China want to improve their ice hockey prowess before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

Chinese ice hockey side Kunlun Red Star are to join the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL).

The new addition will become the sixth team in the league and will be based in Shenzen from the 2017-2018 season.

China is keen to improve in ice hockey - a sport where they have little heritage - before they host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

Kunlun's men's team played their debut season in an overseas league last term - competing in the largely Russian Kontinental Hockey League.

Based in Beijing, Red Star reached the post-season before losing 4-1 to Metallurg Magnitogorsk in their first play-off match.

"This is a historic moment in time for women's hockey to grow on a global stage, creating a template for many winter sports to follow heading into the 2022 Olympics to be held in China," said CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress, according to the Canadian Press.

"This is not just about hockey it is about the opportunity for the growth of women in all sports and creating career opportunities."

Kunlun join Boston Blades, Brampton Thunder, Calgary Inferno, Les Canadiennes and Toronto Furies in the CWHL.

Top Chinese players will compete for Kunlun's women's side ©Getty Images
Top Chinese players will compete for Kunlun's women's side ©Getty Images

Teams will travel to China to play three matches at a time, with a similar arrangement made for Kunlun's away games.

The new side will include Chinese talent as well as international players.

"We're extremely excited to announce this exciting partnership with the Canadian Women's Hockey league," Alex Zhao, chairman of the Board of Kunlun, said to the Canadian Press

"As part of the CWHL, the premier professional women's league, our mission is to develop a top-tier professional team in order to develop a strong base of female players for our national programmes, and new audiences for the sport in China, in the lead-up to hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022."

In April, China's men won promotion to the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship Division II Group A.

The women's team finished fourth at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano and seventh at both Salt Lake City 2002 and Vancouver 2010.

China's men have never played at the Olympic Games. 

Players from the top men's league in the world - the National Hockey League - are not due to compete at next year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea following a dispute over insurance and travel costs, as well as the need to suspend the season.

It is thought likely, though, that the NHL will be keen to tap into the key Chinese market at Beijing 2022.