of Sport and Tourism of Moscow, which may cause doubts, especially in terms of data on the number of people engaged in a particular sport. The inclusion of more accurate data could lead to a correction of the results obtained, but with a high degree of probability, it would not have canceled the general conclusion that there was a significant deficit in the ice rink rental market in Moscow, which at the moment cannot be satisfied with the available ice infrastructure.
  2. An important factor affecting the magnitude of the deficit is the uneven distribution of demand over time. Obviously, the most popular time are evenings on weekdays and weekends. With some confidence we can assert that practically all ice rental demand of amateur hockey teams falls precisely at this time. While children's and youth schools are mainly interested in daytime on weekdays (except for their games in the mornings and afternoons on weekends).
  3. The calculation above does not take into account ice hockey amateurs who are not included in the official data (for example, student teams), as well as games and tournaments that go beyond the four amateur leagues. So, corporate tournaments / trainings on ice arenas of Moscow can occupy a certain fraction of the time. Also, other non-hockey events that can take place on ice arenas: concerts, shows, corporate parties and other events are not included in the calculation.


Based on the results of the analysis, several important conclusions can be drawn:

  1. All owners of ice arenas currently operate at a loss and obtain subsidies from regional or municipal authorities. It is difficult to talk about the extraction of profit or the project's output at the level of the operational break-even. In this regard, the question of tax incentives (including property tax / land tax) for investors investing their money in sports infrastructure seems appropriate. In Moscow, there are separate tax exemptions for large sports facilities, but a common solution is required.
  2. With ice surfaces deficit that is observed today, a small number of women engaged in ice hockey (less than 1%: only 1,194 girls out of 160,382 people) attracts attention. Representatives of women's ice hockey practically do not have the opportunity to train in Moscow. This may be one of the reasons for reducing the already small number of women engaged in ice hockey (a 21% decrease in the last 5 years). Appropriate measures should be undertaken at the municipal/state level, to change the situation with women's ice hockey in Moscow.
  3. Almost complete absence of any data on sledge-hockey should be pointed out. As it was mentioned before, Moscow's ice hockey infrastructure practically is not suitable for sledge-hockey trainings and games. Given the existing deficit of ice surfaces, it seems that it could be almost impossible for sledge-hockey players to book convenient time slots on the ice arenas of Moscow. Measures at the municipal / state level should be undertaken.
  4. Another significant problem of Moscow ice hockey, that doesn’t have detailed statistics, is the insufficient preparation and training of referees. In total, there are 313 ice hockey referees in Moscow (the official data of the Moscow Hockey Federation); while there are 2,500 children and youth ice hockey games per year and 4,000 amateur league games. Thus, one group of referees (consisting of 3 people) has a minimum of 62 games per year (and this without taking into account professional games). As we can see, there is a major problem of training quality and skilled ice hockey referees.
  5. Taking into account high demand for ice rental from amateur teams, most of which are represented by a medium-income population (hockey is an expensive sport, many amateur teams are either corporate or funded by sponsors), there may be a problem of crowding out children and youth teams with amateurs. And this is also a problem that must be borne in mind.
  6. Despite the continued growth in the popularity of ice hockey, it can be assumed that the construction of new high-quality ice arenas with multiple ice rinks is able to meet demand for ice rental. The current deficit in the market could be covered by construction of 12.6 new ice rinks, that is, 6-7 new ice arenas. On the other hand, the problem of lack of ice in prime-time is likely to exist, even despite the construction of new high-quality ice arenas.


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Daniel Mason, professor University of Alberta, PhD. Canada



Cities, Investment, and the Ice Hockey Dream: Lessons from Canada

Hockey has been an integral part of Canadian communities since the late 19th century. However, the landscape for funding and constructing facilities, and the rationale for doing so, has changed significantly (Mason, Buist, Edwards, & Duquette, 2007). Cities are now interested in leveraging the construction of sports and entertainment facilities, which feature hockey franchises as an anchor tenant, to reach broader urban development aims that have implications for the city’s tourism and economic development, and quality of life in the city (Rosentraub, 2010). As this chapter will show, hockey’s unique ties to Canadian communities provides an opportunity to further these kinds of infrastructure development projects.


History of sports arena development

While many have longstanding memories of skating on outdoor ponds, the reality is that hockey as we know it today has its roots in the club organizations founded in larger urban centres in Canada during the final two decades of the 19th century, and the early hockey entrepreneurs of the first two decades of the 20th century (Gruneau & Whitson, 1993; Mason, 1998; Metcalfe, 1987). The former were responsible for developing and codifying rules and standardizing playing practices, and developing the market for hockey as an entertainment product. Although games were played under the auspices of amateurism, largely by club members of higher social standing, the desire to win and spectator demand for hockey quickly challenged the assumptions of the associations that governed the game. Meanwhile, early entrepreneurs who built and operated rinks in both Canada and the Northern United States recognized the value of hosting games for local residents; thus, the game began to be played in more remote boom towns where local magnates attracted players with outlandish sums of money to play for local teams in cities like Cobalt and Renfrew, Ontario, and Houghton and Calumet, Michigan (Cosentino, 1990; Mason & Schrodt, 1996). The local arena thus became a focal point of local communities where spectators could gather on cold winter nights to watch their teams play (Dryden & MacGregor, 1989).

As commercialized hockey gained a more solid foundation and elite Canadian leagues became professionalized, amateur hockey still thrived in communities throughout Canada, where senior men’s teams were highly competitive. Games played at local arenas soon became the hubs of social activity within smaller communities, where locals gathered to cheer their local heroes on.  Soon, local civic leaders began to recognize the value of building sports arenas to host local teams and attract large audiences within their communities (Gruneau & Whitson, 1993).

Most early sports facilities were built in or close to the downtown cores of cities, where they could be easily accessed. As transportation networks became more developed, facilities were located at or near local rail lines to ease the flow of spectators. However, as cities became more urbanized and land values skyrocketed, it became more difficult for downtown facilities to remain financial viable (Riess, 1995). At the same time, wealthier middle class families began to move out of the downtowns of major North American cities, and amenities like sports facilities began to be built in suburban locations located conveniently close to major highway arteries and the fans who attended the games (Howard & Crompton, 1995).


Arena Development as an Urban Strategy

This process resulted in population declines in many major cities, particularly those that relied on traditional modes of industrial production, resulting in cities with growing metropolitan populations but shrinking inner cities. As a result, urban planners began to revisit the notion of building sports facilities in downtown cores (often brownfields) in order to attract more economic activity and even potentially spur increases in urban populations density (Euchner, 1994). In smaller communities, where arenas were predominantly publicly financed, having a local senior or junior hockey team as an anchor tenant became a means to justify the expenditure and to ensure enough events to make the facility financially viable (Mason & Duquette, 2008). In addition, the presence of a new, state-of-the-art arena and a prominent local hockey team was seen by local leaders as a sign of prosperity that could attract potential residents, visitors, and investors (Mason, Duquette, & Scherer, 2005).

Generally speaking, proponents of building new facilities have argued that there are compelling economic development arguments to using public funds to build arenas. First would be the jobs created in the construction industry and other related industries while the facility was being built. In addition, proponents argued that taxes would increase as a result of new economic activity, especially where tourism increased from people coming from out of the area to attend events at the new arena. Proponents also identified intangible benefits associated with having a new arena. This could be seen in psychic income generated by the hockey team that played there, the increased status the city received by virtue of hosting a team and other events (that they would not otherwise be able to host absent a new arena), and the social capital garnered from having community members gather to watch or even participate in events held in the new venue.

Despite these claims, independent academic research has largely debunked many of the claims proponents make about the benefits of arena construction, which has called into question whether building a new arena for a local hockey team is indeed a wise public investment (Baade & Dye, 1988; Coates, 2007; Coates & Humphreys, 2008). Economic impact studies show that new facilities result in the redistribution and relocation of economic activity within a city, rather than the creation of new activity. This because spending at the new facility is simply spending that would have occurred elsewhere in the city if the facility did not exist. In addition, many economic impact studies commissioned that show substantive impacts make errors, such as ignoring substitution effects (where money is spent on something else in the city), or opportunity costs (what the money could have been spent on in lieu of financing the arena) (Crompton, 1995). Research examining the intangible effects of arenas and hockey teams has found that intangible benefits indeed exist; however, these amounts do not tend to exceed the amounts spent on the facilities themselves (Feng & Humphreys, 2012; Huang & Humphreys, 2014; Johnson, Groothuis, & Whitehead, 2001; Johnson & Whitehead, 2000; Johnson, Whitehead, Mason, & Walker, 2012). This suggests a bargaining imbalance between the teams and the communities they play, which can be explained by the fact the North American leagues artificially keep the number of available franchises low so that cities will compete with one another for the right to host a team.


Changing the Focus

However, much of this research tends to treat arenas as discrete, isolated development projects; as Rosentraub (2010) has argued, this may not be capturing the full impacts that these projects have on the cities they are built in. Instead, the decision to build a new arena should also focus on where the facility is located and what other development should be integrated into the project. In this way, the following questions should be asked: First, where should the economic activity occur and where does the city want people to gather? Hosting hockey games and events brings large numbers of people together, which provides an opportunity to concentrate people in one part of the city throughout the year. Second, what are the city’s infrastructure needs and how does the overall project fit with other community needs? For example is there other infrastructure, such as libraries, art galleries, parks, or transportation network needs that can be addressed along with an arena project?

This has changed the way cities view the importance and value of building arenas. For example, for the recently-constructed Rogers Place, which opened in the fall of 2016 and hosts the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, much of the debate over funding the facility was undertaken in the context of the need to revitalize the city’s downtown core, and the role of the arena in doing so (Mason, Sant, & Soebbing, 2017). In that case, “the team and the facility were, therefore, considered valuable assets as they both increase the attractiveness of the district” (Mason et al 2017, p. 366) that was being proposed by the team owner, who also sought to serve as the developer of the surrounding area.

Thus, it is the role of the arena and local hockey team in contributing to the broader infrastructure development agenda of a given community that has become of greater importance. As explained by Mason, Sant, and Misener (forthcoming), “although built primarily for hockey, these facilities will ultimately succeed or fail on the basis of how they can be integrated into existing civic strategies, influenced by the idiosyncrasies of the communities the arenas are based in” (p. 12). Further recognizing this, some cities have combined the issue of funding an arena with other civic needs, such as recreational facilities and arts and cultural amenities (Carey & Mason, 2014). In doing so, the local community is embedding the need for an arena within broader needs of the community; in this way “decisions are now more driven by the desire to present the facility (and the entertainment events held therein) as part of a much broader bundle of amenities that a city possesses” (Mason, 2016, p. 63). The idea here is that it will ultimately be the cumulative effects of the amenities that are built, not just the arena, that will drive growth in a given community (Clark, 2004). This has changed the view on the role of arenas and the local hockey team in host communities:

Seen in this way, amenities [such as hockey arenas] should not only be considered in terms of how they contribute to any number of specific outcomes (e.g., visitors, business relocations, increased property values, etc.) but also in the context of their broader influence on quality of life: tourists want to visit areas because their lives are enriched as a result of visiting; business want to operate where their employee want to live; people want to live in areas that allow for ease of access to opportunities that includes watching and participating in leisure pursuits; and underprivileged groups desire opportunities within the community and to not be marginalized by projects geared toward attracting wealthy visitors (Mason, 2016, p. 65).

Thus, the decision to build a new hockey arena is now being viewed as how the arena, as an entertainment and recreation amenity, can suit the broader civic needs of the community. Seen in this manner, the arena can contribute to the broader quality of life of residents, and make the local community a better place to live, work in, or visit.


Hockey and Urban Development

The discussion above has addressed some recent changes to how cities have approached arena construction in their respective cities. However, while other cities have used the presence of the sports team as an anchor tenant to guarantee a minimum amount of usage of the facility, in Canadian communities the local hockey team is a very integral and long-standing part of the community. Local hockey arenas have long served as gathering places for residents of Canadian communities, particularly in smaller towns with few other entertainment options during long winter months (Dryden & MacGregor, 1989). Thus, although the local arena and team must be considered in the context of other civic amenities, local communities must also consider how important the team and venue is in the community, because it is hockey.

In a discussion of nostalgia and sport tourism, Fairley and Gammon (2005, p. 192) noted that ‘‘the focus of nostalgic recollections born from sport tourism is not necessarily related to the actual activities engaged in, but to the state of communitas that the experience engenders.” For this reason, the value of the arena as an amenity is tied directly to the sense of nostalgia that members of the community feel as they recall attending hockey games over the years (Mason & Duquette, 2008). In addition entrepreneurial cities have preserved historic buildings and artifacts in an attempt to distinguish themselves from other similar communities (Smith, 2005). As explained by Ashworth and Tunbridge (1990), the notion of heritage allows us to understand how history can be used as a resource for a city. However, it does not appear that, like other historic venues in cities such as historic theatres and movie houses, local hockey arenas have been leveraged for their historic value to local communities:

This would suggest that the experience that fans have, and the draw to the facilities themselves, relates strongly to the popularity of the hockey as a local cultural experience, but the venue itself is not a draw within said cultural experience. Instead, fans are drawn to increased amenities which add to the viewing experience, but are not a part of the nostalgic experience itself (Mason et al 2005, p. 264).

This would help to explain why hockey new arenas have not been built to evoke nostalgia in the community, but still maintain the same continuity in serving as a gathering place to attend games and other events.

However, the fact that the construction of the arenas themselves has not been tied directly to elements of the history of the city and its ties to hockey would seem to be an opportunity, as local cultural assets are becoming key resources for communities seeking to rebrand themselves and promote economic development (Evans and Foord, 2006). Looking at facility development in other sports, it would appear that ties to nostalgia have already been leveraged with facility design and construction. For example, this has led to the proliferation of Major League retro ballparks in baseball that have modern amenities but design elements that recall older facilities from the past (Rosensweig, 2005). This may be even more critical in smaller cities:

While larger cities might have many amenities to choose from, such as sports facilities, aquariums, convention centers, and/or theatres, the decision to publicly fund an arena in a smaller Canadian city may be at the expense of other development opportunities. In other words, the decision to build an arena is at the expense of building another amenity, rather than adding to a menu of existing ones (Mason, et al. 2007, p. 104).

I would argue that this presents a unique opportunity in Canadian cities; while cities leverage the presence of the hockey team in order to attract a specified number of people to a given area of the city (those that attend games during a season), cities should be leveraging the local community’s ties to hockey – its hockey heritage –  to attract more people to a specific part of the city, over and above those that attend events. In order to do so, the arena and surrounding infrastructure must be designed and built to leverage the community’s ties to hockey, not simply hockey’s ability to attract people through hosting games. To do so, overall infrastructure should speak to hockey’s historical roots within the community, and present spaces for consumption that are not confined solely to the actual arena itself.

This will have implications not just for local residents, but also who visit the community, and represents an under-utilized opportunity: ‘‘sports may be an important part of the suite of attractions at a tourist destination, although sports have rarely been conceived and managed as such’’ (Higham, 2005, p. 258). One reason why some cities have not leveraged the presence of the local hockey team in promoting the city has been concerns over a lack of competitive success of the local team – the greater the winning percentage of the local hockey team, the greater attendance at games (Soebbing, Mason & Humphreys, 2016). In other words, there are fears of associating the city with a losing team:

However, by positioning the sporting event as representative of an authentic local experience, the outcome of the game played is less important than the visitor experience. Given hockey’s prominence as a cultural institution in Canada, this could be an ideal way to promote the host community to visitors seeking to experience the local (Mason & Duquette, 2008, p. 1164).

