IIHF confirms China can have team in 2022 Olympic men's hockey tournament

The China Ice Sports College hockey team practices on the ice during the Experience Beijing Ice Hockey Domestic Test Activity, a test event for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 (Mark Schiefelbein/AP).

China will ice a men's hockey team at the Beijing Olympics.

The International Ice Hockey Federation announced Tuesday the hosts have been given the green light following a council meeting in Zurich.

"The council confirmed that it will uphold the decision by the 2018 IIHF Congress to grant the Chinese men's national team a host qualification position in the 2022 Olympic Games," the federation said in a brief statement.

China opens the tournament Feb. 10 against the United States before playing Germany on Feb. 12 and Canada the following day to wrap up round-robin action in Group A.

NHL players are scheduled to participate in Beijing after skipping the 2018 event in South Korea, but the league could still pull out due to COVID-19 issues.

The IIHF has previously acknowledged concerns about China's competitiveness, but president Luc Tardif said last month the federation would not remove the team from the Olympics.

He then appeared to change that stance a few weeks later, telling reporters the IIHF and International Olympic Committee would have to see whether China could play, adding Norway could step in as a possible replacement.

Kunlun Red Star of the Kontinental Hockey League is being used as a proxy by China ahead of the 2022 Winter Games.

Most of the roster consists of North American-born players the KHL now lists as having taken Chinese nationality. The team has a 9-27-22 record this season in the Russian-based league.

China has never previously competed in a men's Olympic hockey tournament but gets an automatic berth for 2022 as tournament host. The country most recently played in the fourth-highest division of the IIHF world championships in 2019, before it naturalized foreign-born players.

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