China to host NHL exhibition games in run-up to 2022 Winter Olympics

(refiles to fix sign-off) BEIJING, March 30 (Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) will stage two annual exhibition games in China from this year as it looks to build interest in the sport among the country's 1.3 billion people ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics to be hosted by Beijing. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Thursday at a media conference in Beijing that the league's Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks would play pre-season games on Sept. 21 in Shanghai and on Sept. 23 in Beijing. The NHL is the latest major sports league looking to tap the vast China market, following the National Basketball Association (NBA), which has a large fan base in the country, and European soccer teams. (Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Tony Munroe; Editing by Peter Rutherford)