Despite this opportunity, new hockey facilities do not appear to be embracing any historic elements in their design and function. “Facilities built for major junior hockey in Canada have tended more toward functionality, with an absence of nostalgia from the place-experience of attendees” (Mason et al 2005, p, 255). As explained by Mason et al. (2005):

while parents might bundle their children up and take them to the games today, the experience itself is far different. The cold, uncomfortable seats and stale cups of hot chocolate have been replaced by clothed, padded seats and varied menu options, where the arena experience itself bears little resemblance to past years. (p. 264)

Thus, although retro baseball parks have incorporated nostalgic elements into their designs, such as the use of brick and steel and asymmetrical field configurations, this may not be ideal for new hockey arenas. While there are still opportunities to have historic elements, such as organists and painted signs, fans do not necessarily want to have other elements such as the uncomfortable bench seats or cold seating areas that characterized older hockey venues. Based on the success of recent outdoor games, such as the Heritage Classic in Edmonton and the ongoing Stadium Series of outdoor games in the National Hockey League (held in baseball parks or football stadiums), the attraction to the event is based more on hockey’s nostalgic ties to outdoor games rather than the venue itself (Mason et al 2005).

In addition, it is important to note that, while the importance of hockey resonates with many in a local community (Dryden & MacGregor, 1989; Gruneau & Whitson, 1993), the costs of attending events can be prohibitive (Mason, 2016).  When one considers that new arenas should be integrated with other infrastructure development projects in order to be successful (Rosentraub, 2010), that there appears to be less appetite to incorporate heritage elements into the design of the hockey arenas themselves (Mason et al., 2005), and that ties to hockey remain an untapped opportunity to leverage local communities (Mason & Duquette, 2008), it follows that links between hockey and community be integrated into the broader development and not just the arena.

How this will play out in practice will depend to a large degree on what other amenities are integrated into the development. In many cases, new arena projects include retail and office space, and hotel and condominium developments. With these developments also comes a need for public areas, such as parks and meeting spaces. It is these latter amenities that afford the greatest opportunity to further embed hockey’s ties to the community. Outdoor arenas can be built adjacent to the larger arena (see London, Ontario’s skating rink at Covent Garden Market, for example) so that locals do not need to attend events in the main facility in order to enjoy themselves. Similarly, television screens can be installed to project hockey game action within the arena for those gathering outside the venue. This will allow more local residents more opportunity to come and enjoy the atmosphere associated with the game, and to continue to embrace hockey as a communal activity in a city.


As this chapter has shown, North American cities of all sizes continue to develop comprehensive arena-anchored development projects. While the role of these projects in improving quality of life is increasingly acknowledged, hockey’s ties to community remains and under-leveraged opportunity within these developments. As this chapter has argued, there continues to be opportunity to link to hockey’s long-standing association with Canadian communities that hopefully will continue to reinforce the importance of the sport in Canadian society.


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Dongfeng Liu, Professor of Sport Management and Co-Dean of the School of Economics and Management at Shanghai University of Sport, PhD, China.


Ice Hockey Development and Promotion Strategies in China:

What Can we Learn from NBA?

Growth spurt of sport business in China and influx of foreign leagues

In September 2014, China’s central government mapped out the plan of speeding up the sports industry development, boosting sports consumption and promoting public fitness, and declared that Chinese sport business would develop into a market worth RMB 5 trillion (equivalent to approximately USD 815 billion) by 2025. As a result the sport industry in China has attracted massive investment from the private sector ever since. Sports industry is now one of China's most dynamic sectors and has experienced double-digit growth in recent years. According to the data released by the General Administration of Sport and the National Bureau of Statistics, China's sports industry reached a total scale of 1.9 trillion yuan (US$294.1 billion) in 2016, and realized an added value of 647.5 billion yuan (US$100.2 billion), 17.8 percent up from 2015, accounting for 0.9 percent of GDP in the year. In stark contrast, China’s national economic growth has slowed down and increased by 6.7% in same year.

Western professional leagues such as the European football leagues and NBA have flocked to enter this emerging market one after another trying to win the hearts of 1.3 billion potential customers with growing purchasing power.

Ice hockey: an untapped gold mine?

It comes as no surprise that both NHL and KHL the two major ice hockey leagues, are also now rushing to fall in the same step, eager to create success stories of their own in China. There is no doubt that the timing couldn’t be better as China is putting a massive emphasis on developing winter sports with Beijing set to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China is committed to hockey and expects to expand its participation in all winter sports to 300 million people by 2022.

On June 25, 2016, an agreement on the entry of the Kunlun Red Star hockey club into the Continental Hockey League (KHL) was signed. The treaty was signed in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jingping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during the latter’s visit to Beijing. Thus, for the first time in KHL’s history a professional ice hockey club from China in the KHL appeared, and on September 5, 2016, Kunlun Red Star beat Russia's Admiral Vladivostok 6-3 at their home debut in Beijing.

In just half a year on 30 March 2017, making sure not to be left behind, NHL announced a multi-year deal with Bloomage International to bring two preseason Games to China for six of the coming eight years. In January 2017, as another important initiative to raise the awareness of the game, the NHL signed an agreement with Tencent Holdings Ltd., a major Chinese internet company, to broadcast the NHL championships digitally.

Somber reality: the spring for winter sports is yet to come

But for both NHL and KHL, it is going to be a long journey to China, a country where there is little tradition of winter sports for the most part.

While the Kunlun Red Star of the KHL managed to attract 7832 fans to their season opener in Beijing in September 2016, it has to face the somber reality and suffered from low attendance challenges in general. It is reported that the lowest attendance for Red Star on its Shanghai home court is only 550, a new low in the entire KHL history.

With the fear of a low turnout, the NHL took all steps possible to make their maiden China Games well attended, by including strong promotions endorsed by former and current NBA super stars like Yao Ming and Kobe Bryant, as well as providing at least 500 free tickets to university students (Matt DeButts, Los Angeles Times, Sep. 25, 2017). Despite all these efforts, the debut Game in Shanghai attracted 10088 spectators, just more than half (56%) of the capacity of the iconic Mercedes-Benz Arena. Two days later, the second China game held in Beijing, where winter sports are more familiar due to the obvious geographic reasons, saw a bigger crowd of 12759, reaching 71% of the Beijing Wukesong Arena. The low popularity of the Games was also reflected in the tout ticket market. For both games, the highest price category was set at USD200, but at the entrance, tickets of USD200 were offered by the ticket touts at barely USD 60 and USD 15 respectively at Beijing and Shanghai before the games.

In contrast, the NBA has been used to playing its annual China Games to a full house, normally in the same arenas in Beijing and Shanghai where NHL played, even though the prices are ranged between USD 50 and USD 2800, which is exceedingly higher than the NHL games.

The business success of NBA in China is firmly sustained by its massive Chinese fan base built over the years. Its Chinese official website on SINA Weibo (Microblog) attracted 33.8 million followers. While both KHL and NHL were quick to use the social media to reach out to their internet-savvy Chinese fans, their websites on SINA Weibo had only 708 and 169511 followers respectively at the time of writing. The low popularity of ice hockey is also reflected in the number of registered players. According to IIHF, the world governing body of ice hockey, China currently has only 1,101 registered hockey players, including 585 junior players, 222 adult male players and 294 adult female players from a population of more than 1.3 billion.

The NBA’s success in China: it comes from a long journey

It’s fair to say the NBA enjoyed a big advantage when entering China in the sense that basketball had already been one of the most popular team sports in the country, the game was brought by YMCA missionaries to Chinese treaty ports such as Shanghai and Tianjin in 1895, only four years after it was invented in the United States by James Naismith, a Canadian YMCA educator, as a way to keep his students engaged in cold winter. Like soccer, the worldwide popularity and global spread of basketball has a lot to with the easy-to-understand rules of the game with a ball going in a hoop, which translate very well across many different cultures and languages in a way baseball and American football never could. The simplicity of the sport combined with the ease of play makes basketball one of the most popular sports in the world to play, as well as to watch. As a matter of fact, long before NBA came to China, basketball and football were already the two most popular team sports with school kids and adults alike in China, with facilities widely available on campuses. That being said, the success of NBA in China is still the result of long-term, systematic and continuous efforts, which could be seen as a model example of sport export and globalization. Sometimes the kind of popularity enjoyed by NBA in China today makes it hard to believe that it all started with a very humble beginning.

The NBA’s relationship with China dates back to 1979 when the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) played two exhibition games against the Chinese National team at the invitation of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, under whose leadership, the most populous country had just adopted the so-called reform and opening up policy after three decades of isolation from the West (Zhou, 2014). But the formal journey of NBA to China didn’t start until mid 1980s when David Stern became the new commissioner of the NBA. Stern, who took over as the commissioner in 1984 and played that role for the next 30 years, is the master mind of NBA’s global expansion and its successful entry into China (SINA Sports, 2006). Widely regarded as one of the best commissioners in all of sports, Stern turned basketball into a multi-billion-dollar global business (Jeff Zillgitt, 2012). At the time when Stern’s tenure began, the NBA was struggling to find its place on the sports landscape with the domestic market becoming increasingly saturated with the four major leagues. Stern turned his attention abroad and cracking China became one of his first moves of global expansion.

Early days: free mass media dissemination

In 1986, the Chinese national state owned television CCTV aired a recorded play-off NBA Game through a videotape sent from the League by post, which was also the very first NBA broadcast in China (SINA Sports, 2006b).

Three years later in 1989, David Stern came in person to Beijing to visit CCTV, but as he didn’t make any appointment in advance, he had to wait in the winter cold for an hour to finally meet Mr. Li who was responsible for purchase at CCTV. But the talk went very well, and a deal was strike within half an hour between NBA and CCTV. “It was an offer we could not decline, NBA would send us by post recorded telecasts of NBA games for free, and all we need to do is to air them to the Chinese audience!” said Mr. Ren, a CCTV executive recalling that part of history (SINA Sports, 2006b).

Looking back, it was indeed a bold move not without risks, not least because China was a new market so far away and so drastically different both politically and culturally. Economically, China was also very backward, and with GDP per capita at USD 279, the majority of Chinese could barely make their ends met. In addition, the relationship between China and the West led by the US also reached a new low in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square incident. China has also been known to the west as a market full of uncertainties with an opaque environment and all kinds of complicated procedures. The reason why Stern had to wait for an hour to see somebody from CCTV was a reflection of that complexity: it was the time required to go through all the bureaucracies for a state-owned TV to meet a foreign visitor without appointment, and then nobody from CCTV knew who David Stern was.

But it was a wait all worth it. The league established a partnership with CCTV that they would send tape-delay NBA games on weekly basis to be broadcasted in China for free. In exchange NBA would get nothing but a share of advertising revenue, which at first was almost nonexistent. But NBA got much more than that. In the era when China just opened its door to the outside world, almost everything was still in shortage, TV program provided one of the few options for the Chinese to meet their growing appetite for entertainment. Even though it was recorded tape-delay, the games proved to be an immediate hit to the Chinese audience through the dominant nationwide CCTV platform. A growing fan base was built in China slowly through years of media exposure. On June 8, 1994, CCTV broadcasted the NBA Finals live, marking the first time every game of the NBA Finals had ever been carried live in China. (, NBA Timeline)

"CCTV is our longest and proudest partnership, showing five games a week in China currently," NBA China CEO David Shoemaker was quoted saying, "We also have a handful of regional based TV stations like Shanghai Media Group, Beijing TV, Guangdong TV and Chongqing Satellite TV." In 2014, when the NBA held its third Chinese New Year celebration, it reached 116 million viewers with 23 live games played in China (Zhou, April 4, 2014).

Worldwide, along with soccer, basketball has the most global potential, and there were 1.2 billion unique viewers of NBA games worldwide in the 2016 season (Kurt Badenhausen, 2017). Besides TV, NBA is also streaming its games live or on demand in China through new media, and viewership for the digital platform has been growing by double digits annually (Zhou, April 4, 2014). In 2015, NBA’s signed its biggest digital media deal to date — a five-year, $700 million agreement with Chinese internet giant Tencent, which received the rights to 600 games each season (Matt Connolly, 2017).

Recognizing the importance of its fan base in China in 2003, the NBA started offering All-Star game ballots in Chinese, along with Spanish and English, for fans around the globe to vote for their favorite players. (Ty Lawson, 2017)

In addition to the aggressive media dissemination strategy, the NBA took all possible steps to grow its global popularity and enlarge its fan base, ranging from Olympic marketing and international players to exhibition games.

Olympic boost

In 1992, when professional basketballers were allowed to play in the Olympics, the world watched in awe as the NBA’s finest were put into the Olympic spotlight in Barcelona, Spain. Featuring superstars like Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, and winning by an average of 44 points per game, The Dream Team not only easily secured the Olympic gold medal, but also showed the talent and dominance of the NBA to the world (Andrew Hitchcock, 2016). In a country that is crazy about Olympics, the popularity of NBA was further cemented in China.

According to Ravitch, the former advisor to NBA, the NBA's prominence in China underscores a key global branding success: Elite basketball, all over the globe, is synonymous with the NBA. That's a feat no other global league has accomplished. "It's the only league," he pointed out, " The best thing they've done is create a global brand of basketball synonymous with the NBA. There's no global brand associated with soccer. You have national teams, you have leagues, you have FIFA … there are very few sports that are truly global … the NBA is truly unique” (Henry Abbott, 2012).

Local and international super stars

Early 1980s witnessed a growing influx of international players into NBA, as men such as Nigeria’s Hakeem Olajuwon and Germany’s Detlef Schrempf were drafted out of the NCAA (Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff, December 26, 2017). The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that 108 international players from a record 42 countries and territories are on opening-night rosters for the 2017-18 season. And this marks the fourth consecutive season that opening-night rosters feature at least 100 international players and that all 30 teams have at least one international player (, October 17, 2017).

In China, the league also began expanding its marketing strategy to capitalize on Chinese local heroes, and in 1999, the Dallas Mavericks drafted Wang Zhizhi, who made history as the first NBA player from China when he signed with the Mavericks on April 4 of 2001 and played his first NBA game against the Atlanta (, 2004). But the biggest boost for NBA in China so far came from another Chinese player, Yao Ming.

Chinese center Yao Ming was picked up by the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the 2002 draft in New York, becoming the first foreign player to be honored with the overall first-place pick. Commenting on the draft, David Stern was quoted saying, "it's a great and marvelous moment for the Rockets, for the NBA and for the whole world, and especially for China” (, June 27, 2002).

For the next 10 years in NBA, Yao proved that Rockets couldn’t have made a better choice. Yao Ming earned eight All-Star Game selections during his nine-year NBA career, only missing once because of injury. In the first couple of years when Yao was on the Rockets, Houston Rockets' games had an average TV audience of 1 million from the US. But the same game "would regularly attract up to 30 million viewers in China, making the Houston Rockets China's favorite team". As a result, Houston Rockets became a household name in China up to now. It is said that while Yao was with the Rockets it had five to 10 Chinese corporate sponsorships, and those numbers have stayed steady since Yao left because a base has been built and the Yao factor lingers (Zhou, April 4, 2014). Yao himself remains one of China's most recognizable faces in China, and he had led Forbes' Chinese celebrities list in income and popularity for throughout his NBA career. On Feb. 23, Yao, the newly enshrined NBA Basketball Hall of Famer, was elected as the new president of the Chinese Basketball Association, making history by being the first non-government official to lead the sport's national governing body of China.

