As the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) enters the final week of the regular season, Beijing's Kunlun Red Star stands poised to qualify for the playoffs in its debut season, a remarkable achievement given that the squad was hastily assembled just weeks before the season began.
Two of the squad, captain Janne Jalasvaara and NHL veteran Alexei Ponikarovsky, have won three Gagarin Cups between them, but the majority of coach Vladimir Yurzinov Jr's roster have yet to shine on the big stage.
Leading scorer American Chad Rau and Finnish goalie Tomi Karhunen, who has accounted for nearly half of the team's wins, are in their debut seasons in the league, while defenseman Tuukka Mantyla has yet to make the playoffs in five KHL seasons.
But for all the success on the ice, questions remain off it.
The official attendance for several of the team's most recent games in Beijing has been the suspiciously exact number of 2,400, though many of those who did in fact turn up would have paid far below face value for their tickets, or even entered for free.
Earlier in the season, when Beijing's team relocated to Shanghai for a large chunk of the season, crowds fell to just a few hundred at the 4,800-capacity Feiyang Ice Skating Center.
In a variation on a famous philosophical question, if nobody actually watches a game, does it even take place?
Similarly, in addition to drumming up interest in winter sports among the general population, one of the key aims of establishing a professional ice hockey team in this market was to develop Chinese players, but Yurzinov's usage of his roster has fallen well short in this regard, too.
Zach Yuen has scored an impressive three goals and added six assists while becoming the only defenseman to appear in every game this season.
But while his family originally hails from Hong Kong, Yuen was born in Vancouver and has played all of his hockey prior to this season in North America.
Yurzinov has iced just three Chinese nationals this season - Ying Rudi, Xia Tianxiang and Wang Guanhua - but none has registered a point, while receiving minimal ice time.
Of course, it's hard for a coach to develop fringe players when the team is fighting for a playoff spot, but if China can't manage to assemble a national team capable of avoiding embarrassment on the international stage by the time the 2022 Winter Olympic Games rolls around, then many will argue that China's ice hockey project will ultimately have failed.
Mark Dreyer is the editor of China Sports Insider. A former reporter at Sky Sports and Fox Sports, he regularly comments on China's sports industry in global media. firstname.lastname@example.org