Madam President Emma Zhiyu Liao joined her team, Chinese Red Star Kunlun, the newest member of the League on their first visit to the Ice Hall. After the game she spared a few moments to share her thoughts on the challenges of leading a hockey team in China and the KHL and her working visit to Zagreb.
How satisfied are you with leading the team in the KHL, this being your first season?
So far we are quite satisfied because we have a very new and young team coming together. That includes our players who are still getting to know one another. So far it is good, KHL is a big challenge and we are satisfied. Recently we have lost a few games, but I believe the team can catch up and with the injured players back in the lineup, there is no doubt that this will be a good first season for us.
Have you had any communication with other presidents and GM's before the season?
Our sport director used to be the general manager for the Traktor team. Our deputy sport director was the manager of the Czech team when they were a part of the KHL, so we have experience among our own.
On the other hand we are building a Chinese club in China and we, as the other part of the management are learning from the know-how of the KHL management. Simultaneously we are learning how to build a hockey team locally in China. So far this has proven as a good combination.
What is the situation like with fans in China? How satisfied are you with the response you're getting?
Chinese market is very difficult for hockey because it is really starting from zero for the culture and even the culture in terms of coming to see a sport game itself. It is not yet a developed culture in China. Hockey is a very new sport to Chinese audience. So far we have good attendance in the games, some 5000 – 6000 people and we are hoping to develop a core of hockey fans. We are trying to bring and engage other target audiences to the arena with some innovative ways to educate them about hockey, to attract them to game and let them see how great hockey is as a sport.
It is getting there, as this is our first season, we are reasonably OK with our development but every day we try to do more.
What is it like for you as a woman to be the president of a club in a sport and league dominated by men? Woman to woman, I trust I can ask you this without the risk of wrong connotations.
Honestly, I've always been in a male dominant industry, so for me this is nothing new. It is also good to be confidant and used to it because everyone around you appreciates it. I'm grateful to the entire team, both the management and the players for this venture and I see people are doing their best. But, sometimes we have to be tough to make things better and work to get there.
How do you like your first visit to Zagreb and Medvescak?
I've always wanted to come to Croatia and Zagreb is an amazing city. I can say only the nicest things about Medvescak's management. We had many meetings with them in the two days we were here. My team and I learned a lot and it was a good exchange. One we hope to reciprocate in Being.