Exhibition Games

To better accommodate the needs of the ever-growing Chinese fans, the NBA also started to stage preseason China games in the middle of the league’s training camp on an annual basis, despite the difficulties including flying teams over thousands of miles flight and 12-hour time difference. In 2004, the first two China games were played between the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings in Shanghai and Beijing, making the NBA the first American professional sports league to play games in China. Marketing partners for those games included Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Disneyland, Kodak, McDonald's and Reebok. Following NBA Global Games China 2017, 14 NBA teams have played 24 games in Greater China.

According to Shoemaker, the CEO of NBA China, “The two or three preseason games NBA teams play in China every year are "probably the most popular recurring live sporting event in China...always playing to sold-out houses, always to very well-sponsored events, with extremely good television ratings, digital coverage and the like." (Henry Abbott, 2012)

And for the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, it's an opportunity not just to play two games but also to “work on NBA Cares projects, to work throughout the communities, to participate in clinics." (Nick Friedell, Oct 12, 2017)

Global thinking and local acting: the establishment of China Offices and NBA China

Cementing their commitment to China, the NBA opened its first office in Hong Kong in 1992, followed by an office in Beijing in 2002 and Shanghai office in 2004 (, 2004). On January 14, 2008, the National Basketball Association announced the formation of NBA China, a new entity that would conduct all of the league’s businesses in Greater China. Five strategic partners invested $253 million to acquire 11% of the company in preferred equity. The strategic partners are an elite group of exceptionally prominent and successful entities: ESPN, a division of The Walt Disney Company, Bank of China Group Investment, Legend Holdings Limited, Li Ka Shing Foundation and China Merchants Investments. According to David Stern, the strategic investment from these companies will allow the NBA to “continue working with the General Administration of Sports and the Chinese Basketball Association to grow our sport and emphasize, in both rural and urban Chinese communities, its contributions to fitness, healthy lifestyle and an appreciation of teamwork.” (, 2008)

According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, "The idea is just to continue executing on the ground. We have David Shoemaker here, who is the CEO of NBA China. He has roughly 175 people who work for him, mainly here in Shanghai and in Beijing. We do very much similar things that we do in the United States. We work grass-roots with young people. We work with marketing partners. We work with merchandisers. But it's just to keep trying to convince one consumer at a time to enjoy NBA basketball." (Nick Friedell, Oct 12, 2017)

Partnership with the government

Knowing how to work in partnership with the authorities and sport governing bodies is also a key to success in China. The NBA hosted a training tour of Chinese basketball national team as early as in 1985. As part of the cultural and educational agreements between China and the United States, and known as the NBA-China Friendship Tour, the Chinese National Basketball Team arrived in New York in September 1985 for a month-long training and practice against NBA teams (, 2004).

In summer 2004, the NBA teamed up with the China Basketball Association (CBA) to stage their first joint coaching camp. The inaugural NBA-CBA Coaches Camp, presented by McDonald’s, was designed to help improve the level of basketball in China by training the nation’s leading coaches. Six NBA coaches and trainers traveled to China to share their world-class basketball expertise with more than 100 of their top counterparts from around China. The NBA and CBA also produced an instructional video using footage from the camp and distributed free to coaches and players nationwide in an effort to upgrade coaching methods and playing skills throughout China. (, 2004).

Youth program and grassroots promotion: Targeting the next generation it seems that NBA would never stop getting more Chinese to love their games, and among other things, they turned their eyes to the school kids, the future generation of China.

On Oct 17, 2014, a comprehensive multiyear partnership was announced between NBA China and the Chinese Ministry of Education to incorporate a fitness and basketball development curriculum in elementary, middle and high schools across China. The groundbreaking initiative was expected to provide enhanced basketball training to at least 3 million students by 2017. This unprecedented partnership is the NBA's first-ever collaboration with China's education authority and also the Ministry of Education's first partnership with an American professional sports league.

"Under the guidance and expertise of China's Vice Premier Liu Yandong and the Ministry of Education, we look forward to reaching millions of Chinese students through our joint fitness and basketball development curriculum," said Silver. "This partnership complements our long-standing commitment with the Chinese Basketball Association to grow the game in China." (, 2014)

Decades-long efforts paid off

The NBA’s expansion into China is no doubt a huge success in terms of popularity and fan building. The fan numbers from China alone make the NBA arguably the most followed league in the world. The NBA research indicates that approximately 90 percent of Chinese people are aware of the NBA brand. More than 760 million people watched at least one NBA game in China in 2016, and about 120 million Chinese fans follow the league on social media. In Shoemaker’s words, the NBA does “not need to engage in brand awareness campaigns" in China (Thomas Neumann, 2017).

In 2010, after two years of launch, NBA China had revenue of around 150 million USD, accounting for roughly half of the international revenue. While the number may still look small compared with the league’s overall annual income of 5 billion dollars, the league has enough reason to be bullish on the Chinese market to capitalize on its massive China fandom and turn it into real cash in the coming future.

Implications for exporting sports to China: what can we learn from NBA?

The success of NBA in China has been hailed by some as the gold standard for exporting professional sports to the Chinese market. While there is no one size fits all formula for success, as each sport is uniquely different and the Chinese market itself is also ever evolving, there are still things that other leagues can learn from the NBA.

Some of the key implications for ice hockey development in this most populous market would include, but are not limited to:

  • Take a long-term approach and put in continuous efforts. The popularity of NBA in China is a result of decades-long hard work, and it might easily take much longer for either KHL or NHL to crack the market, given the fact of ice hockey being such a minor and relative expensive sport, also literally unknown to the majority of Chinese.
  • Give before you take. If you think you are here to make big money fast through sports, this is the wrong place. Sports business development in China is still in its infancy stage.
  • Media coverage and game broadcasting is still essential to reach out to the market to first raise awareness and arouse interests in the game.
  • Partnership building with Chinese government and sports governing bodies is always important, and in a country where sports development and businesses including professional leagues are still largely controlled by the government, if you can convince the authorities that you here to help by aligning your goals with theirs, you are almost half way there.
  • The development of a sport is always about getting more people play and enjoy the game, and grassroots development starting with school kids is the first step to that end.
  • Capitalize on the Winter Olympic platform. By deciding not to go to PyeongChang in 2018, the NHL missed a great opportunity to showcase the beauty of the game and the league to the Olympic-obsessed Chinese population at their door step in the run up to the 2022 Winter Games, and they could not afford to miss the Beijing Olympics itself.
  • Focus on the first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai first before targeting other cities and regions, especially given the nature of ice hockey being a relatively expensive sport. Yes, China is one country, but it is literally also a continent as diverse as the whole Europe, with a world of difference between the cities and the countryside, and between the different geographic regions. More than half of the 1.3 billion people are still living in rural areas which might be “light-years” behind the metropolitan cities like Shanghai or Beijing in terms of social and economic development.
  • While it’s always hard to find another Yao even for NBA, having star players from local is indeed one of the best ways to convince the parents and their kids that they can make it too!
  • Provide a full array of marketing services and localized quality games including exhibition games and super star tours to engage the local fans. The Chinese consumers are sophisticated and culturally different, so respect them by bringing your best products in their way.



Andrew Hitchcock, March 31, 2017, The Globalization of the NBA, United Language Group website at

Brook Larmer, The Center of the World," Foreign Policy, September 15, 2005.

Henry Abbott, (Feb 14, 2012), The NBA's China Evolution,

Ty Lawson, ( July 21, 2017), Love and Basketball: China's NBA Story,

Matt DeButts, Los Angeles Times, Sep. 25, 2017, China welcomes the Kings and hockey as it tries to stir interest before 2022 Olympics,

Tecent Sports (2017-09-27) The Long Journey of NHL into China

Tom Gulitti (February 2nd, 2017) Capitals owner sees untapped potential of China

Kurt Badenhausen. (2017), The Knicks And Lakers Top The NBA's Most Valuable Teams 2017,

May Zhou, (April 4, 2014), NBA does a slam-dunk in China, China Daily USA, page 20

Matt Connolly, (MAY 8, 2017), The NBA's Asia Takeover Part II: 'A Consumption Habit' Spurred By New Technology,

NBA.Com (Feb 15 2007). CCTV to Celebrate 20th Anniversary of NBA Partnership at NBA All-Star 2007, (Oct 17, 2014) Ministry of Education in China, NBA join forces, (2004) Timeline: NBA's relationship with China over the years, (October 17, 2017) NBA rosters feature 108 international players from record 42 countries and territories, NBA Timeline, (Jan 14, 2008), NBA Announces Formation of NBA China,

SINA Sports (Oct. 25, 2006), ten milestones for NBA’s entry into China in 20 years,

SINA Sports (Oct. 25, 2006b), ten milestones for NBA’s entry into China in 20 years,

Jeff Zillgitt (Oct. 25, 2012 ), David Stern stepping down in 2014 as NBA, USA Today

Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff (December 26, 2017), How the NBA went global, (June 27, 2002), Yao Ming Makes NBA History in 2002 Draft, 

Thomas Neumann ( Feb 23, 2017), Clippers' Paul Pierce on board with China's Jr. NBA program,





John Nauright, PhD, professor of International Sport and Event Management Research Lab University of North Texas, USA




Zachary Beldon, International Sport and Event Management Research Lab

University of North Texas, USA




Hongxin Li, International Sport and Event Management Research Lab

University of North Texas, USA

New Markets for Ice Hockey: Hockey in the Southern United States

Ice hockey has one of the longest and richest histories of all sports (Chauhan, 2013; Altukhov & Nauright, 2017). Despite the sports’ long and rich history, the sport has predominantly been played in cold climate areas across the globe. Within the United States of America, until the 1960s professional ice hockey teams were located mostly in the northeastern part of the country. It was not until after the United States defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games that professional ice hockey expanded into what are considered non-traditional hockey markets based on climatology.  Throughout this chapter, we analyze the history of ice hockey expansion and the impact that major hockey events have had on the sports expansion into non-traditional hockey markets in the USA.


Since the founding of ice hockey in the 1860s, there have been several leagues formed (McKinley, 2009). One of the most well-known leagues is the National Hockey League (NHL) which was formed in 1917 out of the National Hockey Association (NHA) which was founded in Montreal in 1909 (“McKinley, 2009). The NHA is most known for further refining the rules of ice hockey by removing the rover position, redistributing the time of play, and introducing both major and minor penalties. The NHA ceased operations during World War I and following the war, five of the teams joined together to create the NHL (“National Hockey League,” n.d.). On December 19, 1917, four of the five founding teams faced off to ignite the newly formed NHL, with the two teams from Montreal defeating both of their opponents (“National Hockey League,” n.d.). Until 1924, both the NHA and the NHL consisted of solely Canadian teams. On 1 December 1924, the Boston Bruins faced off against the Montreal Maroons, establishing the first professional Ice Hockey team in the United States (Staff, 2008). The following year, the New York Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates both began competing in the NHL and in 1926 three more American teams (New York Rangers, Detroit Cougars and the Chicago Blackhawks) joined the NHL, thus leading the United States to consist of more than half of the teams competing in the NHL (Staff, 2008).

After using the mid-1920s as a decade for the expansion of the NHL, the late 1920s through the early 1940s can be described as an era of trial and error for the NHL. Complicated by the great depression and North America’s entrance into the Second World War, the NHL franchises struggled to stay in operation (Klein, 2016). By 1942, the league was down to six teams, which are now frequently referred to as the “NHL’s Original Six” (Klein, 2016). These six teams, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadians, New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs were the only teams in the NHL for 25 years (Klein, 016; Nauright, 2017).

The NHL expanded again for the 1967 season, which is commonly viewed as the largest expansion of any professional sports league in sports history (Klein, 2016). The NHL added the California Seals, the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues, doubling the NHL from six teams to twelve (Klein, 2016). Throughout the 1970s the NHL continued to expand throughout the United States and Canada (Klein, 2016). Despite the majority of hockey clubs being located in the United States, an overwhelming majority of players were from Canada and Europe (Marsh, n.d.).

With the NHL consisting mostly of teams located in the United States, it is surprising to note that for the most part throughout the history of NHL expansion, there was a drastic difference in where teams were located, with a majority of the teams being located in the heavily populated northern and eastern half of the United states, only two teams located west of Minnesota and no teams located in the southern part of the nation. One of the reasons why the NHL did not expand to the West during the 1970s is due to the formation of the World Hockey Association which was active from 1972-1979 (“WHA-Teams,” n.d.). When the World Hockey Association ceased operations after the 1979 season, the two leagues merged, resulting in the NHL starting the 1980 season with three new clubs located west of Minnesota (“WHA-Teams,” n.d.).

Hockey in the Olympics

Hockey has been played as part of the Olympics since 1908 when England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Germany and France all competed in the London games (“History of Hockey,” n.d.). After making the appearance in 1908, the International Olympic Committee decided that they would make hockey an optional sport that would allow the host nation to decide if they would allow the sport to be played (“History of Hockey,” n.d.). Over the next four Olympic competitions, hockey was played twice (“History of Hockey,” n.d.). Despite the International Hockey Federation being formed prior to the 1924 Olympic Games, the 1924 Paris Olympics did not include hockey (“History of Hockey,” n.d.). However, the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics did allow hockey to be played and hockey has been played in every Olympics since (“History of Hockey,” n.d.).

In the United States, Ice Hockey’s popularity received the biggest increase in fan support following the 1980 Olympic Games, which is commonly referred to as the “Miracle on Ice” (Nauright, 2017). For many Americans, the 1980 Olympics stands out as one of the most defining moments in American sports history (Hanselman, n.d.). The Soviet Union won all but one gold medal in ice hockey at the Winter Olympics between 1964 and 1988.  The one year that the Soviets did not achieve a gold medal occurred during the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviet Union team was ranked number one in the world prior to the games, whereas the United States was ranked sixth.

Entering the 1980 Winter Olympics, the United States and the Soviet Union were still in the heart of the Cold War. There was numerous speculation that the Soviet Union would boycott the Winter Olympic competition, similar to how the United States boycotted the Summer Olympics that same year in Moscow.  With the Soviet Union coming to the Olympics winning four straight gold medals, it came as no shock that the United States was in no way viewed as favorites or even challengers that year, especially after an exhibition game prior to the Olympics which saw the Soviet Union rout the United States by a score of 10-3.  The United States approached the 1980 Olympics with a vastly different approach than the one they had in the previous Olympic competitions. Prior to 1980, the United States competed with professional hockey players, however in 1980 the United States fielded a team of collegiate amateurs to compete against other countries’ best athletes.

