Seibu Prince Rabbits to fold after 2008-09
Posted by simon c on 2008 December 19日 Friday
Seibu Prince Rabbits, the perennial powerhouse team in the Asia League Ice Hockey (and also separately as Seibu and Kokudo in the Japan Ice Hockey League before their merger) will effectively cease team operations following the current 2008-09 season due to the termination of funding from the main sponsor Prince Hotel Group (a Seibu Holdings company). This announcement was made to the players from the team owner on 18 January.
Head coach Chris Wakabayashi was in tears after the announcement, captain Takahito Suzuki was in shock and said “I can’t believe this right now. The most important thing at the moment is to finish the season, but this will be very difficult for (Japanese and Asian) ice hockey.”
The current economic climate also aided in this decision by the parent company to stop funding the team, which is said to cost about JPY 500 million (~ US$4.5 million) per season (equivalent to the salary for a couple of Saitama Seibu Lions star baseball players…). There is a possibility that the Seibu team will continue to exist as a club team (like how Yukijirushi (Snow Brand) became Sapporo Polaris for a season, and how Furukawa became the Nikko IceBucks as the parent companies ceased to fund these teams), but with the lack of fan base and community support, this seems like a rather unlikely scenario for Seibu, and Tokyo area hockey fans will lose their only source of watching live high level hockey. The Asia League should continue to exist in the current 7 team form next season, as the Tohoku Free Blades based in northeastern Honshu should be entering the league, barring any more unexpected team foldings.)
On the same day, the much larger American Football X-League’s Onward Skylarks also announced that they will not be participating in the upcoming season as the team has effectively folded as well.