BY JENNIFER BISSELL

A Chinese national team’s reservation of ice time at Chelsea Piers Connecticut may represent the start of a new trend for the Stamford fitness facility: practice port of call.

The Chinese women’s ice hockey team trained at Chelsea Piers’ rink for a week in late August. While in Stamford, the team also used the swimming pool and weight-training facilities for conditioning. If the team qualifies for the 2014 Olympics in Russia, the team is also considering using the rink for an additional three or four months as they train. In the 2010 Olympics, the team placed seventh.

With generally more teams to compete and practice with in North America, international teams will often train outside their own countries. Last year the Chinese hockey team traveled to Canada for its training.

“With having these world-class facilities, it will be attractive to international sports,” said Matthew Stack, Chelsea Piers rink director. “I could definitely see it being used for other sports as well.”

The Chinese team ended up in Stamford based on a recommendation from one of its team member’s parents, James Yue. Yue has lived in Guilford for 11 years and his daughter, Emily Yue, who is the goalie for the team, grew up in the area.

The Chinese women’s team played a Fairfield youth hockey team Aug. 25 and brought more than 200 fans into the arena. As a local youth hockey coach and active community member, Yue said he’s already received calls from other sports teams looking into using the facility and wondering about the Chinese team’s experience.

“It’s a great opportunity for Stamford and the surrounding communities to attract that level of athletics,” Yue said. “In the future, Chelsea Piers has the capability of hosting world-class games and tournaments.”

Through Energize Connecticut, Chelsea Piers received a $211,000 incentive to build the $400,000 high-efficiency ammonia ice rink, which is considered the most energy-efficient way to build an ice rink. The other project installed energy-efficient lighting.

Energize Connecticut is a new statewide effort to reduce energy usage and save money from not only less use, but not having to build more infrastructure to support increased use.

“Basically we’re trying to help customers use energy wisely and conservatively, reduce operating costs, be more profitable and provide environmental benefits as well,” said Richard Asselin, senior energy engineer at Northeast Utilities.

Compared with a traditional ice rink, the ammonia rink will save the sports facility more than $63,000 a year on its energy bill, as well as 7,562 tons of coal, 32 million pounds carbon dioxide, 9,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 18,000 pounds of sulfur oxide.

Chelsea Piers wouldn’t have installed an ammonia rink without the incentive, said Michael Braito, senior vice president of the facility.

In 2011, the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund paid out $102 million in incentives, saving users $72 million. Both commercial and residential projects are funded by a charge on customers’ energy bills.