The Soviet Union blew through the Group B play in the tournament, winning all five of their games by an average of 7.2 goals. While, the United States managed to win 4 games and tie once against Sweden. Following group play, only the United States, the Soviet Union, Sweden and Finland were left to battle for the Gold medal. The United States faced off against the Soviet Union in the first game, where at the conclusion of the first period, the score was tied 2-2. Leading the head coach of the Soviet Union to be unsatisfied with his goalie, who had won ten gold medals for the Soviet Union, so much that he pulled him out of net for the remainder of the game. When the second period concluded, the U.S. saw themselves behind 3-2. During the third period, the United States scored twice, with the second goal occurring with ten minutes remaining in the game. As the time on the clock ran down, the atmosphere inside the arena was electric (Hanselman, n.d.). Two days later, the United States defeated Finland 4-2 to win the gold medal.  The gold medal in the 1980 winter Olympics, is widely seen as the genesis of the NHL’s expansion throughout the United States and Canada throughout the 1980s and 1990’s into the non-traditional markets.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the NHL further expanded into newer non-traditional markets in the south and western portions of the United States (Nauright, 2017). A non-traditional hockey market is one in which hockey does not play a role in the history or tradition of the market place. Another characteristic of non-traditional markets is that the locations usually do not see significant snow or cold air throughout the calendar year. Therefore, hockey’s success in these non-traditional markets throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s shows that climatology has little to no effect on the success of professional hockey.

Hockey in Texas

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the NHL was in talks with new non-traditional hockey markets while the struggling franchises throughout the NHL were looking for new life (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.). Throughout these times, the NHL desperately wanted to keep an NHL team in Minnesota, which is widely recognized as a hotbed for American hockey, but the owners of the North Stars wanted to relocate the club to California, due to the financial struggles occurring in Minnesota (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.). The NHL front office and the owners of the North Stars reached an agreement that would allow the owners to sell the club to a new owner, Norm Green and receive an expansion team that would be located in California (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.). Following a few years of new ownership, the Minnesota North Stars were still financially struggling to stay in Minnesota and they went out to look for the right market fit (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.). As the decision-making process went on, it became evident that the North Stars were going to have to look at moving towards a non-traditional hockey market (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.). The owners of the North Stars originally looked at moving the club to Phoenix, but could not reach a deal with area leaders. Shortly after Phoenix fell through, the new owners believed that they had reached an agreement with the city of Anaheim to move there, until Disney’s CEO, Michael Eisner, reached out to the NHL about bringing an expansion club to the city (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.). When Green felt like he was out of options, he reached out to Roger Staubach for advice and following their discussion, Green was sold on moving his team to Dallas (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.). The first home game, as well as much of the first season, was sold out and Green was ecstatic as his newly branded Dallas Stars were successful both on the ice and off for the first time in a long time (“Dallas Stars History,” n.d.).

When the Stars first moved to Dallas in 1993, there were only three sheets of ice and four high schools that had hockey teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (Nauright, 2016; Fetchko, Roy and Clow, 2013). The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and surrounding area is home to nearly seven million people, so the Stars are in a great position to help grow the sport of hockey. In order to better attract youth fans and players to the sport, the Stars operate different year-round programs in conjunction with their corporate sponsors (Nauright, 2017). One of the most popular programs that the Stars put on is their “Learning is Cool” program, where school kids are invited to one of the seven Dr. Pepper Starcenters and learn about communication, geography, history and physical aspects of hockey (“Dr. Pepper,” n.d.; Nauright, 2017). Another popular program that the Stars put on is in conjunction with USA Hockey, Dr. Pepper and the Michal Johnson Performance center in which they operate free hockey educational sessions to help introduce the area youth to the sport. As a result of the Stars programming, as of 2016, there are 21 ice rinks and 44 high school hockey teams throughout the DFW metroplex (Nauright, 2017). Through a co-branding strategy between the Stars and their top affiliated minor-league club, Texas Stars, the organization has generated a life-long base of consumers that spans throughout the state of Texas (Nauright, 2017). This co-branding strategy consists of all aspects of amateur hockey in Texas, from branding inside most ice rinks throughout the state, to elite junior hockey clubs being sponsored in some sort by the Stars. Nauright (2017) states that with the growth in youth hockey programs being coupled with a solid fan base the evaluation of the Stars organization increased from $240 million in 2011 to $500 million in 2016 and an average home attendance of over 18,000. Hockey in the DFW metroplex also benefits from the Allen Americans who play in the East Coast Hockey League, ECHL, and who are an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks NHL club (Nauright, 2016). The Allen Americans as of 2017, have won four out of the last five championships of the ECHL, thus expanding the hockey fan base and players (Nauright, 2017).


Hockey in Florida

 Similar to Texas, until the early 1990s, people rarely associated ice hockey with Florida. With the temperature in the state rarely reaching freezing or below, there have been four NHL players that have grown up in the state. Despite the lack of ice and experience, Florida has seen hockey participation since the 1970s. The 1970s brought the first ice rinks to the state, all of which were located in the center and southern parts of the state (Trotter, 2013). These rinks quickly became a gathering place for those who wanted to learn the sport as well as those who were homesick after moving to the state from the norther parts of the country. Trotter (2013), refers to the creation of the first hockey rinks in the state are considered the genesis of what would later become the introduction of professional ice hockey in the state.

By the 1980s, youth leagues started to develop, bringing kids together to introduce and play the game. Parents would drive hours for their child to play a few games during the weekends, pumping thousands of dollars into programs to further promote youth participation (Trotter, 2013). These youth organizations sparked a new generation of both hockey players and hockey fans that furthered the love of the sport within the state (Trotter, 2013). By 1987, these youth leagues branched out into the colleges and universities across the state, with the University of South Florida forming a club hockey team, and in the mid-1990’s the University of Central Florida and Florida State University both also had club ice hockey teams (Trotter, 2013).

Due to the growing popularity the sport in both the youth and collegiate levels, the NHL opted to host the first NHL game in Orlando on September 24, 1989 in the Orlando Arena. Despite it only being a preseason exhibition game, the game had a massive following, with the matchup consisting of the New Jersey Devils and the Minnesota North Stars (Trotter, 2013). This game also saw the introduction of Peristrokia, which allowed Soviet players to play in the NHL and saw three Soviet players participate in this exhibition game (Trotter, 2013). The success of the exhibition game, lead to an increase in speculation regarding future NHL expansion into Florida.

When the NHL began their largest expansion since 1967, Orlando and Miami were considered the front-runners to receive a new franchise, since they were the only cities with arenas that could host ice hockey games (Trotter, 2013). However, without any financial backers in these markets, the Tampa Bay Lightning was awarded the first professional ice hockey team in the state and began their first NHL season in 1992 (Trotter, 2013). The following season saw the NHL award a second team to Florida, this time located in Miami (Trotter, 2013). Both teams saw struggles and successes throughout their early years. Despite seeing poor overall attendance for both organizations, both saw success on the ice. During the 1996 season, both teams reached the playoffs, with the Tampa Bay Lightning setting a NHL attendance record for a single game, with an attendance of 28,183 spectators and the Florida Panthers reaching the Stanley Cup Finals (Trotter, 2013).

Professional ice hockey has proven to be a success within Florida, with only California and New York consisting of more NHL teams than Florida. Unlike other states that have stronger connections with the sport, with Florida rarely ever seeing ice or snow, the state has had to take a very different approach in seeing success. Despite a constant struggle to consistently attract huge crowds to home games, both teams have seen their fair share of success to stabilize the team. 


Cross-ice Hockey

Cross-ice hockey is a modified version of hockey that was invented with youth in mind. Cross-ice hockey was invented in 1976 by George Kingston, but has only recently been adopted by USA Hockey (“What is Cross,” n.d.). Kingston found that when 6-8 year olds played on a full sheet of ice for 60 minutes, they actually held the puck for a very limited amount of time. When he compared it to professional ice hockey, he saw that youth controlled the puck for a full minute less than professional athletes and throughout the entire 60 minutes of playing time, there was only just over 20 minutes of actual play (“What is Cross,” n.d.). Kingston saw that the limited amount of action seen in full-ice hockey for 6-8 year olds was leading to an increase in burnout, so he set out to reinvigorate youth hockey to help further develop kid’s skillset and keep the kids involved in the game (“What is Cross,” n.d.).

USA Hockey adopted cross-ice hockey as part of their USA Hockey American Development Model in the mid-2000’s (“What is Cross,” n.d.). Cross-ice hockey is played across the ice of a full-size hockey rink that is divided into 3 separate rinks allowing up to three games to be played simultaneously (McCarthy, Bergholz & Bartlett, 2016; “What is Cross,” n.d.). Cross-ice hockey is meant for kids ages 8 and under to help further develop their already limited skill set. When youth play cross-ice hockey they have the opportunity to have more time playing and controlling the puck (“What is Cross,” n.d.). An added bonus of playing on a smaller rink, is that the game moves faster leading the players to work and develop their decision-making skills. Cross-ice hockey differs from regular ice hockey, due to the fact that there is no goalie requirement and the refs must drop the puck within 15 seconds of a whistle or buzzer (“What is Cross,” n.d.). With the hockey rink being divided into thirds, this allows for up to 36 players on the ice at one time in an organized capacity leading to a limited number of players just sitting and watching as players have the ability to rotate between rinks (“What is Cross,” n.d.). The added number of players across the ice also helps the youth fine tune and learn new skills from other players. The largest difference between the typical version of ice hockey and cross-ice hockey is that, in cross-ice hockey there are no standard rules, like offsides, proper line changes, penalty shots and proper face-off locations and techniques (“What is Cross,” n.d.). Another limitation early on in cross-ice hockey development was the cost of running the ice rink, but once facilities realized that they could fit more games into the schedule and charge more, they were sold (McCarthy, et al., 2016). While some municipalities across the nation provide cross-ice hockey to kids in their area, not enough do and until cross-ice hockey or ice hockey in general expand into the municipalities’ hockey will be a sport for adolescents and young adults.



The history of Ice Hockey in Texas and Florida are connected almost entirely professional teams. Prior to the Minnesota North Stars relocating to Dallas, Texas, and the exhibition game in Orlando, Florida, ice rinks were a rare commodity inside these states, though Texas ice hockey’s history dates back to the 1920s in Dallas and Fort Worth, though it was played by only a handful of people. However, through the success of professional teams both on and off the ice, hockey has exploded throughout these non-traditional markets. Prior to the early 1990s there were very few sheets of ice across both Texas and Florida, but once professional teams were developed, there has been a rapid expansion of new rinks across these states with more than 60 sheets of ice in Texas and Florida. In fact, due to the success of southern hockey teams, the new owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets has openly discussed with the NHL about placing an NHL team there. Through the efforts of the professional teams and youth hockey associations, ice hockey is expanding throughout these states. Professional teams should get more involved in the push to expand cross-ice hockey throughout these nontraditional markets as there are very few locations and entities that sponsor or event run cross-ice hockey leagues. Future researchers should look at the development phases of ice hockey as it relates to youth development similar to how other sports have development phases throughout youth sports.



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Management, Training and Development of Young

 Ice Hockey Talents



Igor Baradachev, Deputy General Director of the Elena & Gennady Timchenko Charitable Foundation. Head of Sports Program.


How to Make Ice Hockey Appealing for Children:

Experience Gained while Running the Dobryi Led Program

of the Elena and Gennady Timchenko Charitable Foundation

Aiming to win over children for ice hockey we must raise their interest towards this game. In our country this means that we must, once again, make this winter sport popular. Since 2012 and until 2017, I have been involved in implementing a children ice-hockey project called Dobryi Led (Good Ice). Its name reflects our intentions to support ice hockey as a free-time activity, as a competitive team sport, and as a way of raising physical activities levels of both children and teenagers plus improving their socialization skills. Sports federations get involved in developing professional sports, and a private charitable foundation can take on the task of supporting the development of the non-professional children sports. It goes without saying, of course, that some children who participate in the Dobryi Led project may make in the future, a decision to start a professional ice hockey player career. Well, all tournaments that we organize attract representatives of ice hockey sports clubs, which certainly expands opportunities for talented and highly motivated kids.

The Dobryi Led Children Ice Hockey Development Program

During the first year of the Dobryi Led program up to 1000 children took part in its events and in 2016-2017 almost 30 thousand kids participated.

The slogan of our program is “We Make the Sport Accessible.” It defines the focus of our activities: the program is mostly implemented in the provinces of our large country, in its small towns and settlements.

Our program’s mission is: “creating a favorable environment for the development of children and teenage sports (including children with disabilities).”

Program goals

  • Promoting ice hockey and sledge hockey among children and young adults.
  • Raising the number of children in Russian regions that go in for ice hockey.
  • Making ice hockey accessible for children from troubled homes and disadvantaged children as well as those living in towns and settlements far from large ice hockey centers.

While setting up our program we were led by the idea that involving children in sports might resolve important social issues and help each child that does sport acquire certain specific physical and psychological skills which can be useful later on in life. Besides, our program features educational values: as sports competitions, tournaments and festivals are held in various towns around Russia, they involve both competitive elements and those related to career guidance, character building and education.

Working for the most part in Russia’s provinces we can see that, for now, popular, grassroots sports does not get adequate support from any quarters: neither from regional or local authorities, nor from sport federations. Backyard ice hockey goes through hard times. Many participants of our backyard ice hockey teams come from the regions where in practical terms no infrastructure exists for popular sports or for any other wholesome leisure pursuits. Getting involved in playing ice hockey is for such kids the only type of healthy leisure activity during the winter period. They cannot, however, compete with teams from youth athletic centers that are provided with all necessary accessories. Backyard teams have no means at their disposal to go and travel far enough in order to participate in competitions, so they have no tournaments to compete in or they may only get to play with other local teams.

Practically speaking, unpaid grassroots coaches show the level of expertise significantly lower than that of coaches working at regular Youth Athletic Centers, Specialized Children and Youth Sports Schools of the Olympic Reserve and children teams supported by professional clubs. As a matter of fact, they lack basic knowledge of how to conduct training activities with children. Lack of psychological qualifications and low pedagogical skills may lead to conflict situations in the “coach-athlete-parents” triangle that should be resolved.

Playing ice hockey provides children with a wide range of important skills. Such skills are necessary not only in the case when the child would become a professional ice hockey player. It is perhaps even more important that these skills would help him to grow up as a well brought-up person and a good soul being a seasoned professional.

On the individual level we must work with personal motivation and responsibility, with the understanding that the result of the activities will depend on own efforts. Involving the child in the ice hockey activities we will shape his interest in and his need to be engaged in sports, to lead an active lifestyle and behave responsibly in terms of one’s health.

On the team level we must work on creating communication skills and abilities to socialize. Team members develop emotional readiness towards competitive activities. An important skill for the future professional life as a grownup person is both the ability to win and to accept defeat.

We conduct polls, surveys and research in order to refine our approaches to involving children and teenagers.

During one of the tournaments our poll respondents were children and teenagers between 10 and 17 years of age, in all 152 persons.

Research showed that Dobryi Led, our program of developing ice-related sport types for children, has become an important factor in the lives of schoolchildren of all ages, both boys and girls.

An overwhelming majority of those polled noted that Dobryi Led is one of the most important events in their lives and that it motivates them to continue doing sports in the future, in particular ice hockey. Also, children noted that doing ice hockey has a positive effect on the wish to get rid of unhealthy habits.

