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Razors Edge
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For the fans of hockey!

It’s a team made up mostly of Americans and Canadians. They play professional hockey in Russia. They are coached by an Italian. They conduct their practices in English. Yet this week, they are representing China in the men’s hockey tournament at the Beijing Olympics.

How the host country managed to field a national team of mostly foreign nationals—despite International Olympic Committee rules that require competitors to be citizens of the country they represent—is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Beijing Games. 

Building this roster involved a Chinese affiliate in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, a creative interpretation of international hockey’s pandemic rules, and possibly some rule bending by Olympics organizers.

None of the bodies directly responsible for Team China’s hockey squad—the Chinese Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation or the IOC—will respond to questions about the team’s large foreign contingent.

The 25-man China roster includes 17 skaters who either were born or spent their childhoods in North America and one from Russia. Fans of the National Hockey League may recognize Brandon Yip, who played 174 games in the league. The most famous name belongs to Jake Chelios, the 28-year-old son of NHL legend Chris Chelios. While playing for China, however, he goes by Jieke Kailaosi.

“He’s American and very proud of it,” said Chris Chelios of his son in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “He wanted to play bad and I supported it 100%.”

Jake Chelios confirmed that he and several of his Team China teammates still have their American passports. When asked whether he had naturalized as a Chinese citizen, Chelios said, “I don’t think we’re supposed to comment on that.”

Chelios, Yip and others appear to be able to compete for Team China because of a loose interpretation of an esoteric rule in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Handbook. According to the rule, an athlete who changed his citizenship must “prove that he has participated for at least two consecutive hockey seasons and 16 consecutive months (480 days) in the national competitions of his new country after his 10th birthday” before competing for the new country. 

Beijing-based Kunlun Red Star, the sole Chinese outpost in Russia’s KHL, had the Olympics in mind when it started actively recruiting skaters from North America in 2019. Many obliged, not necessarily because of the lure of the Olympics, but because their professional aspirations were languishing stateside. Across the ocean in the KHL, salaries were higher and the level of competition slightly steeper than in the American Hockey League, the NHL’s minors.

“If you’re not in the NHL, I truly believe you want to be in the KHL,” said goalkeeper Jeremy Smith, who said that he joined the team in 2019 because “it was the best move for my career.”

Smith, a native of Dearborn, Mich., said he wasn’t approached about joining Team China for the Beijing Games until 2021. During the Olympic tournament, he’s going by the name “Shimisi Jieruimi.” Chelios, who signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star in May 2019, said the Olympics were part of the recruiting pitch.

“They did float the idea, but when you hear that and it’s three years away you kind of put it in the back of your mind and don’t think about it,” Chelios said. 

When Chelios informed his father of the possibility in 2019, it struck the former All-Star as far-fetched.

“We are Greek on my side and Scottish, German, and Irish on my wife’s side,” said Chris Chelios, who raised his children in Chicago. 

By fulfilling their original contracts with Kunlun Red Star, Smith, Chelios and more than a dozen other foreign-born players would have easily hit the two-season threshold to qualify for China’s Olympic team. But because of the pandemic, the team didn’t actually spend the 2020-21 or 2021-22 seasons in China.

Once China implemented strict virus mitigation protocols that drastically curtailed cross-border travel, Kunlun Red Star owner Billy Ngok temporarily relocated the team to Mytishchi, a Russian town near Moscow. The team trained and played games there until Jan. 20, when they flew to Beijing and moved into the Olympic Village.

Under a strict interpretation of the IIHF rule, these months in quasi-exile in Russia wouldn’t count toward the players’ 480 days. However, due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, the IIHF appears to have overlooked this technicality for Team China.

A spokesperson for the IIHF didn’t comment on how strictly it applied its rules, adding in an email that “when an athlete is registered in an Olympic event, the final passport control is conducted by the IOC not the IF [International Federation].”

Indeed, the foreign-born players on the Chinese men’s team must also satisfy Olympic eligibility requirements. According to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter, any athlete competing in the Games “must be a national of the country of the NOC [National Organizing Committee] which is entering such competitor.” 

Most athletes who represent a country in the Olympics other than the one where they were born satisfy this requirement through dual citizenship. That is not possible in China, whose policy doesn’t recognize dual nationality. According to Kunlun Red Star’s website, seven of the foreign-born players have Chinese heritage and have “long-established dual national” status.

But Rule 41 also gives the IOC Executive Board the ability to make exceptions of a “general or individual nature” to its nationality rules. The IOC didn’t answer repeated questions about whether its Executive Board made an exception for Team China, reiterating the language of Rule 41 and deferring comment to the Chinese government.

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TL/DR

I've only been to 1 NHL hockey game, a Blackhawk game.  I got 2 tickets for the game from work as a reward.  WoBG and I went to the skybox. 

The one thing I learned... it is cold in the United Center with all of that ice.  

Other than that...  I don't watch hockey.   

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Back in the early 80’s i downhill ski raced with a guy who lived 10 miles from me. In 1984 he raced at the olympics for Egypt. He had no connection to Egypt other than his fathers business dealings. 

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1 hour ago, MoseySusan said:

Literally hundreds or thousands of REAL problems in the world that folks can talk about, and we land on obscure hockey rules. :huh:

 

apparently the Chinese citizens are embracing the "transplants" except if they don't win. In that case they are eville furigners

it is more than just the ice hockey

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Daughter#1 had a HS classmate that played in the NBA.  He became good friends with Dirk Nowitzki when they played together for Dallas.  Dirk convinced Chris to play in the Olympics for Germany.

