China men’s hockey team keeps Olympic spot after competitive concern

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China’s men’s hockey team will remain in the Olympics after concerns about its ability to field a competitive team.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced Tuesday that the team keeps its automatic place in the tournament as a host nation given to it in 2018.

Previously, new IIHF President Luc Tardif said that place was in jeopardy and that Norway was ready to replace China.

The IIHF had stipulated that eligible national team players play two games last month as part of the KHL team Kunlun Red Star “to evaluate the status of the team’s preparations.”

In the first game, Kunlun rallied from a 4-0 deficit to force overtime, ultimately losing 5-4 to another KHL team. In the second, it lost 4-1.

“It was a very strong sign of the upside,” Kunlun coach Ivano Zanatta, who played for Italy at the 1992 Olympics, said after the first game. “There’s definitely signs of character, resilience and there’s more upside, no question.”

China, ranked 32nd in the world, is grouped at the Olympics with Canada, the U.S. and Germany, which are all expected to field NHL players. China has zero active NHL players in its potential player pool.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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