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The NHL is staging more exhibition games in China this fall Mike Smith Jersey , hoping to make further inroads in establishing hockey as a sport in the world’s most populous nation.

The Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames will face off Sept. 15 in Shenzhen in southeast China and then again Sept. 19 in Beijing in the second incarnation of the China Games.

The Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks played preseason games in Shanghai and Beijing last September, the NHL’s first foray there.

China represents an as-yet untapped resource for the NHL, especially ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Commissioner Gary Bettman has so far been noncommittal about the NHL going to the 2022 Games after skipping South Korea this year, but the work is already underway in China, where the NBA has had a presence for decades.

”I think there is an enthusiasm to grow the sport, first at the grassroots level, but I think bringing games there and bringing NHL teams there and NHL players helps kind of support the story from the top down, as well,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday.

”It’s really a two-pronged approach where you’re trying to build hockey infrastructure in a society that’s never really had any and then in order to drive that, you’re bringing hockey at its highest level so that people can appreciate what the sport can look like.”

Growing youth hockey and bringing NHL games to China is the plan, but from the league’s perspective, it’s not a three-pronged approach tied to Olympic participation.

”I was there in the spring and we had lots of discussions with officials at all levels to talk about the development of hockey and how we can work together, and those are things that we’re working on Cheap Customized Tennessee Titans Jerseys ,” Bettman said last month.

”Not once did we get asked about the Olympics in 2022. I’m not sure if we’re helping develop the game particularly at the grassroots level and giving them our software, if you will, whether or not we play for two weeks makes a difference.”

The league is working with local authorities to develop hockey programs as the government of the country with a population of 1.3 billion aims to have 300 million participants in winter sports by 2022. The Bruins made visits each of the past two summers to participate in hockey camps.

”Over the past three years we have collaborated with (businessman Zhou Yunjie) on growing the game both within the Chinese community in Boston and with youth hockey players in China,” Bruins president Cam Neely said.

”We look forward to continuing these efforts by bringing Bruins hockey to China with these two preseason games.”

Shenzhen’s location close to Hong Kong, its burgeoning population and its world-class facility that’s home to the two China-based Canadian Women’s Hockey League teams made it a natural fit along with Beijing for NHL preseason action. More cities are in the running in the future, which could at some point include regular-season games.

”Part of it is exposing the sport in different major cities throughout the country,” Daly said.

”These games over the next number of years are going to hit different locations, and we’ll see what’s worked well and what can be improved and it’s very much kind of a learning process for us.”

Hockey in China is one big learning process, and the NHL is in the early stages of its assistance.

China is ramping up its hockey programs with an eye toward the 2022 Olympics, but that doesn’t mean the NHL is a sure thing to go. Daly said the league sees hockey in China and the NHL at the Beijing Olympics as mutually exclusive.

”Our philosophy is one that isn’t necessarily connected to the other,” Daly said. ”I don’t think the fact that we want to grow our presence in China and grow hockey’s presence in China necessarily means we have to be in the Olympics. But it doesn’t necessarily preclude us from being there if ultimately we want to be.”

Bettman noted that Germany reached the gold medal game at the non-NHL Olympics in February, and wondered if staying out would actually be beneficial.

”Maybe the Chinese would have more success in 2022 in being competitive if we’re not there,” Bettman said. ”A lot of variables to be considered.”

One of those variables that could help the NHL return to the Olympics for the sixth time would be the Chinese government pushing for it. Sochi was an example of that.

”I think it could happen Nick Perry Jersey , but even if that was something that they weighed in on, I’m not sure at the end of the day that would be a determining factor for us,” Daly said.

”I think there are a whole host of factors. It’s not just about kind of the conditions under which we go. It’s all the other things that are associated with Olympic participation, including what’s happening back here in North America.”

Sports Deputy Editor for Newsgathering Howie Rumberg in New York contributed.

The Jacksonville Jaguars used the NFL draft to build for the future, not necessarily this fall.

They used every pick on down-the-road starters instead of filling pressing needs.

It's a luxury rarely seen in Jacksonville, which made the AFC championship game in January after a decade of failure and futility. The Jags return 18 of 22 starters from a team that led the NFL in rushing and ranked second in total defense.

Top executive Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell liked the team's makeup enough that they actually made a best-player-available pick in the first round when they added Florida's Taven Bryan to a defensive line that includes Pro Bowlers Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and Yannick Ngakoue.

"We want the competition. We want it as much as we can get it," Coughlin said following the three-day draft Saturday. "That's the one thing in our game that makes everybody better. These people were drafted to be football players, whether it's a starter or whatever. It takes everybody."

Bryan was the first of several Jacksonville draft picks expected to be backups as rookies.

The Jaguars envision LSU receiver DJ Chark (second round), Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison (third) and North Carolina State right tackle Will Richardson (fourth) as eventual starters, but neither of them is considered a plug-and-play guy.

"If they come in and play that is a bonus, too," Caldwell said. "We are not just going to say Youth Arden Key Jersey , 'Hey, take it easy for the next two years.' Those guys have to come in and compete. ... Competition is great. The more depth you can have and be prepared for any situation then the better off you will be."

Here are some other things to know about Jacksonville's draft, which included Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee (sixth round), Wisconsin linebacker Leon Jacobs (seventh) and Mississippi State punter Logan Cooke (seventh).

TAKING A CHANCE: The Jaguars took a chance with the 129th pick on Richardson, who was suspended twice in three years at North Carolina State.

The 6-foot-6, 306-pound Richardson started 30 games at right tackle for the Wolfpack. He was suspended for the first two games last season for what he said was a marijuana-related violation. As a redshirt freshman in November 2015, he was arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated. He was suspended one game for that and served a university-imposed suspension for the 2016 spring semester.

"Ideally, we don't like any baggage," Caldwell said. "We don't like to have to answer these questions on a day like today, but we also understand some of these players have a past and hopefully they grow from their past and become fine, upstanding citizens. The time that his discipline ended to this point and time in the draft and all the research and background checks and everything we've done on him has led us to believe that hopefully that's behind him now. Time will tell, and it's up to him to make sure that he holds his end of the bargain up."

Richardson will compete at right tackle with 31-year-old Jermey Parnell, and if he doesn't win the job Authentic Customized Jaguars Jerseys , would be the team's swing tackle in 2018.

DEVELOPMENTAL QB: Jacksonville added a third quarterback when it drafted Nebraska's Tanner Lee in the sixth round. Lee will compete with Cody Kessler for the backup spot behind Blake Bortles. Coach Doug Marrone said the team would be open to keeping three QBs on the roster.

The 6-foot-4 Lee has a big arm, but he completed just 57.5 percent of his passes in 2017, with 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He transferred to Nebraska after three years at Tulane. Jaguars offensive assistant Eric Price served as Tulane's offensive coordinator during Lee's time on campus.

"We know the kid very well, his makeup, his intelligence, his drive, his attitude," Caldwell said. "He's going to fit in well with Blake and Cody and that quarterback room. He's an accurate passer when he has time like most of them. He was under a lot of duress this year at Nebraska. We feel like he can come in and he's got a high ceiling because of the arm strength at the accuracy and the quick release."

STILL NEEDED: The one position the Jaguars failed to address in the draft was tight end. They parted ways with veteran Marcedes Lewis in March, leaving them to rely on Austin Seferian-Jenkins in 2018.

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