Not one but two women’s teams from China, Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays will be making their debut in the CWHL this season (2017-2018). They both play out of Shenzhen. KunLun Red Star is also the name of the Chinese men’s team who are part of the KHL. Vanke Rays are part of the Chinese ice hockey league. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out considering that China is not known for producing many hockey players, male or female. Apparently each team consists of approximately half Native Chinese players and half non-Chinese (mostly Canadian or American) players.
Honestly, I can’t imagine the Chinese teams being even remotely competitive. Here are a couple of articles that give an overview of the rosters of Vanke Rays and Kunlun Red Star. Jessica Wong, formerly on the Calgary team, is an Asian Canadian player of Chinese ethnicity who is on the Red Star roster this season. Other North American players of Asian descent on that team are Melanie Jue, Maddie Woo and Rachel Llanes.
I think when one sits down and thinks about it, it seems like a troubling decision for a league that has been slow and steady in its growth. The cynic would say that introducing new teams, let alone China of all places, is premature considering that even CWHL isn’t financially viable enough to pay its players a decent salary. In fact, this will be the first season that the players will get paid an actual salary. The optimist might say it’s definitely a bold experiment and even if it fails it will be a step towards improving the hockey talent outside of Canada and USA.
Les Canadiennes will play against the Kunlun Red Star for the first time at the Bell Centre on November 11, 2017. Les Canadiennes won’t play against the Vanke Rays until January 27, 2018.