The Canadian Women’s Hockey League held a major press conference on Monday where the league announced a sixth franchise and bold plan: the CWHL expands to China. Kunlun Red Star is the latest addition to the CWHL, that features teams in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Boston, and Brampton.
CWHL Expands to China
The Red Star have already announced two significant signings: Finnish goaltender and former Olympian Noora Raty, and US Olympian, and former Boston Blade, Kelli Stack. The pair were in attendance for the press conference. League Commissioner Brenda Andress, as well as Phil Esposito were also in attendance. Esposito is an advisor to Kunlun Red Star.
The league’s newest team, and first foray into foreign markets provides an interesting opportunity to expand hockey into Asia. KRS will play out of China, and as such each team will make the trip East to play three games. KRS will be making several trips to North America over the course of the season.
.@KRedStarWIH will play in Shenzhen as part of a new 30 game league schedule. Team will be built through CWHL draft.
— Joe Pack (@JoePack) June 5, 2017
The travel requirements does pose an interesting question: how can a team who doesn’t pay it’s players, afford to send them to China? Andress noted that there would be partnerships and sponsors, but according to The IceGarden’s Joe Pack, there was an entry fee to joining the league.
Xiaoyu Zhao, chairman of the board of directors for KRS, said they paid a kind of fee to join CWHL but that deal was mutually beneficial.
— Joe Pack (@JoePack) June 6, 2017
The league still does not pay it’s players, and it’s unclear if the per diem some teams provide their players will be extended to cover the addition costs of travel.