Main directions for getting kids involved in playing ice hockey as part of the Dobryi Led project:

  • Organizing ice hockey games, tournaments and festivals.
  • Publishing interesting and useful books for coaches and teachers, for parents and the kids.
  • Creating social networks and using interactive communication tools for the ice hockey community. Preparing video clips and managing YouTube channels.
  • Developing, organizing and implementing career development programs and refresher courses for ice hockey coaches so that they get better communication skills for interacting with children and could inspire kids; in other words, nonprofessional children teams could use professional coach resources.
  • Supporting girls who would like to play hockey. Organizing and conducting annual ice hockey tournament for girls.
  • Assisting in developing sledge hockey for children with disabilities. Creating special teams and sport groups for children and teenagers. Developing Children Sledge Hockey League in Russia.

We know with whom we are dealing and to whom our efforts are directed during each phase of implementing our program. This explains why our tournaments symbols are striking characters oriented towards young audience and why we conduct tournaments in the format of sports festivals, with an interactive participation of fans. We create other involving events: for example, putting together puzzles with images of famous ice hockey players, organizing social events with ice hockey icons and other well-known personalities. It is important to keep in mind age differentiation. Timchenko Foundation projects are aimed at children between 4 and 16 years of age, and each of the age groups defines approaches for dealing with it.

If we outline the path for involving children, it would look as follows:

  • Stimulating interest – by conducting sports festivals and festivities, publishing books, organizing social events with ice hockey icons.
  • Create possibilities – our foundation assists with acquiring sport outfit and gear for teams; we also participate in infrastructure projects by helping build or renovate training areas.
  • Create and guide the need to go in for sports and in particular for ice hockey involving both the children and their parents. The sport becomes an important part of family life.

Organizing ice hockey tournaments and festivals

131 tournaments were organized within the framework of the Dobryi Led program over the period of five years and 25 thousand children took part in them.

Since 2016 we conduct the Dobryi Led Cup tournament aimed at children who practice their ice hockey skills out there, in Russian small towns. The finals of this country-wide competition are always held in the major Russian ice hockey centers (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, with Kazan planned for 2018) and an educational program is always prepared for all finals participants in the cities where competition is held. For example, in 2017 the Cup final was held in Sochi from November 27 to 30—many kids came for the first time in their lives to this Olympic center and a tourist destination. More so, the presentation of the Cup’s main trophy was organized prior to the start of the regular Kontinental Hockey League match between HC Sochi and HC Ak Bars. During the first intermission captains of the Dobryi Led participants got their chance for a shoot-out with goaltenders from Sochi and Ak Bars, and after the match the kids got a big surprise: an autograph signing session with the players of the KHL’s ice hockey clubs. This was a striking event that became an additional incentive for the kids to continue playing hockey.

Our program’s special, outstanding feature is organizing single-day festivals: they are festive sports events called I Love My Father, My Mother and My Hockey and they create opportunities for families to compete outdoors. Sport is not only about practice drill, after all, it must become a special, festive event. We organized more than 30 of such festivals over the last two years, and young sportsmen who are invariably enthusiastic about these events bring over their parents, grandparents, their younger siblings who get involved in sports as well. We give particular emphasis to organizing such events: we find such formats that are interesting for children and serve both for developing sports-oriented motivation and for cultivating patriotic values; they also improve team spirit and develop cognitive activities.

Making ice hockey popular with preschoolers

One of the innovative directions in our activities is the implementation of a project for preschoolers called First Steps on Ice. The Timchenko Foundation is implementing this project on the basis of educational facilities of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Oblast, the Murmansk, Pskov and Vologda Oblasts. Due to the undersupply of regular ice for practice drill, the so called “synthetic ice” is used: these are thermopanels or thermoplates which are made from a synthetic material on the basis of polyolefin and used for figure skating, curling, ice hockey, etc. Even though the gliding process upon the synthetic ice is as close to gliding across the real ice as possible, it still has some unique features. The sliding friction coefficient on the surface of the synthetic ice shall not be larger than 90% of that on the frozen ice surface, so official competitions cannot be organized on synthetic surfaces. Yet this quality of the synthetic ice makes it ideal as a surface for providing coaching to the young sportsmen as well as for perfecting certain elements of figure skating and ice hockey. Besides, the use of synthetic ice supports practical usefulness and economic feasibility of such approach for instructing children on how to ice-skate and how to perfect their hockey skills.

Synthetic ice has some advantages:

  • • low cost of installing and maintaining synthetic surfaces resulting in good access for broad segments of the public, especially when working with preschoolers and with children of the primary school age group;
  • • convenience and territorial accessibility for children in densely-populated residential areas, at their place of residence;
  • • confidence and composure for children during the beginning and transitional period of their habit formation;
  • lower sliding speed which makes it easier for the child to acquire basic skills of using ice skates;
  • • smaller count of falls which, respectively, results in a much smaller number of possible injuries;
  • • smaller possibilities of getting cold-related illnesses (dry surface and warm temperatures inside the facility);
  • • lack of significant difference between synthetic and natural ice in terms of acquiring skills and techniques which the kids learn at this stage.

Scientific and analytical support of children and teenager ice hockey

The research and analysis center of the Dobryi Led program conducted during 2013-2017 a survey of over 100 young ice hockey players in the age group between 9 and 14 years, with the aim of discovering their levels of physical health, psychological constitution and human body reserves. Innovative methods of manual therapy (osteopathy and kinesiology) were used during this research, yet with a subsequent verifiable express estimate of each player’s health condition and work capacity.

Psychological tests included analysis of mental processes, psychomotor performance, emotional and personal attributes, level of success in the social adjustment. Thus, both medico-biological, physiological, psychological and social characteristics of their lives and activities were assessed.

While determining the level of general physical development and the level of special physical training such qualities were assessed as strength, speed, speed and strength factors, endurance, flexibility, agility as well as performance status using the data of overall performance coefficient. Also, the status of the musculoskeletal system with young ice hockey players was determined and the changes in their musculoskeletal system specified.

The results of research show that 96% of all persons surveyed feature morphological changes in their musculoskeletal system. Such changes may be considered as medical pre-conditions or as disorders introduced by the specifics of professional occupation.

Data which were attained as part of the study we consider as a basis for developing a standard of coaching activity which would secure the health saving approach in the performance of children’s sports schools and ice hockey groups.

Coach training programs

The coach is yet another important adult person who, apart from the parents and sports idols, will greatly influence the emergence of the desire to go in for sports or to continue doing that. It is quite possible that this is the most important person in the child’s world and that it is the coach who would shape not only the child’s overall sports career and his positive attitude towards practicing sports, but also his principles and attitudes later in life, his style of behavior and his character.

The Timchenko Foundation has been assisting in the professional training of the coaches while putting a special attention on issues that are not only purely sports-related. When developing educational programs for the coaches we keep addressing not only professional skills, but also methodological, educational and character-building activities. If we want the child who started his ice hockey to continue with his training, the role of the coach should not be underestimated: what counts is how charismatic and fair-minded he is, whether he can understand the child’s needs and provide necessary support for him. All that pretty much affects the child’s motivation.

With the assistance of experts whom we invited from various ice hockey schools, including teachers, psychology and physiology specialists as well as other professionals, we have prepared an educational program for the coaches that we have been implementing for five years; we also create specialized publications under the brand Library of Children Ice Hockey Coach. These publications include important methodological materials. To name a few, here are several titles: How To Find Sports Talent in Ice Hockey, Training Goaltenders: Beginning Stage for 7-10-Year-Olds, Psychological Support for Coach Activities When Working with Children.

Social networks

It is not possible anymore to work with children using old-fashioned methods. We know full well that social networks have become the main communication medium for today’s young people. This is why we have been actively developing this direction, creating multimedia product and video content: podcasts with tournament results, video footage of the games, as well as video presentation of tutorials and master classes conducted by well-known coaches and players.

Social networks are an up-to-date, effective tool using which kids will involve other kids. They will tell their peers with their posts and reposts at the Dobryi Led pages of what they have been pursuing most—ice hockey.

Developing children sledge hockey

Our foundation supports the development of the children’s sledge hockey in Russia. This paralympic sport started to take off in our country only recently. Sledge hockey appeared in Europe, yet it experienced high popularity in Canada and in the USA. Today, however, no European country has a full-fledged sledge hockey youth team. The first sledge hockey youth team in Russia and in Europe was created four years ago thanks to the financial support of The Timchenko Foundation. In 2018 Russia has already 6 sledge hockey teams.

Sledge hockey is a special type of ice hockey which can be played by special people, those with special needs and unlimited personal resources, strong in spirit, those who cannot be swayed despite their physical and psychological problems.

There are 6 adult sledge hockey clubs in the Russian Federation today: Phoenix (Moscow Oblast), Yugra (Khanty-Mansiisk), Udmurtiya (Izhevsk), White Bears (Moscow), Hawks (Orenburg), and Bashkir Pirates (Ufa).

Until 2016, Ladoga youth team existed in Russia, the only one in Europe, and it was created with the support of The Elena and Gennady Timchenko Charitable Foundation in 2013. Ladoga took part twice in international competitions: in 2014 it could win two exhibition games with their age-mates from the team called South Jersey Wings Of Steel (USA), and in 2015 it became the bronze prize winner in Division C of annual CruisersCup tournament in Canada.

The Timchenko Foundation has concentrated its efforts on developing the children and youth direction in sledge hockey over the last years, so it was successful in organizing teams in Moscow, Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg, Tula and Krasnoyarsk—this was achieved together with its many partners, first of all with Russian Ice Hockey Federation, Kontinental Ice Hockey League, Russian Paralympic Committee and Children’s Sledge Hockey League.

In summer 2017, the first training camp was organized for kids, sledge hockey players from Russia, Czech Republic and the USA. In 2018, such a camp will be organized once again plus the first youth sledge hockey competition is planned in Russia, with the participation of 6 to 8 teams.


What has sledge hockey in store for both children and their parents?


  • • Regular, age-specific physical and cardio exercise that children need
  • • Workout for thigh muscles and thoracic girdle muscles as well as balancing skills


  • • Aspiring to live and win
  • • Getting confident in one’s social significance, acquiring the habit of being responsible and disciplined


  • • A new circle of friends with a common interest
  • • Team spirit and responsibility for the team result, joint visits, with families, of recreational events and ice hockey matches


  • • Options for participating in festivals, tournaments, training events and camps (including international events)
  • • Participation in major events of “ice hockey for grown-ups” and personal interaction with well-known sportsmen and actors

To close, I would like to point out that an informal slogan of the Dobryi Led program emerged after five years of implementing: “We Are All Different, Yet Ice Hockey Is One And Only!” We have been embracing it every day by involving boys and girls in playing ice hockey, be they from large cities or small towns, from poor families or those with moderate means. We have been providing a chance to play ice hockey for children and their parents, or making ice hockey accessible to kids with musculoskeletal system and coordination disorders. All these activities and our daily work help make our favorite sport more popular.



Julie Stevens, PhD, Associate Professor Department of Sport Management, Brock University, Canada



Hockey’s “Innovation Crisis” and the Need to Develop Hockey Talent

 for the Future: The case of Canadian male hockey



Contemporary sport systems, including hockey systems, reflect an order and purpose that has progressed over time. The evolution of elite international hockey during the past several decades has resulted in a specific form, commonly referred to as the ‘pyramid model’ whereby athletes advance from early sport participation to global sport excellence (De Bosscher, Sotiradou & van Bottenburg, 2013; Green, 2007, 2004). The hockey system follows a similar, fundamental principle whereby the development of players is reduced, over time in a highly deterministic manner to produce superlative high performance and professional talent. But in reality, hockey player development is a dynamic and generative process that requires frequent adaptation in order to truly optimize the talent-performance mix. New practices emerge on a frequent basis as the drive for performance success generate continuous advances in coaching, training and technology.

As a result of this structure versus practice dichotomy, hockey faces an ‘innovation crisis’ as the entrenched hockey system is unable to keep pace with vanguard player development activities. Hence, hockey leaders must ask themselves - how can we develop an adaptive complex player development hockey system for the future? Further, the conditions under which sport policies and programs are formed have become increasingly complex in terms of both the political and socio-cultural context and the formal structure of the sport system (Grix & Carmichael, 2012). Hence hockey leaders and decision-makers must work within a well-established system that has a tendency to confine decision-making at the very time when the need for open dialogue and strategic change has never been greater.

Given this, the purpose of this paper is to address the question of innovation by examining hockey talent development. Literature, particularly work that builds upon De Bosscher, De Knopp, Van Bottenburg and Shibli (2006) about key elite sport model factors of success, provides the foundation upon which to base this discussion. A review and critique of a hockey development system in any country must draw upon an understanding of the central elements that enable the effective management, training and development of hockey talent. This paper relates these central elements to the specific case of Canadian male hockey in order to highlight areas that are most crucial for successful youth hockey development. It is important to discuss this topic from multiple perspectives – that is – the perspective of a hockey federation executive, a hockey club manager, or a coach, who works with hockey talent at many different levels of a hockey system. Hence, the paper concludes with a brief discussion of challenges hockey leaders face and suggests future direction that might reconcile the entrenched and complex structure of a hockey system with the continuously evolving needs of players and coaches, who are the cornerstone of a successful hockey program, be it at a local, national and international level.

Critical Factors for International Sport Success

Green and Oakley (2001) claim that elite sport development models demonstrate both uniformity and diversity. Their analysis revealed a tendency toward the adoption of similar practices that achieve ‘efficiency gains’ for elite sport success among countries as well as indicators of unique elite sport policy characteristics within individual countries. Hockey development systems also vary around the world and their structures both diverge and converge when you compare countries. Further, cultural, economic and political forces influence both the creation and the maintenance of a hockey system, including the youth development system. Hence the question remains – which components of an elite sport system, such as a hockey system, are fundamental for talent development structures and programs, and how might a national hockey federation leaders improve these components in a manner that addresses the unique circumstances of hockey within their country?

A comprehensive framework in which to examine whether a hockey system, no matter the country, may or may not effectively develop, identify and manage talent is the Sports Policy Factors Leading to International Sporting Success” model, or SPLISS model developed by De Bosscher et al. (2006) (see Figure 1). The SPLISS body of research has focused upon the elite sport models of several countries in order to identify commonalities. The result of Bosscher et al.’s work was a model comprised of three components, inputs, throughputs and outputs, and nine key pillars of international sport success. The input compnent includes Pillar one, (1) financial resources, and represents the funding a country invests in elite sport. The output component incorporates the ultimate outcome of an elite sport model – international sporting success.

Figure 1: Pillars for Elite Sport Success as Identified by De Bosscher at al. (2015)


The remaining seven pillars, Pillars 2 to 9, are situated within the throughput aspect of the SPLISS model. The pillars include (2) structure and organization, (3) sport participation, (4) player identification and development, (5) athlete and post career support, (6) training facilities, (7) coach provision and development, (8) international competition, and finally (9) scientific research. According to De Bosscher, Shibli, Westerbeek and van Bottenburg (2015) the characteristics of each pillar are quite detailed. Structure and organization relate to the efficient use of resources invested in an elite sport system which in turn facilitate grassroots, or mass sport participation. Player identification and development deals with the discovery, monitoring and tracking of athletes in the sport system while athlete and post career support direct resources to athletes as they progress through the sport system. Training facilities, coaching and competition are athlete services. Finally, scientific research generates the knowledge to ensure ongoing improvement to all aspects of the sport system.

