From September 17th, 2005, so outdated, but an interesting read nonetheless...

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President Rene Fasel said he is looking forward to see an Asian men's ice hockey team in the Olympic Games after launching the Asia Ice Hockey League last year.

The league will come back with its second edition on September 24th. Fasel said he hopes the league could boost the development of sport in Asia so that Asian teams could appear in the Winter Olympic Games soon. None of the Asian teams were able to qualify for the 2006 Turino Games.

He said one of the main goals of launching the league is to "help Asian teams to qualify for the Olympics" because he believes the league will promote the popularity of the sport and improve it at grassroots level around the continent.
Fasel said he believes there are many potential ice hockey talents in Asian countries like China but a lack of facilities and training systems has caused a rapid decline of the game in the continent. "You have to build more ice rinks and discover more ice hockey fans," he said. "You cannot make a competitive national team from such limited sources."

....While NHL a big hit in North America and EHL booming in Europe, the hockey game is quickly declining in Asia. Even countries of relatively high level on this sport have few professional squads left. The previous six teams in Japan's League has been reduced to four and South Korea now only have two after losing three in the past years.

The AHL, inaugurated in 2003 by Japan and South Korea, is seen a stimulant for public awareness. The 2005-2006 season is scheduled to kick off in late June and conclude in March next year. The nine teams will each play 38 matches in a home-and-away format and the best six teams go into playoffs.