Image credit: Kunlun Red Star
The Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) made news on Monday, June 5, by signing a 5-year deal with the China-based team Kunlun Red Star (KRS), adding the team as a sixth member of the league starting in 2017-2018.
Per the league's press release and the KRS website, the idea of bringing professional women’s hockey to China aligns with the country’s overall mission to develop sports, from grassroots to a national team and professional levels. KRS will also encourage the growing interest in hockey and female sport in China in advance of the country hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
With the addition of KRS, the league will expand its schedule from 24 to 30 regular-season games. Each existing CWHL team will travel to Shenzhen, China, to play KRS in a three (3) game series at Shenzhen Universiade Center Arena. In return, KRS will travel to North America and visit each of the existing CWHL teams in a similar three (3) game series.
Noora Räty & Kelli Stack
Gopher alumna Noora Räty, U.S. Olympian Kelli Stack sign with KRS
In addition to the CWHL expansion news, a pair of player signings by Kunlun Red Star were also announced on Monday. Golden Gopher alumna and Finland National Team goaltender Noora Räty and U.S. National Team veteran Kelli Stack became the first two international members of the Red Star, as announced in several media outlets and recapped by The Ice Garden. Räty had been playing professionally in men's leagues in Finland, most recently with Nokian Pyry. Stack, a member of the 2010 & 2014 U.S. Olympic teams and a Boston College alumna, played portions of three seasons with the CWHL's Boston Blades before joining the NWHL's Connecticut Whale the past two years.
KRS is coached by Digit Murphy, best known as the coach of the Brown University Bears for 22 years (1989-2011). She then moved to the professional ranks, coaching the Boston Blades for 3 seasons (2012-2015).