Recycled Paper Scandal to hit Japanese Hockey?
Posted by simon c on 2008 February 13日 Wednesday
Now that my work had settled down a bit, I was going to write Asia League 2007-08 Regular Season review and Playoff preview articles. But, there may be bigger issues at stake in the world of Japanese hockey.
Japanese hockey has endured through much travail in this century. Starting with Yukijirushi (dairy products manufacturer) folding its hockey team following a food poisoning scandal in 2000, Furukawa Electric dropping its hockey team which forced the team to become the first fully professional hockey team in Japan, the Nikko IceBucks. Then there was the insider trading scandal by the big boss of Seibu Group and the biggest backer of Japanese hockey, Tsutsumi Yoshiaki, this forced the two group teams Seibu and Kokudo to merge in a cost cutting measure. This reduced the number of top level Japanese club teams to 4 from 6 which in turn forced the hands of JIHF to create the Asia League (as the number of pro hockey clubs in Korea and China were on the decline as well), and this has been great for increasing the level of play in Korea, and encouraging international hockey relations and more competitive play in the top league.
However, on the heel of all this, a new scandal has hit Japanese hockey. The two Hokkaido (northern island of Japan) based teams are owned by major paper companies, Nippon Paper and Oji Paper. And it came to light in the New Year that majority of Japanese paper companies had been falsifying the percentage figures of recycled paper used to create their products. (Industry is trying to shamelessly shift the blame on the increasingly competitive market for recycled paper, and China being a big buyer, who knew?)
If this scandal hits both Nippon Paper and Oji Paper hard enough, could we possibly be seeing the demise of these teams, or a possible merger, in the hockey heartland of Japan? I hope not, as that could really signal the end of top level pro hockey in Japan and East Asia.
So, I guess this is no time to be joking about how the Oji team has an eagle as a mascot and the bird even adorns its uniform, but the team has no nickname when it should obviously called the Eagles, it would make for easier and better marketing as well. Or wonder why last season’s the treble winner (AL Regular Season, Playoffs, and All Japan Championships) Nippon Paper Cranes are struggling despite the great performance of former NHLer Jamie McLennan in goal who joined the team midway through the season and promptly posted the 2nd best save percentage in the league. Incidentally, the big paper companies are most likely the cause behind the always beautifully produced Asia League program booklets.