While there are nine pillars, De Bosscher (2010) and colleagues examined the SPLISS factors according to countries that have demonstrated global success over time, or specific success within summer and winter elite sports. Their intent was to draw particular attention to the pillars that, according to data across several countries, were most critical to elite sport success. Of the original nine pillars, DeBossher et al. (2010) claimed four of the pillars were vital drivers of a successful sport system. These include Pillar 1-financial resources, Pillar 6-training facilities, Pillar 7–top level coaching, and Pillar 8–international competition. However, when uncovering these key pillars the researchers focused upon the national sport policy level as opposed to other levels of the sport system, be they regional or local, and formulated an aggregated summary that considered the collective trends across several sports as opposed to a sport specific breakdown. It is valuable to reconsider the nine pillars in terms of other levels of sport and a within the context of a specific sport. The SPLISS model can serve as a framework to conduct a most focused analysis of one country, such as the work by De Bosscher, Shilbury, Theeboom, Van Hoecke, and De Knop (2011) who examined the effectiveness of elite sport in Flanders over a four-year time period. Hence, this paper draws upon the SPLISS pillars to delve more directly hockey talent development hockey, and more specifically into the male youth hockey level.

Applying SPLISS Pillars to Male Youth Hockey Development: The case of Canadian hockey

As stated above, Pillars 1, 6, 7 and 8 are key to international sporting success and the same can be said for what is key for international hockey success. But what are the most decisive policy pillars for the semi-professional or semi-elite hockey level? For the Junior hockey level? Most importantly, what are the key policy pillars that enable hockey federations, regional associations, and clubs to effectively develop, train and manage young hockey talent? The discussion that follows answers this question through a cursory exploration that applies the SPLISS model to highlight the key pillars for youth hockey development in Canada. By conducting this exercise, it is hoped that researchers and hockey leaders can apply a similar process in scholarly or practical ways, to examine other hockey contexts and generate recommendations accordingly.

Based upon academic and popular accounts of the male youth hockey system in Canada, it is proposed that a different set of policy pillars act as critical drivers for youth hockey development (see Figure 2). These include Pillar 1-financial resources, Pillar 3-hockey participation, Pillar 4-talent identification and development systems, and Pillar 7-coach provision and development systems. It is acknowledged that while hockey systems reflect similar structures and practices, there are cultural differences that can add unique aspects to each of these areas. The key pillars, for the youth hockey system in another country may differ from those recognized here for the Canadian context.

Figure 2: Hockey System Levels and Key Pillars for Talent Development


Financial Resources - Private versus Public Youth Hockey

Elite sport has received high levels of government funding in advanced capitalist societies (Grix and Carmichael, 2012). While this claim also applies to Canada, recent social and economic changes within the country have exacerbated the high performance policy focus and placed the sport-for-all philosophy at risk. Hockey is very – perhaps even too - expensive for the average Canadian family (Pekoskie, 2016a). White and McTeer (2012) found that the effects of socio-economic status were stronger for organized sport involvement compared to informal sport activity across childhood and adolescence in Canada. Baker and Schorer (2010) claimed that elite sport talent identification structures have evolved into comprehensive systems that require considerable financial and human resources to create and maintain.

Within this change context, hockey, or more specifically the opportunity to play hockey, has shifted away from a public good for the masses where universal hockey programs exist in local communities towards a privatized good where the affluent pay for year-long premiere hockey programs. The resultant higher costs make the sport less accessible for children and their families. In particular, the expense of the sport along with the time and cost of travel have been identified as factors that contribute to youth hockey attrition (Armentrout & Komphoff, 2011). Hence, policy pillars for youth development must reduce the financial burden and increase youth access.

Participation – Player Scarcity in Youth Hockey

According to the Hockey Canada 2017 annual report, youth male hockey registration increased 9% from 2011 to 2012, but has remained stagnant since 2014 (Hockey Canada, 2017). While numbers have not dropped drastically, the strain of excessive elitism and the appeal of other, more affordable sports means there is a higher likelihood parents and youth may opt out of hockey. It is important that programs provide opportunities for youth to engage in hockey in a manner that is reasonable and motivating for them. Small town characteristics such as closer access to facilities and greater degree of public support for community programs have been found to prolong youth hockey participation (Imtiaz, Hancock, Vierimaa & Cộté, 2014). The notion of convenient experimentation to try hockey is supported in the literature. Cộté, and Hay (2002) discuss the Development Model for Sport Participation and suggest the first stage of the model, the sampling stage, is important for athlete participation in a late specialization sport, such as hockey. During the sampling stage an athlete is involved in a diverse range of sports and narrow his/her choice later when s/he progresses to the specializing and investment stages. Hence, policy pillars for youth development must address player scarcity by attracting players to the sport and keeping them on the participation pathway as for as long as possible.

Talent Identification and Development – limited athlete pathways

Although there has been a proliferation of youth hockey programs within Canada, the programs predominantly serve the same cohort of competitive youth players because they embrace an elite and/or a competitive format. In this way, the focus upon the same privileged group of players actually narrows access and poses a risk to youth recruitment into the hockey system. Traditionally, youth hockey associations in communities across Canada included competitive and recreation, or houseleague, opportunities. Over time, as the pursuit of individual excellence and a professional or elite hockey career has gained momentum, the minor hockey system has eroded. Fewer resources, such as ice and coaches, are allocated to houseleagues and more time and energy is devoted to the elite level ‘rep’ or competitive players, teams and coaches.

There is also a spillover effect as parents with visions of lucrative professional hockey careers for their child, drive the creation of additional opportunities for their child. The response to such market demand is the emergence of new talent development services, such as private hockey academies and commercial training programs, as well as a marketplace of services that offer advanced training in power skating, shooting, puck control, individual tactics and even team tactics (Pekoskie, 2016b). Further, other hockey forums, namely the school system, have lost the hockey-for-all philosophy that attracted many new or recreational players to school teams and school hockey tournaments. In theory, such an approach appears quite effective. If many pathways develop advanced hockey talent then the pool of high performance players moving up the system towards regional and even national teams, has greater depth and breadth. Unfortunately, the outcome, albeit unintended, is that over time the breadth and depth of players who enter and remain in the hockey development pathway may decline.

One of the greatest limitations of a sport system, particularly the competitive streams that from a local grassroot level to an elite international level, is how the structures eliminate potential talent. In athlete talent identification literature this refers to the relative age effect (RAE). In a study on youth male hockey players, Lemez et al. (2013)   found the highest dropout rates existed among players born in the third and fourth quartiles. Recent research by Steingröver, Wattie, Baker, and Schorer, (2016) examined RAE in North American professional sport and found a significant effect in the National Hockey League where rosters favoured players born earlier in a year, particularly the first and second quaryoles (by June). No significant RAE was found in the three other professional leagues, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, or the National Basketball League. Given the NHL represents the pinnacle of the elite hockey pyramid, the fact it exists in the league shows RAE is an “important constraint on the development of expertise in ice hockey” (Steingröver at el., 2016, 4).

Further, if this is the case in the NHL, then what about RAE in other premiere hockey leagues around the world, such as the Kontinental Hockey League, the Swedish Hockey league, and other leagues in Europe? What is the situation in emergent hockey systems, such as the effort in China to build-out a hockey infrastructure? Does the established structure minimize RAE, and in so doing attract and keep hockey talent in the system for as long as possible, or does it perpetuate RAE, which in turn will exclude hockey talent and constrain the development of players?

It appears that the youth hockey system, as it currently exists, reflect intricate and complex competitive structures at early stages of the athlete development pathway. This circumstance ignores over-whelming evidence that indicates hockey is a late development sport, and that the RAE favours athletes with an early birth date. Overlooking these limitations means the youth hockey system identifies elite talent too early, and incorrectly. Hence, policy pillars must ensure that an athlete development pathway is wide and long in order to include as much young talent as possible for as long as possible.

Coach Development – Coach-for-All versus Coach-as-Entrepreneur

In Canada, player access to quality coaching at the youth level has become more difficult as a greater number of hockey experts charge for training and coaching services rather than act as a club coach for all youth (Marr, 2014). Athlete development is dependent upon an exposure to informed and capable coaching. For example, in a study that included 26 different sports, Voigt and Hohmann (2016) found athlete development was supported by coaches who promoted diversified strategies that enabled athlete late specialization. Based upon research on elite ice hockey players, Soberlak and Cộté (2003) argued coaches have an important influence over the implementation of developmentally appropriate athlete training patterns. Hence, policy pillars for youth development must ensure the competent coaches and instructor are available to all youth hockey players, not just those whose family can afford the expertise.

One final consideration about pillar priorities is that researchers and hockey leaders must recognize there is limited capacity within a hockey system. Regardless of whether the key pillars for youth hockey development are addressed within the context of an international hockey federation, a national hockey governing body, or a hockey club, it is crucial that the pillars are prioritized in the order from the strongest influence to the weakest influence upon the final outcome – long term youth hockey talent. This paper suggests four pillars most critical for the Canadian youth hockey system but what are the pillars for youth hockey development in other countries? The pillars from one country to another may be similar but ranked in a different order, or altogether distinct.


Athlete development in sport is highly complex and multiple models have been utilized to explain the phenomenon (Bruner, Erickson, Wilson, & Cộté, 2010). The purpose of this paper was to provide one perspective of how to develop young hockey talent. Aspects of a comprehensive model for elite sport success (SPLISS) were employed to identify challenges and suggest future direction.  As illustrated in Figure 2, an effective male youth hockey system requires the input pillar of financial resources in order to ensure the sport is within the reach for players of all socio-economic backgrounds and the throughput pillars of participation, talent identification and development, and coaching, in order to enable hockey federations, regional associations, and clubs to build and support a youth hockey base. All four of the pillars influence  the ultimate goal, the output pillar that changes the focus from elite sport success to the long-term development of youth hockey talent.

Despite all the research, De Bosscher et al. (2015) recognize there is no blueprint for international sporting success. However, their research identifies strong relationships between the pillars in their SPLISS model and elite sport success. In addition, they claim the generic key pillars they confirm cannot be indiscriminately applied from one context to another. That is also the case for the key pillars for youth hockey development in Canada outlined in this paper. What may be applied, however, is the analytical process utilized for this discussion. It is hoped that by reading this paper hockey researchers and leaders can apply the same process to continue this dialogue.


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Michael A. Robidoux, School of Human Kinetics University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1N6N5

Yannick Laflamme, School of Human Kinetics University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1N6N5

 Blaine Hoshizaki, Neurotrauma Impact Science Laboratory University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1N6N5

Observational Analysis of Injury Events Across

Minor Ice Hockey in Ontario and Québec (Canada)


Physical activity can have tremendous benefits, however, there are risks involved in participating in sports, especially in contact sports like ice-hockey[3] (Cusimano et al., 2016; American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000). Despite advances in equipment technology and player protection, injuries in hockey continue to be a growing concern for players, parents and league officials (Hutchison, 2011). Specific to Canada, sport injury accounts for 66% of all youth injuries (Lacny et al., 2014). Canadian data suggest that hockey injuries account for up to 10% of the injuries suffered by adolescents (Emery, Meeuwisse, McAllister, 2006), and that injury rates in hockey have increased each year since the 1970s (Molsa, Kujala, Nasman, Lehtipuu, & Airakinen, 2000). Cusimano et al (2016) support this stating: “injuries are common in all contact sports, but those who play ice hockey are at particular injury risk” (p.1). These high injury rates are often associated with body checking and a physical style of play, which is routinely described in the media and in public reports as violent and/or aggressive (Cormack & Cosgrave, 2013; Cusimano et al, 2013).

These characterizations of the sport as violent, aggressive and unsafe have triggered public outcry about Canada’s national winter pastime. The Toronto Star went as far as saying that “the future looks bleak for Canadian minor hockey” (Therien, 2012). In another report by CBC, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was asked to respond to the apparent hockey crisis, to which he replied: “What do you say to parents today who would love their kids to be playing hockey, girls and boys, but they say two things, they say: it’s just too expensive...and it’s too rough. And I don’t mind them playing in leagues where there’s no hitting, but I’m not going to let them go through the potential of serious injury, concussion, what have you” (The National). Interestingly, what none of these reports or studies acknowledge is that according to Hockey Canada’s data, hockey registration in Canada has not been declining, but in fact increasing over the past decade (Hockey Canada, 2017). Hockey Canada’s Annual Report noted a total of 636,539 hockey players (549,614 males and 86,925 females) registered in recreational and competitive hockey leagues in 2015-16 alone (Hockey Canada, 2017). What is perhaps even more disconcerting is the tacit acceptance that hockey in general is a violent and aggressive sport that is unsafe for participants to play. Hockey is played across all ages, all levels and all genders and to associate all hockey with the more aggressive NHL version of the sport misrepresents the diverse ways the sport is experienced by the vast majority of participants. Without wishing to dismiss concerns about player safety, the characterization of hockey as a violent and unsafe sport is not consistent with the two years of observational research our group conducted on all levels of minor hockey in Ontario (Canada) and Quebec (Canada). In this paper we present the results of two years of observational research conducted documenting the frequency, type, and situational factors surrounding injury events in youth hockey across age, gender, skill and rule difference (i.e., body-checking versus non-body checking). The results from this study indicate that injuries are experienced differently across age, gender and skill level, and that rarely was play ever violent or aggressive.



There is inconsistency in sport injury reporting primarily due to the lack of consensus around how injury is defined and how injuries are reported (Noyes, Lindenfeld, & Marshall, 1988). There are two competing definitions, one based on medical treatment, the other, on time lost. A definition based on medical treatment involves players receiving some form of medical treatment (typically a doctor), but does not necessarily miss time as a result of the incident. Time lost definitions, on the other hand, incorporate injuries that result in loss of time from competition and/or training, but do not necessarily require any medical treatment (Brooks & Fuller, 2006). The difference in injury definition impacts the rate of injury being reported, but so too does the method by which injuries are actually documented. There are generally two types of injury reporting practices: (1) retrospective secondary reporting; and (2) prospective voluntary reporting. Retrospective injury reporting relies on secondary data collected from a variety of databanks, such as those established by hospital emergency departments and insurance companies. In contrast, prospective reporting is a primary data collection method, which involves monitoring the injuries participants experience over a period of time.

Retrospective injury reporting is useful because it provides information about large populations over large geographic areas. The injuries being reported, however, need to be quite serious in order for them to receive medical/hospital treatment, or to have an insurance claim filed for them. As a result, it is believed that injury frequency is typically underreported in retrospective studies, capturing only the more serious types of injury. Moreover, relying on secondary injury reports reduces reliability and is limited in terms of information about how and why the injury occurred. On the other hand, prospective reporting provides more detailed information about how injuries are occurring, but generally work from smaller sample sizes, and the results are more difficult to generalize. Despite these limitations, there have been important retrospective and prospective studies conducted on hockey, primarily focusing on injury frequency (Agel, Dompier, Dick, & Marshal, 2007; Forward et al., 2014; Willer, Kroetsch, Darling, Hutson, & Leddy, 2005).

