Shenzhen Kunlun Red Star Vanke Rays have moved to Russia ©Shenzhen Kunlun Red Star Vanke Rays

The newly appointed head coach of the team formed to help develop Chinese ice hockey talent prior to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games is relishing the challenge.

Shenzhen Kunlun Red Star (KRS) Vanke Rays, a member of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) for two years until it disbanded last season, have moved to Russia’s 'Zhenskaya Khokkeinaya Liga' for the 2019-2020 campaign. 

Brian Idalski, best known for his long association with North Dakota Fighting Hawks in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, took over the head coach role in June for his first position outside of North America.

The Vanke Rays' opening game is on Saturday (September 14), hosting Biryusa Krasnoyarsk.

It comes on the back of the team winning a pre-season tournament in Beijing, where current Russian champions Agidel Ufa and a Chinese national roster were among those competing.

China has little ice hockey pedigree, but is keen to change that before staging the Winter Olympics in three years.

Kunlun Red Star, which rebranded as Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays last season and finished fifth in the six-team CWHL, were formed in 2016 with this in mind.

It was a big attraction for Idalski.

"Now I’m a bit older, I’m looking for a particular type of job," the 48-year-old said.

"When I hear an organisation talk about successful and doing things the right way, that’s a resounding 'yes' with me."

Kunlun Red Star were re-branded as Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays last season ©Shenzhen Kunlun Red Star Vanke Rays/Facebook
Kunlun Red Star were re-branded as Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays last season ©Shenzhen Kunlun Red Star Vanke Rays/Facebook

He added: "When we talk about building something, leaving a mark, being part of something special, that's all a resounding 'yes' with me as well.

"It was a very easy decision for me once we sat down and had a conversation face to face."

It is claimed that a desire to do more than merely play the game is also motivating the players Idalski and the Vanke Rays want to bring to China.

For North Americans with Chinese heritage, a possible Olympic call-up could be a tempting prospect, but Idalski stresses the bigger picture.

"I think all human beings have a drive to be part of something special," Idalski added.

"For female hockey players, this is a chance to come over and make an impact. 

"It's not just on an individual level, with the opportunity to play at an Olympic Games; there's also a chance to develop Chinese hockey, to develop Chinese players. 

"It’s attractive for any number of players and I think our female players really embrace that."

The 'Zhenskaya Khokkeinaya Liga' has tighter rules on imports.

It is thought, therefore, that it could be the ideal testing ground for China’s potential Olympic stars.