Hockey Night in… China?! Beijing gets a KHL franchise

With all the talk about the NHL moving into yet another non-traditional market in Las Vegas, I came across this interesting news. The Kontinental Hockey League officially confirmed this week they are placing a team in, of all places, Beijing, China. That’s right, folks. The expansion team will be known as the Kunlun Redstar and begins play in the 2016-17 KHL season. 

In fact, this has been in the works for several months and there had even been rumors back in March that Ilya Kovalchuk might join the team next year. That rumor ultimately proved to be bunk, just like all the Steven Stamkos free agency rumors also turned out to be bunk. (Too bad, Toronto Maple Leafs fans, he’s staying put in Tampa Bay.)

I don’t know how this KHL move will turn out. China has always struck me as being far more of a basketball country than a potential hockey market. On the other hand, Beijing gets cold in winter, the same as elsewhere. And if anyone checks out the map, China actually borders on hockey-mad Russia, so it’s not as outlandish an idea as it seems. 

I also read that the KHL might even put a team into South Korea, too. Kudos to the KHL for looking to grow interest in the sport of hockey in Asia. At the very least, this might drum up hockey interest in time for Beijing’s turn hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022.