Hosts China face possible exclusion from Olympic ice hockey

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The mascot for the Beijing Olympics 'Bing Dwen Dwen' may not get the chance to cheer for the hosts in the ice hockey arena (AFP/NOEL CELIS)
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China face possible exclusion from the ice hockey tournament at next year's Beijing Winter Olympics in spite of being hosts because of their "insufficient sporting standard".

"This question really arises for the men's team, not for the women's team," Luc Tardif, the new president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), told AFP on Monday.

"There are going to be games for the China team that will be overseen by an IIHF official and a decision will be made afterwards.

"Watching a team being beaten 15-0 is not good for anyone, not for China or for ice hockey."

A decision will be taken "by the end of the month" of October, said Tardif who was elected to the presidency on Saturday.

As host nation, China has an automatic qualification for the Beiing Games but they are only ranked 32nd in the world and have not played any matches since 2019.

Drawn in Group A of the men's tournament, China would find themselves up against Canada, the United States and Germany, teams that would likely thrash the Chinese.

"If it is not possible for China, we need a plan B and it will be (decided) by the 'ranking' of Norway", said Tardif.

Norway are the top nation not qualified in the ranking (11th) among those which competed at the end of August in the second of three Olympic qualifying tournaments.

- 'On track' for the NHL -

Tardif also said plans to have NHL players, including stars Connor McDavid and Alex Ovechkin, at the Olympics are "in good shape".

"We have an agreement in principle from the NHL," said Tardif. "We must now finalise with the NHL players' association and other stakeholders.

"The devil is in the details. There is a shared desire, everyone wants it."

The NHL gave its agreement in early September to arrange a break in its regular season from February 3 to 22 to allow players to make the trip to China.

That was not the case in 2018 when the Games were held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

On that occasion, and contrary to a routine it had held since 1998, the NHL decided the regular season would have been too disrupted and there was little benefit in promoting the game in South Korea.

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