Enter the Dragon
The idea of bringing KHL hockey to China gathered pace during the 2015-16 season. The KHL’s directors made regular visits to China, working hard to bring the ambitious plan to fruition as quickly as possible.
To make it happen, the Kunlun Red Star organization was established in Beijing and, on March 17, 2016, the new club’s management signed a statement of intent to compete in the 2016-17 championship. Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak and KHL Chairman Gennady Timchenko also signed the agreement, paving the way for China to become the latest nation to join the KHL family. The emergence of a top-level team in China also won the approval of IIHF President Rene Fasel, who spoke of his hopes that Kunlun would promote the development of Chinese ice hockey in the build-up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
- April 30, 2016: the club’s directors presented the KHL with all the necessary guarantees about participation in the league.
- June 24, 2016: the KHL’s Board of Directors formally accepted Kunlun Red Star as a competing team in the 2016-17 season. The following day in Beijing, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to China, the official contract was signed. In the presence of Mr. Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the historic document was signed by KHL Chairman Gennady Timchenko and Kunlun Red Star Chairman Billy Ngok.
At the same time Vladimir Yurzinov Jr was unveiled as head coach and he immediately began building a team. Kunlun played its first ever game during a summer training camp in Finland: on July 24, the Chinese team played Traktor Chelyabinsk in Vierumaki, losing 0-2. The club’s first victory came in Astana, Kazakhstan, on August 5. Kunlun beat Barys Astana 3-1.
Xiaoyu Zhao – Chairman of Board of Founders
Billy Ngok – Chairman of Board of Directors
Emma Zhiyu Liao– President
Tony Yan - General manager
Vladimir Krechin – Sporting director
Kunlun Red Star will play its home games in the LeSport complex, built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. During the Games, the arena hosted the basketball tournament and in 2022, when the Chinese capital welcomes the Winter Olympics, this will be one of the ice hockey venues. The multi-use sports hall can hold up to 18,000 spectators, but when staging hockey games the capacity is reduced to 14,000. That makes LeSport the second biggest stadium in the KHL behind the 15,000-seater Minsk Arena.