More children encouraged to take up ice hockey

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Veteran players and the national coach have called for more children to join the sport of ice hockey as the nation is suffering from a critical lack of reserve players.

"If China's ice hockey wants to achieve smooth development, encouraging more children to join is the most important thing," said Jin Fengling, assistant captain of the Chinese women's team, which finished seventh at the Vancouver Games.

"I hope more parents send their children to play on ice. They should bear in mind that maybe one day that child could be standing on ice at the Olympic Games."

After these Games, Jin, another assistant captain, Sun Rui, and captain Wang Linuo will hang up their sticks. For a country with less than 80 registered players, there are grave concerns about the sport's development in China.

"For the development of the sport in China we need more players. If you don't have more players, then it's a big challenge for stay competitive at the international level," said the team's head coach, Hannu Juhani Saintula of Finland. "That's our biggest challenge when we go back to China."

China's sports authorities have vowed to help develop the sport, starting at the grassroots level.

"We have already worked out a plan for promoting ice hockey among youngsters by cooperating with education departments," Zhao Yinggang, director of China's Winter Sports Administrative Center, told China Daily. "At present, we have cooperative programs with schools in Harbin, Qiqihar and Beijing. League matches at each level have resumed as well. We are expecting a balanced development of the sport - grassroots, junior level and national teams."

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