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‘Norway is ready': Olympic decision nears on China men’s hockey team

China Olympic Hockey

MOSCOW, RUSSIA OCTOBER 24, 2021: Kunlun Red Star players celebrate a goal scored against Spartak Moscow in their 2021/2022 KHL Regular Season ice hockey match at Megasport Arena. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav KrasilnikovTASS via Getty Images)

Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

A decision on whether China’s men’s hockey team will remain entered in the Olympics will be made Nov. 25, IIHF President Luc Tardif reportedly said Tuesday.

“It will be our decision. We are on board with IOC,” Tardif said, according to Sportsnet.

Tardif switched his public stance from two weeks ago, when he said in a press release that China’s host nation place was not in jeopardy despite concerns about its ability to field a competitive team.

“I didn’t want to do a diplomatic earthquake alone just coming as the new president, so we wanted to make sure we are on the same line with the IOC, and that’s the case,” Tardif, who succeeded René Fasel as IIHF president in a September election, said Tuesday, according to Reuters. “Norway is ready.”

Norway is the highest-ranked nation not in the Olympic field at No. 11.

China, ranked 32nd, 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.

Two weeks ago, the IIHF stipulated that eligible national team players would play two games this week as part of the KHL team Kunlun Red Star “to evaluate the status of the team’s preparations.” After the games, the IIHF council will discuss next steps.

In the first game on Monday, Kunlun rallied from a 4-0 deficit to force overtime, ultimately losing 5-4 to another KHL team.

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

The second game is Wednesday.

Also Tuesday, Tardif said that he hopes 3-on-3 hockey will be considered as an addition to the Winter Olympic program in 2030, according to Sportsnet. The 2020 Youth Winter Games included 3-on-3 tournaments, and 3x3 basketball made its Summer Games debut in Tokyo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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