June 6 (Reuters) - The Canadian women's ice hockey league (CWHL) has welcomed China's Kunlun Red Star into its ranks for the next five seasons, hoping to boost the sport ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the league said on Tuesday.
The addition of the Chinese side means all five of the league's current teams will have to make the long trip to face Red Star in a three-game series each season.
For champions Les Canadiennes de Montreal, that involves a trip of some 12,500 kilometres. The league also has teams from Boston, Calgary, Toronto and Brampton (Ontario).
CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress said the decision to include Red Star was made with one eye on the Winter Games but also to increase the opportunities for women in sport.
“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,” Andress said.
“This is not just about hockey it is about the opportunity for the growth of women in all sports and creating career opportunities.”
The CWHL season schedule has yet to be announced but will begin in October and see the number of games rise to 30 from 24.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford