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The KHL is expanding to China

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Already featuring teams from several countries, the KHL is about to add a team from China to its ranks.

Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

The plans to add China to the KHL expansion are going ahead.

It was in December, 2015 that it became known that the KHL was looking into expanding into the untapped market of China. ITAR-TASS, the Russian news agency, confirmed the plans are moving ahead after talking with KHL Vice President Roman Rotenberg.

For China, who will host the Winter Olympic Games in 2022, it is important to become part of the ice hockey world and develop their own national team for that tournament.

The team that is being courted will be based in Beijing, and will play in the LeSports Center (formerly MasterCard Center) that hosted the 2008 Olympic basketball tournament, and has a maximum capacity of 18 000.

"On the 15th of February we had a meeting with the Chinese partners in order to discuss operating questions and the financial structure, and we have received monetary guarantees from the Chinese partners. If everything goes according to plan, we will receive a formal application to join the KHL at the first of April." says Rotenberg.

It has also been rumoured that Slovan Bratislava and Dinamo Riga will play an exhibition game in late March in Shanghai in order to promote the KHL expansion, and generate extra interest in China for ice hockey.

The KHL currently has 28 teams, from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Finland, Latvia, and Croatia. Only two teams outside of Russia made the KHL playoffs this year: Finland's Jokerit and Slovakia's Slovan Bratislava. Both of those teams rely heavily on players from their own country to make up their roster, something that you would presume is the long-term aim of the Chinese team, as well.

Other countries that have been mentioned as having an interest in being part of the expansion include England, Estonia, Italy, and Sweden.

The Swedish Ice Hockey Association has not given permission for a team to join the Russian league, and has asked the KHL to not approach Swedish teams for their expansion. An alternative would be to create a whole new team, like the Czech Republic did with Lev Praha in order to have a representative in the KHL, though this would still need the permission of SIHA, and would probably be blocked as well.

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Thanks to vorky (@vorkywh24) for bringing this story to our attention.