While there have many studies reporting on rates of injury in hockey, very little attention has been paid to the situational factors surrounding injury, which is critical if any type of meaningful injury prevention strategies are to be put forward. In addition, most retrospective and prospective injury studies rely on voluntary injury reporting, which is an obvious limitation since enumeration “is influenced by the motivation of the subject to report an injury" (Twellaar, Verstappen, & Huson, 1996, p. 529). To begin addressing these limitations, the research conducted in this study incorporated a prospective research design that moves beyond voluntary or involuntary injury reporting, and through in game observations documents injury event situations where players receive any form of physical distress.   


The purpose of this study was to compare the types and mechanisms of injury across age and skill level for male and female hockey players in the Ottawa (Ontario) and Gatineau (Quebec) regions of Canada. This paper focuses on data collected from games during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. A total of 141 games (4273 athletic exposures) were observed across all levels of play: 8 initiation program (5-6 years old) games  (218 athletic exposures); 17 novice (7-8 years old) games (433  athletic exposures); 11 atom (9-10 years old) games (330 athletic exposures); 28 pee-wee girls (11-12 years old) games (840 athletic exposures); 27 pee-wee boys (11-12 years old) games (839 athletic exposures); 31 bantam boys (13-14 years old) games (996 athletic exposures); and 19 midget boys (15-17 years old) games (617 athletic exposures). Only teams playing at competitive levels were recruited for this study. Teams were recruited via a combination of convenience (geographic location) sampling, and snowball sampling. All teams that were approached consented to participate in the study. The parameters of the study were approved by the University of Ottawa’s Research Ethics Board.

In order to attempt to comprehensively document injury events, an observational research method was employed. Observations involved watching hockey games in person, as well as video recording them in order to review injury events that might have been missed live. In addition to video recording games, extensive field notes were taken at each game describing in detail the situational factors for each injury event and further descriptive analysis of injury that might be of interest.

Field Observations

           It is virtually impossible for one person to observe all play at all times, thus a team approach to data collection, similar to what was done in Dumas and Laforest (2009), was employed. In order to conduct the research, a team of trained volunteers was assembled to attend games and document on ice play. The team of volunteers was made up of undergraduate students from the University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics. A team composed of three researchers attended each game in both years to provide detailed notes pertaining to all aspects of injury, fill out observation grids to properly categorize injury, and video record game-play. The cameras were stationed in the middle of the ice at the top of the stands to most effectively capture the zone of the ice where the play was occuring. The cameras were located on tripods to facilitate the movement of the camera and stabilize the filming.  Video footage was then downloaded into VLC Media Player Software® where all injuries were subjected to frame-by-frame analysis. By reviewing the video with multiple observers, bias from initial injury reports were reduced and researchers could ensure that all incidences of injury were documented. Data collection ended at the conclusion of the second hockey season.

Injury Defined

This study took a novel approach to reporting ‘injury.’ Working from a time-loss injury definitional framework, an injury event was defined as any observable situation where a player experienced some form of physical distress that led him/her leaving the ice and not returning. Most time loss definitions require a player to leave the game and not return for the next athletic event. Without having access to opponent team players, it was impossible to confirm if players missed the following athletic event. Moreover, the inconsistency in team schedules meant some players had more days off in between games/practices than others, which adds another layer of inconsistency in injury reporting. For example, one team might play the next day, whereas another team may have up to seven days before their next practice/game, which distorts the amount of ‘time lost.’ Therefore, while the injury threshold in this study is low, it provides a more consistent definition that is equally applied to all participants. One final caveat is that even if a player did not leave the game as a result of physical trauma, the event was still documented providing details about how the trauma was experienced and what factors led to the trauma occurring. It is important to note, however, that final injury rates reported here only take into account those situations where players did not return to play.

Data Analyses

The rate of injury was compared by way of Athletic Exposures (AE). Borrowing from Dick, Agel and Marshall (2007), athletic exposure is defined as a player participating in one practice or competition where they are exposed to the “possibility of athletic injury regardless of the time associated with that participation” (p. 174). The number of injuries for each team of the same level was added together and then divided by the number of AE for that particular level, which is consistent with previous studies (Agel, Dompier, Dick & Marshal, 2007; Powell & Barber-Foss, 1999; Turbeville, Cowan, Owen, Asal & Anderson, 2003). Each individual injury was considered to be an independent event, and non-hockey related injuries were excluded from the analysis. Following descriptive analyses, comparisons of rates and characteristics between levels were performed using descriptive statistics.  All statistical analyses were performed using Microsoft Excel 2016 Software®.


Injury by Age Category

The level of play had significant effect on the number of injury events (IE) that occurred over the two year period. A linear progression was observed from the initiation program level up to the highest level of midget, with initiation program at 0 IE/1000AE and midget at 9.72 IE/1000AE) (Figure 1.1). The only exception was at the atom level where there were minimal IE, but fewer games observed which gives the appearance of a higher IE/1000AE. In general, as the level increases, so too do the injury rates, especially at the levels where body-checking is allowed.


Figure 1.1 Total number of injury events and injury rates by age category.

Point of Contact by Anatomical Location

The total number of injury events was broken down by what part of the body was contacted for the physical trauma to occur. Anatomical location was broken down into three parts: Lower body (which includes groin, hip, thigh, and lower appendages); Upper body (which includes chest, back, abdomen, and upper appendages); and Head (which also includes neck) (Figure 2.1 and 2.2). For example, if a player was injured by receiving a puck to the leg, the point of contact would be the lower body. Of the 26 observed injury events, 7 (26.92%) resulted from lower body contact, 4 (15.38%) resulted from upper body contact, and 15 (57.69%) resulted from head contact (Figure 2.2). That is to say, over 50% of the injuries occurred as a result of contact to the head/neck.


Figure 2.1 Total number of injury events by point of contact (anatomical location) across all levels.


Figure 2.2 Overall number of injury events by point of contact (anatomical location).

Mechanisms of Injuries

Mechanisms of injury events were broken down into multiple in-game scenarios: fall to the ice; collision; collision against the boards; collision followed by a fall to the ice; hit by a puck; hit by a stick. Collision, collision against boards, and collision followed by a fall to the ice spiked considerably at the bantam and midget level where body-checking is allowed (Figure 3.1). In total 10 (38.46%) injury events occurred as a result of a collision against boards, 6 (23.08%) from a collision followed by a fall to the ice, 3 (11.54%) from a fall to the ice, 3 (11.54%) from a collision, 3 (11.54%) from a hit by a puck, and finally 1 (3.85%) from being hit by a stick (Figure 3.2).


Figure 3.1 Mechanisms of injury events across all levels.


Figure 3.2 Overall number of injury events by mechanism of injury.

Injury Event by Player Position

A hockey team is composed of forwards, defensemen, and goalies. Forwards received the greatest number of injury, followed by defensemen, and then goalies. Only at the novice and bantam level did goalies experience more injuries than defensemen (Figure 4.1). In total, 17 (65.38%) of the total injury events occurred to forwards, 5 (19.23%) to defensemen, and 4 (15.38%) to goalies (Figure 4.2).


Figure 4.1 Total injury events by player position across all levels.


Figure 4.2 Overall number of injury events by player position.

Injury Event by Period

The time of game in which injury events occurred was also observed, with more injuries occurring in the third period compared to first and second periods (Figure 5.1). Only 3 (11.54%) injuries occurred in the first period, 7 (26.92%) in the second, and 16 (61.54%) in the third (Figure 5.2). Injuries in the third period represent more than a fivefold increase compared to the first period, and more than a twofold increase compared to the second. Overall, more than half of the injury events occurred in the third period.

Figure 5.1 Total injury events by period across all levels.


Figure 5.2 Overall number of injury events by period.


Injury by Ice Location

To determine what part of the ice surface had the highest frequency of injury, injury locations were identified on a map of an ice surface divided into eight specific regions (Figure 6.1). These eight areas are part of two major sections: the perimeter (zone 1,3,5, and 6 on the map); and open ice areas (zone 2,4,7,and 8 on the map). Out of the 26 injury events, the events were equally split into the two major sections with 13 (50%) injury events occurring in these two main areas. 3 (11.54%) injury events occurred in zone 1, 4 (15.38%) in zone 3, 4 (15.38%) in zone 5, and 2 (7.69%) in zone 6 which represent all the injury events that occurred in the against the boards areas. For the open ice areas, 8 (30.77%) injury events occurred in zone 2, 1 (3.85%) in zone 4, 2 (7.69%) in zone 7, and 2 (7.69%) in zone 8 (Figure 6.2). Zone 2, which represents the area in front of the net had the most injury events with 8 (30.77%) (Figure 6.3).


Figure 6.1 Map of ice with eight specific regions.


Figure 6.2 Total injury events by specific ice area across all levels.


Figure 6.3 Overall injury events by specific ice area.


The purpose of this study was to compare, through an observational research design, injury events in minor hockey to determine rates of injury and injury contextual factors by age level. The overall injury events rate combining all levels was 6.08 injury events per 1000 AE, and in general, the injury rate increased by age. These findings are consistent with other studies (Agel et al., 2007; Powell & Barber-Foss, 1999; Turbeville et al., 2003), however, the injury definition utilized in this study had a much lower threshold of injury compared to what is used in traditional injury reporting. Unlike other injury reporting that requires a player to miss the game/practice following the injury event to be considered an injury, this study determined a player to be injured if s/he did not return in that particular game. For example, if a player was hurt in the last two minutes of a game and did not return, that was considered an injury. Of the 26 observed injuries, 8 injury events occurred with under 5 minutes to play, accounting for 30.77% of total injuries. This is an important consideration when looking at overall injury rate, as we were unable to confirm if the players actually suffered an injury or if they simply did not get a chance to get back out on the ice before the game finished. Of these 8 injury events, 3 occurred at the atom level which represents all of the injury events (100%) recorded at this level. Removing these injury events would give a rate of injury of 0/1000 AE, rather than surprising high rate of 9.09/1000 AE. The remaining 5 occurred at the bantam and midget levels and it was unclear if the players remained on the bench as a result of coach selection or if they were injured. Whatever the case, these 5 injury events accounted for 19.23% of total injuries.  And while it cannot be verified if in any of these cases players would have returned to play if there was more time remaining, it does suggest that the injury total might have been even lower if this minimal time loss definition was not in place. Considering this low injury definitional threshold, and the fact that injury rates reported here were consistent with other studies, the overall frequency of injury is lower than what was expected.

The most common form of contact that led to players being injured, was head contact. Contact to the head represented 57.96% of the injury events observed over the two year period. Contact with the lower body represented 26.92% of the injuries, and upper body contact represented 15.39% of injuries. When examining point of contact and injury across age levels, contact with the head was the highest across all levels except for novice. Injury as a result of head contact also increased by age level, with 8 out of the total 15 head injury events occurring at the bantam and midget levels where body-checking is allowed. While it cannot be confirmed if any of these players received concussions as a result of the head contact, there is cause for concern that head injury is the most common injury. Steps to reduce head contact through rule/game modifications and educating players about head safety are already being implemented, but it is clear that further work needs to be done, in particular at levels where body checking is allowed.

Through observational analysis, it is not only possible to document injury rates, but also the manner in which injuries are occurring. In this study, collisions (collision; collision against the boards; collision followed by a fall to the ice) were the leading mechanism of injury, representing 19 of the total 26 injury events (73.08%). The observations provided a more nuanced understanding of injury by collision, however, as collisions involved three distinct factors: 1) collisions might involve body to body contact that causes the injury; collisions might involve a secondary point of contact with the boards which is the source of injury; and 3) collisions might result in a fall to the ice which causes injury. Similar to what is found in Agel et al. (2007), this study identified that contact with another player against the boards (38.46%) was the highest mechanism of injury, followed by contact with another player and hitting the ice at 23.08% of injuries, and contact with another player at 11.54%. Outside of collisions, getting hit by a stick represented 3.84% of injuries, hit by puck 11.54% of injuries, and a simple fall to the ice 11.54%.  The fact that players were receiving most injuries as a result of contact with the boards should not come as a surprise considering the speeds at which players are travelling, and the hard immovable forces that surround them while playing. In non-body checking hockey, it was observed that players generally play along the boards with a degree of caution, and avoid collisions whenever possible. This may be due to the rules that are in place that aggressively penalize contact along the boards, or perhaps the ongoing education regarding safe play, which includes hitting from behind and contact along the boards. Collisions and injury events at this level were typically accidental, with players colliding as they strived to get the puck. At the bantam and midget level, where body-checking is legal, contact along the boards is much more frequent. Injuries as a result of collision and contact with the boards was the result of deliberate contact and assertive play. The injuries were not the result of reckless or aggressive play, but still purposive in that players intentionally hit players into the boards which ultimately leads to higher injury rates compared to non-body checking hockey

The different positions players play in hockey also seemed to be a determining factor in injury. Different positions have different roles and subsequently different travel trajectories. For example, the centre position typically covers more ice than wingers and defense, since the position requires the player to travel lower in the defensive zone to help the defense, but then transition quickly to open ice to receive outlet passes from the wing positions. In Hutchison’s study (2011) analyzing concussion rates by position in the National Hockey League, he expected to see the distribution of concussion by the proportional representation of player postion, with 50% forwards, 33% defensemen, and 17% goalies. What his study revealed, however, was that 65% of the documented concussions were incurred by forwards, 32% by defensemen, and only 3% by goalies. In our study, 17 (65.38%) injuries were forwards, 5 (19.23%) were defensemen and 3 (11.54%) were goalies. What was impossible to determine, however, was if centres or wingers received more injury. This was because players would often switch from playing wing to centre within games, and without knowing opponent teams (those teams that served as the opposition to the teams recruited for the study), player position was at times difficult to verify. The comparison to Hutchinson’s NHL study is interesting as it appears to indicate that the forward position carries with it a higher risk of being injured than defense and goaltenders.  

Finally, when considering at what point in the game players are more likely to be injured, it appears that more injuries occur in the latter stages of the game. 61.54% of all the injury events happened in the third period, decreased in the second (26.92%), and were even more infrequent in the first (11.54%). This trend was consistent across all levels, but was even more pronounced at the bantam level. As stated earlier, these results may be partially skewed due to the time loss injury definition. Some of the events may not have been documented as injuries if there was more time in the game for players to return. Taking this into consideration, there might be other factors that contribute to a higher injury rate in the third period. For example, as players get more tired as the game progresses, they might be more vulnerable to injury, either in terms of protecting themselves against falls or collisions. Fatigue may also play a role in decision making; as players fatigue they might be prone to taking more risks when making plays, and risking their own and opponents’ safety in the process. Another factor might be a heightened level of competition that often occurs towards the end of close games and players battle to determine the outcome of the game. The play typically intensifies which might compromise safety, making players more susceptible to injury. In combination, fatigue and increased competitiveness are likely factors contributing to an increased rate of injury in the final period of play. 



There are certain limitations to this study that must be acknowledged. Because of the observational research design, the sample size is smaller than other secondary injury reporting studies. The smaller observational design, however, allowed researchers to observe injury events as they occur in situ which larger secondary injury reporting studies are not able to provide. Second, a team approach to data collection was required to cover the amount of games observed in this study, which did lead to inconsistencies when documenting injury. To help reduce bias, all game video footage was reviewed by an independent viewer to confirm whether injuries did or did not occur. A third limitation was not being able to get information about the injuries, both in terms of diagnostics and time lost. Using the minimum threshold of injury as not returning to play for that particular athletic did provide consistency in injury reporting, but more information about the actual injuries would have been beneficial. Finally, only one level of female hockey was observed over the two years, making comparisons between male and female hockey difficult.. Only so many games could be covered with the number of researchers on our research team, but it is clear more observational research is required to compare injury between the predominantly male minor hockey leagues and female hockey, and between levels of play in female hockey.