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18 minutes ago, Zealot said:

Did anyone actually read that?

Over half, and that was enough. I've seen bits and pieces other places. Things got weird all over when they let the pros into winter and summer Olympics. Some are for it and some are not. I watch very little, if any pro sports.

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Just now, sheep_herder said:

Over half, and that was enough. I've seen bits and pieces other places. Things got weird all over when they let the pros into winter and summer Olympics. Some are for it and some are not. I watch very little, if any pro sports.

I watch none.  I used to enjoy the Olympics. 

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2 hours ago, Scrapr said:

apparently the Chinese citizens are embracing the "transplants" except if they don't win. In that case they are eville furigners

it is more than just the ice hockey

I agree. 
I was giving RE the business, using one of his own posted comments from another thread in this topic. 

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11 hours ago, Zealot said:

I watch none.  I used to enjoy the Olympics. 

I enjoy the Olympics as much or more than ever.

My struggle is with the dopiness of "national" teams rather than just making it a big ass world competition.  Sure, maybe hockey or soccer or water polo would need to be dropped from the Olympics, but I'd be pretty happy with just the individual and the pairs events going forward, with no national BS cluttering the events.

The COMPETITION and the PERFORMANCE aspects of the Olympics are beyond awesome in many events.  But so is the X Games, and the Olympics could be similar to those, just super sized and with more events.  Take out the nationalism and the games might actually be more enjoyable.  It is similar in a lot of Pro sports (and creeping in to college and HS sports) where the hype and the BS around the competition makes it way less entertaining than it could/should be, but, IF you strip that stuff away and JUST watch the performances, it can be quite awesome.

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3 minutes ago, denniS said:

I did. It's a weird story.

"Swiss" skater today who is from the US and lives in NY.   Should I be rooting for her with a USA USA USA chant - since she is an American, or should I boo her for representing those Swiss Cheeseheads? Or should I remove the dopey layer of nationalism and just enjoy her routine???

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1 hour ago, Razors Edge said:

I enjoy the Olympics as much or more than ever.

My struggle is with the dopiness of "national" teams rather than just making it a big ass world competition.  Sure, maybe hockey or soccer or water polo would need to be dropped from the Olympics, but I'd be pretty happy with just the individual and the pairs events going forward, with no national BS cluttering the events.

The COMPETITION and the PERFORMANCE aspects of the Olympics are beyond awesome in many events.  But so is the X Games, and the Olympics could be similar to those, just super sized and with more events.  Take out the nationalism and the games might actually be more enjoyable.  It is similar in a lot of Pro sports (and creeping in to college and HS sports) where the hype and the BS around the competition makes it way less entertaining than it could/should be, but, IF you strip that stuff away and JUST watch the performances, it can be quite awesome.

I watch if I'm home. I like seeing some the sports that don't make the airwaves in the U.S. like women's hockey, bobsled, skiing, and snowboarding. 

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2 minutes ago, Razors Edge said:

"Swiss" skater today who is from the US and lives in NY.   Should I be rooting for her with a USA USA USA chant - since she is an American, or should I boo her for representing those Swiss Cheeseheads? Or should I remove the dopey layer of nationalism and just enjoy her routine???

I guess I don't care where they are from. 

This weekend, we were watching skiers from all of the nations without snow. GF was joking they all live and train in the U.S. Just a bunch of trust funders who ski. They were definitely not professionals. They skied like me. 

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3 minutes ago, denniS said:

I guess I don't care where they are from. 

This weekend, we were watching skiers from all of the nations without snow. GF was joking they all live and train in the U.S. Just a bunch of trust funders who ski. They were definitely not professionals. They skied like me. 

See, you're in my camp!  I'm used to watching sports and not really caring where folks are from.  I'm a cycling fan, and while I like to see the "local" talent like my man Joe Dombrowski do well, I'm generally cheering on some foreigner.  

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47 minutes ago, Razors Edge said:

"Swiss" skater today who is from the US and lives in NY.   Should I be rooting for her with a USA USA USA chant - since she is an American, or should I boo her for representing those Swiss Cheeseheads? Or should I remove the dopey layer of nationalism and just enjoy her routine???

Just enjoy!

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We in the USA have a long history of attracting foreign athletes to represent us in the Olympics and I've given up on expecting any national team from being legitimate.

Back in 2012, FORTY foreign born athletes represented the USA in the London Games.

Remember the Jamaican Bobsled Team?  A bunch of American so-so athletes who figured out a way to "compete" in the Olympics?

There are American-citizen or American-born figure skaters, etc. representing China now, too.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Prophet Zacharia said:

Do we know who administers and checks Covid test results for athletes while in China? Any reason to suspect top foreign athletes could have more Covid protocol issues than Chinese athletes in a given sport? 

Covid in China!? INCONCEIVABLE 

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6 minutes ago, Prophet Zacharia said:

Do we know who administers and checks Covid test results for athletes while in China? Any reason to suspect top foreign athletes could have more Covid protocol issues than Chinese athletes in a given sport? 

Heck - weren't the COVID quarantined being FED by the Chinese? God knows what they could/would/did slip in the food!!!

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