The NHL will play its first games in China this fall when the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks meet in Beijing and Shanghai.
The preseason games will take place Sept. 21 in Shanghai and Sept. 23 in Beijing. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the launch of the NHL China Games at a news conference Thursday morning at Le Sports Center.
China is expected to be a large focus of the league's international ventures. Next season, the NHL is playing two regular-season games in Sweden between the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators.
Bettman called it a historic moment for the league and said the NHL's commitment to China goes beyond the 2022 Winter Olympics that are taking place in Beijing. He and other league officials have said it's a long-term arrangement with China that also includes contributions to growing grassroots hockey in the country.
"We look forward to our first games in China and to a variety of initiatives that will inspire generations of Chinese players and fans to enjoy our sport," Bettman said in a statement announcing the games. "We recognize the importance of helping China build a strong national hockey program and are committed to supporting that priority in every way possible."
NHLPA executive director Mathieu Schneider said players have reached out to him to express interest in going to China and helping teach the game there. The Canucks, Kings, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals have already conducted camps for young Chinese players.
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The NHL has not committed to sending players to the 2018 Olympics in neighboring Pyeongchang, South Korea. International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel has said the NHL can't pick and choose which Olympics to go to and that discussions about Beijing can wait until the situation in Korea is settled.