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Diplomatic game of hockey

Updated: 2013-10-02 23:34
By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

Diplomatic game of hockey

Team members of the UBC Thunderbirds posed for a group photo on Oct 17, 2012. Bob Frid / For China Daily

While ping-pong may have thawed tensions with the US, hockey built the bridge between China, Canada

Bob Hindmarch is a name that is all too familiar to many Chinese athletes at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where Canada's National Hockey Program was born.

"I have made many Chinese friends during the six or seven times I have toured China since my first visit to the country in 1973," Hindmarch, UBC's most successful Thunderbirds hockey coach, told China Daily.

When Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau recognized the Peoples Republic of China in 1970, it began a process of cultural exchange in which sports were an integral part.

The Canadian delegation in 1973 included Hindmarch as a coach and trainer, a representative from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, a representative from the National Film Board of Canada, and 21 players aged 17 to 22.

"The Canadian government, through the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, asked UBC if we would represent Canada, and of course, we were absolutely thrilled and delighted, and honored to be chosen," Hindmarch said.

"We were well aware there had, up until that time, been no Canadian sports teams that had gone to China to compete, and it was also special for UBC because Vancouver is home to a very large Chinese population, with one of the largest Chinatowns in North America," he said.

The members of the Canadian delegation made careful preparations for that historic trip.

A professor from the Department of Asian Studies who was a historian of Chinese culture gave the team a couple of lectures prior to their departure. He talked about Chinese customs and traditions and gave them a brief introduction to the language so that athletes and the coach could express basic manners and pleasantries.

The government of Canada provided the delegation with special uniforms for players and team apparel suitable for winter environments.

"We took UBC and CAHA pennants and pins to exchange with the players as well as special Canadian-made souvenirs to present to the team and local officials. We also took a lot of little gifts to give to children, and were really glad we did because we met hundreds of them!"

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