Concerns about safety in youth hockey have been openly expressed in public and in academic circles.  Sport injury literature continue to report that the prevalence of injury in hockey remains high at both the grassroots and elite levels. Much of this injury reporting, however, utilize injury reporting methods that provide very little about how and why these injuries are occurring. Retrospective secondary reporting conducted by accessing emergency department and insurance claim records have lacked contextual details surrounding injury.  Prospective voluntary reporting has improved on this by providing limited descriptive details, but without actually being in the field observing the injuries in context, the impact of this research is limited.  Similarly, voluntary reporting practices do little in the way of providing information about what is causing injury, let alone providing accurate data about injury rates due to the tendency for underreporting.  Studies with large sample sizes are generally privileged in scientific research, yet these studies are unable to provide the micro-analysis available in smaller quantitative and qualitative studies, as was conducted here.

The comprehensive prospective observational approach utilized in this study proved to be effective in understanding injury frequency, but also how and why injuries are taking place. Based on the observations from this study, hockey is not the violent/dangerous sport it is often portrayed to be, and injuries are not occurring as a result of violent or aggressive play. In fact, very few injury events occurred throughout the two years of data collection. The study accounted for only 26 injuries for 4273 athletic exposures and 141 games across all levels from the initiation program level to the midget level. Despite the relatively limited amount of injury documented over the two period, it is disconcerting that 15 (57.69%) of all the injury events occurred as a result of head contact. Considering what is known about the devastating effects of brain trauma, in particular on the developing (children and youth) brain, increased efforts are necessary to reduce head contact.  More research documenting the frequency and types of head contact in minor hockey needs to be conducted if appropriate steps are to be taken to help mitigate this contact from occurring.


We would like to thank Hockey Canada and the four partnering hockey associations for their participation in this study: Ottawa District Minor Hockey Association, Ottawa Girls Hockey Association, Ligue de Hockey Preparatoire du Québec and L'Association de Hockey Mineur de Hull for their participation in this study. We wish to thank the 20 volunteers from the University of Ottawa who assisted in collecting data over the course of the season. We also wish to thank CCM Hockey and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for funding this research.


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Innovative Solutions, Advanced Technologies and New Products in Ice Hockey




Alexander Martynov – general director of Iceberg company


Artificial Intelligence at work in Hockey Industry

“The best hockey technology i’ve ever seen in my life”.

René Fasel, IIHF President


The New View of the Game - Computer Vision

Our system uses optical tracking technology, data-gathering, interpretation and analytics. Our team of professionals shoots panoramic video of every game with our proprietary system of three cameras.

The cameras are static and cover the whole field. Every tenth of a second our object tracking computer vision algorithms gather the puck and player positions of both teams, then computer automatically identifies the objects. If the object leaves the viewing range our long-term tracking system predicts the position of the object based on the historic data and the trajectory. The systems registers player movements, speed, actions, plays and more. This is the best way of data gathering in such a fast sport as ice hockey.

Our system encrypts gathered data and uploads it into Microsoft Azure secure cloud for storage and processing. Later those data are used for interpretation and analytics with help of NVIDIA’s cutting edge GPU processing technology, such as expected goals, successful zone entries, passing mistakes and so on. These data are later presented in a simple table: Game -- Period -- Time -- Event -- Coordinates.

The Power of Objective

The main problem in youth sports is coaching staff bias. A coach can ruin child's sports career, perhaps the next Ovechkin can be overlooked due to bias and coaches’ physical limitations.

So the system of tracking needs to have an objective view and that's where our system comes into play. ICEBERG system is not biased, it gathers and analyses over a million data points for any given game. We interpret and analyze all those data, then present coaches with an easy to read, intuitive, convenient online reports, not just mere spreadsheets. These reports allow coaches to discover and track strengths and weaknesses of their players, as well as provide pointers for further development of each player. Each year hundreds of players go through youth hockey schools and academies and most of them drop out because of coaches lack of time and resources for tracking and evaluating each of those players. A great example is Nikita Kucherov of Tampa Bay whose talent was underestimated by youth coaches because of lack of objective data.

Vertical integration

Our analytics integrates all the way from the youth academies to the professional leagues and national teams.

For this integration to work our system should be integrated all the way from tracking the 10 year olds to the professional players. Such system is currently being integrated into the professional Hockey Federation of Tatarstan.

Ak Bars Academy is using Iceberg Analytics in order to build a full-fledged system of player training from the youth to the stars of Ak Bars and KHL.

Success Stories

One of our first clients, Växjö Lakers, after beginning of use of our product, won regular season of 2016/17, but lost play-offs. However, with the help of our analytics, made some changes and won 2017/18 SHL regular season and the play-off series with only 1 loss out of 13 games, beating in semifinals their last year opponents Malmö Redhawks.

Another great client of ours, Ak Bars took third place in regular KHL Eastern Conference series of 2016/17 losing to Metallurg by 4-0. But in 2017/18 season Ak Bars took first place in their Conference and later won Gagarin Cup after losing only 3 out of 15 games.



We, at ICEBERG Sports Analytics, believe that only through the use of modern game analytics teams can achieve record results and develop not only separate clubs, but the industry as a whole, while building a completely new objective player evaluation and development system.




Bruno Marty, Executive director, winter sports Infront

Ice Hockey, Television, Internet: New Opportunities for Cooperation and Growth of Popularity of International Competitions


The media landscape is evolving and traditional media remains strong

No need here to state the obvious: the media landscape is changing, and fast. However, it is important to repeat that:

Even though digital is taking more and more space, especially in the discussions, traditional media remains the fundamental driver for rights holders, both in term of revenues and exposure. The biggest impact is on marketing, where advertising spending is shifting fast on digital platforms. Adidas does not spend money on TV ads now, only digital. More than 50% of advertising budget are now in digital in some markets. However, TV remains extremely strong in term of media rights value.

Digital is not killing traditional media. It is making them better. Promoting live TV, and offering better experience around the sport, things that TV can simply not do. This is therefore a perfect complement of TV. Digital promotes TV, offers TV a second life and makes it more accessible. In addition, it offers opportunities that were simply not possibly before: networks and access to broadband makes it possible to consume content everywhere, when and how people want. This is an amazing opportunity for ice hockey to reach its communities.

Traditional media was about one-way broadcast communication. Digital allows two-way conversational relationships. That makes it possible to reach more people because people can come to you. You can engage with them, create loyalty and learn from them. This allows you to create long-term bonding. With the diversification of direct to consumer channels, you therefore diversify revenue streams. You do not have TV and marketing anymore. You have now TV (stable), marketing (declining) and any new digital touchpoints (growing: web, app, OTT, fan sites, branded content, etc.).


This new paradigm allows people to jump into discussions, rise their voice, concerns, critics, suggestions. They want that we listen to what they have to say. They are not passive anymore and want to engage with rights holders, content, sports. The fast change in term of technology allows them to do just that. This was never that easy. Broadband connectivity allows everyone to be connected. Mobile devices allow people to be connected anywhere. Finally, applications and platforms empower those everywhere-anytime connected people to participate into the conversation. This raises their expectations in term of content, in term of discoverability. Their expectations are far higher because they are exposed to far more content that before, their attention is the new value, and they can go to the competitor far easier than before. This is the new consumer.

The "new consumer" is giving way to mega-trends in the media landscape

Generation C means Generation Consumer. Again, we can see a shift from one-sided broadcasting information to engage in a two-way relationship. You need to give your consumers what they want because they are social, always connected, and networked. They are on their mobile and do not pay attention to normal ads. They have low attention span and need to be interested in what we propose to them. This is not a captive audience anymore. This is a consumer audience, with high expectations and a level of information that was never available before. This new profile of consumer, connected, with high expectations and level of information, sophisticated and with low attention span available, leads to the three following mega trends, each one a consequence of the fact that there is far more competition to reach those people (once again, in the past passive broadcast, TV was a monopoly. Now they want to engage and have far more options):

Fish where the fish are: They consume content on a multitude of platforms. All on mobile. TV is far behind. They want to consume on apps, with their friends. Sharing is an important part of what they do. Again, they want to be able to consume wherever they want and how they want. You therefore need to publish content wherever the audience is and where they expect to receive content. You need to be everywhere, on all platforms. In the past, it was TV. Now it is TV, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, website, apps, Apple TV, Playstation and more. Even certain territories host their own set of communities/platforms.

For example, in Russia, and are more popular than Facebook. In China, the landscape is completely different. We can even say that in digital, you have the whole world except China. China is having its own technology framework, with its own platforms and internet players. Tencent and Sina are the main telcos. YouTube becomes YouKu. Amazon becomes Alibaba (Alibaba is almost at the capitalization of Amazon), Twitter becomes Sina Weibo, and Tencent Weibo. OTT is super advanced since commercial TV did not exist. This went from CCTV directly to consumer through digital, where mobile is far more advance in China as well.)

The audience is completely fragmented and we need to offer her what she wants where she consumes. Content MUST be tailored for every platform. This cannot be the same copy pasted. This does not work and people see it and run away.

You need to offer what they are interested in. Content should be tailored to what and how they consume. You keep the articles and reports for the website. But short stories and data driven information for social platforms for example. We need to be able to know the people you talk to. If it is a community around skills, then provide them with videos around training, how to improve skills, get to know their favorite athletes, teams, and make content that resonates with them. Login inside an application and notifications respond to that trend. You push content that is of interest at a certain time. This drives the engagement. People then come back because they know you offer them what they are interested in when that matters for them (quick clips, or near live clips from their team in a competition they follow). They come back, you increase the engagement. You build a community and you control it.

However, TV is still very strong. Here the idea is to explain how digital can enhance the TV experience. On mobile, notifications about your best programs, etc.

A strategy approach to the changing landscape

In order to achieve something in digital. We need to follow 3 steps:

  1. Increase the reach:

Wider your audience. Add touchpoints. Talk to more people, create more content for more people. Reach out to fans, but also to people practicing, teach them how to get better. Offer content to any kind of person related to the sport. Use some influencial people and ask them to share content. You do not need to build from scratch. If a community already exists, just engage with it.

  1. Increase the engagement (define as interaction with a piece of content: view, like, comment, reaction, share):

Once you increased or are increasing the reach, the most important thing to do is to encourage people and give them reasons to stay with you (like any business you want to build loyalty). We want to have them spending time on our platforms. This is where fan data comes into play. We need to understand what is interesting, what is driving visits, views, time spend, segment by segment, and adapt the offering depending of the insights we get.

Fan data, itself, has value. But the most value is that this gives you incredible insights on what people like, want, expect. This can help you to make better content, increase the reach (because you know who wants it) and engagement (you know what they like and give those more of that). This also gives you information on what should be sent to whom, and when (for example that newsletter on your birthday with the products you like, or offer that is relevant only to you). Again, since this is now a two-way communication, you need people to engage and talk to people, answering their questions and advising them. The idea is that everything we do should have the biggest impact in order to maximize engagement and make sure the most people see, share, react, buy what we do. If done well, this leads to monetization.

  1. Monetization:

If you have a large audience that is engaging with you, you can place ads against this audience (what traditional media has been doing already for a long time). Here you can place targeting advertising to create more value for your advertisers. As you know your audience, you can target exactly the relevant segment.

For example: Pirelli wants to reach males interested in ice hockey and premium cars. We can target those people and this is far more efficient than physical advertising. On digital, you can measure the impact immediately since everything is trackable. Without reach or engagement, it is impossible to monetize. Brands want volume and/or high time spent. You can deliver both with an accuracy never achieved before. You can tell Pirelli how many males that like ice hockey and premium cars saw their ads, clicked on it, etc.

Another way to monetize is by subscription or any other service that is of enough value for people to pay. Digital can deliver more values since you can track (vs. objectives and KPIs) everything and value conversion or cost per mile (CPM: how many people clicked on something, that led to a purchase for example). This is easier to report to a brand, and easier for them to measure the success, compared to "10 million people watched TV", which does not tell them anything in term of efficiency, and if their segment was reached.

Infront is leading the pack in digital. The IIHF case – from 2014 until 2017

These are the numbers when we started the digital joint venture with IIHF, after Belarus, compared to after the 2017 IIHF WM in Cologne and Paris.

What we did:

We increased Reach:

We produced a lot more content. We had live streaming and highlights in 2014, we produced more than 200 clips in 2017. We increased the volume of content on all platforms, and fished where the fish are: we opened a account to engage with the Russian speaking audience. Major success. We opened a snapchat account to engage with the younger audience. We tailored our content for each platform. We did more; we fragmented our offering by making sure underserved communities were receiving something they wanted. We live streamed the Division 1. We created content for non-fans, for core fans and extended the platforms with fantasy and prediction games.

We increased Engagement:

On top of producing more, and fragmenting that volume to the right outlet, we made everything possible for people to come back as often as possible. We productized the content (1 episode at the same time every day, top 3 every evening, morning daily recap, Olga), we made voting platforms (re-using existing content), contest, games, all initiatives that make people stay longer on the platforms. We made community management, directly talking and answering to the fans. We collaborated with GoPro to give new angles in our stories. We created a fantasy game, and prediction game, which engage people during the three weeks, and rewarded them with tickets, jerseys, Tissot watches etc. We did some live streaming of interviews, social content. Finally we hired in 2017 2 people to create social content onsite, which had massive impact on the engagement figures.

We started to monetize:

Thanks to the work done by producing and offering more content to different channels, we were able to make a deal with GoPro and Krusovice. Krusovice was interested because we could reach the audience on, with competition footage. They wanted to increase awareness of their brand and "royal" values. We made a package with them, ensuring a good reach on their segment (east European thanks to and YouTube) while setting up engagement module recycling that content (vote for the best goal presented by Krusovice) We made a deal last year with Tissot and Thalys. Tissot wanted to capture fan data, so we created a voting platform, on which they could have a chance to win a watch by entering their personal data. Tissot wanted to increase the reach of their newsletter and traffic to their e commerce site, which we helped them to achieve.

Here are the results:

Reach: video views, followers, data collected

Engagement: traffic on mobile, engagement, fan data

Monetization: 0 before, 175'000 CHF generated

Terminology of the terms:

*Video Views - Platforms: YouTube: Number of times that a video was viewed, more specifically how many have clicked a link that began playing the video. Facebook: Number of times the video was viewed for 3 seconds or more. Twitter: Number of times the video was viewed for 2 seconds or more, VK: Number of times that a video was viewed

**Engagement - Platforms: Facebook: amount of post clicks, reactions, comments, and shares;

Instagram: amount of likes and comments; Twitter: amount of clicks, replies, likes, retweets; YouTube:likes, comments, dislikes, VK : likes, comments and shares 

[1] Average annual growth rate calculated by the authors on the basis of data published by the French Ministry of Sports. data available at:

[2] Penultimate in the ranking for single-sport Olympic federations with 0.2% of the total number of membership holders.

[3] To be referred to as hockey from this point forward.


WHF will get together hockey, business and government representatives and also the experts of international hockey industry


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