A Quebecer is working hard so that his dream of seeing China one day beat Canada in ice hockey is realized.
Mark Simon has been living in China since 2005, working with former coach Mike Keenan and former player Phil Esposito to set up a hockey program that will make China a world power.
“Hockey is a perfect sport for China. Traditionally, individual sports are promoted, but many parents want their children to play a team sport. The country has 1 billion people, the potential is enormous. There is still much work to be done, however, especially with respect to culture and values, “says Mark Simon.
Even though he dreams of China one day defeating Canada, Mark Simon is well aware that it will not happen in the near future. China ranks 37 th in the world and there are only about 30 ice hockey rinks in China. The costs of using them are very high as they are privately owned. So, parents have to pay up to $ 10,000 a season. Mark Simon hopes to convince the Chinese government to adopt its hockey program and make this sport more accessible.
Last year he joined Red Star in Beijing, a new team of KHL, a Russian professional league with several former National League players. Mr. Simon is responsible for sales and marketing and contributes to the development of a new development program. The enthusiast also contributes to the construction of new arenas all over Asia.
Culture to be developed
There are also significant gaps in coach education and attitudes towards children.
“I saw a coach taking a baseball momentum and hitting a youth with a stick. I was really angry. He said, ” we’re in China. ” For me, it’s hockey, and the culture of hockey is the same everywhere. Young people must first of all have fun if they want to improve. It must be a party, “says Mark Simon, pointing out that corporal punishment is still common in China.
For all these reasons, young Chinese people abandon hockey very early. There are not enough players to keep the program for over 13 years.
The arrival of KHL in China should facilitate the establishment of a structure similar to that in North America.
In addition to offering a model to young Chinese, the team’s influence should allow for the construction of new arenas and more adequate training of coaches.
According to Mr. Simon, the number of hockey players has increased from 120 to 2,500 in the Beijing region over the past 10 years, but it is still very little.
“2500 out of 25 million is zero. We do not go anywhere if there is no change. “