Thr China Sharks may have started on a winning note in the Asia League on Saturday but it may be a while before the sport captures the imagination of fans in Shanghai.
The Sharks beat the Seibu Prince Rabbits of Japan 3-1 in their first home game in Songjiang District on Saturday. Winger Jason Beeman netted two goals with Chinese power forward Fu Nan adding one more.
But the tables were turned on Sunday when the visitors, one of the strongest team in the league, edged the Sharks 0-2, much to the dismay of local fans.
Yet in some ways history was being made as the Sharks became the first ice hockey team to add to Shanghai's growing sports calender.
More than half of the crowd which turned up for the opening night game at the SUS International Ice Hockey Arena on Saturday were students of the neighboring universities.
While they were clearly thrilled at watching fast-paced action on the rink, they pointed out the inconvenience of coming all the way from downtown Shanghai to the stadium without a shuttle bus service.
"We will miss the last bus going from Songjiang to downtown (Shanghai) after watching the game in the evening," said Faye Feng, a post-graduate student at Shanghai International Studies University.
"We know how to reach the venue because our university is close by, but it will be difficult for those who don't know the area well."
But she gave a thumbs-up to the newest sport in the city and was clearly impressed by the Sharks' 40-year-old goaltender Wade Flaherty.
The former Canadian NHL star is the starting goaltender and goaltending coach of the China Sharks. He had a standout performance on Saturday and was only beaten by a 5-on-3 penalty kill goal.
"He was huge tonight," head coach Derek Eisler said.
"Goaltending is a key position when 60 percent of the game depends on his performance. Wade did well."
The two teams will clash again today before the Sharks hit the road for three away games in Sapporo against Japan's Nippon Ice Cranes.
The Chinese team is at the bottom of the seven-team league after collecting four points from eight games. Seibu and Oji Eagles of Japan top the standings, with 20 points from 8 and 10 games, respectively.
(Shanghai Daily October 14, 2008)