Rescuing the Seibu Prince Rabbits
Posted by simon c on 2009 April 7日 Tuesday
Well, the Seibu Prince Rabbits are no more, but the club may survive without its parent company as an independent sport club, a la Nikko Ice Bucks (formerly Furukawa Denko) and the now defunct Sapporo Polaris (formerly Snow Brand). This is because of the “Society for Rabbits Survival” which is a fan organized group active in activities for club’s continuation, such as collecting signatures, and the Higashifushimi Shoeikai which is the local business organization at Higashifushimi where the Rabbits home rink is located.
Since many of the Rabbits players wish to keep on playing instead of becoming regular Seibu Group employees, the two groups are going to work together to consult with the Japanese Ice Hockey Federation and court businesses to sponsor a new club team to replace/continue the Rabbits.
Of the 25 players on the Rabbits roster, 12 are full time employees of Seibu, and 13 were on contract. The 12 employees are now faced with the decision of continuing to play hockey and leaving Seibu, or working full time at Seibu and quitting hockey. In the mean time 9 Seibu players are on the Japan national team that will play in World Championships Division I Group 1A which will run from 11-17 April in Vilnius, Lithuania.
These turn of events is not entirely unexpected, but the lack of support from the fans and the community makes this situation different from the Bucks who have been survived for 10 years as a pro club without a parent company. When the Bucks formed 10 years ago, they had over 4000 paying members of the supporters club. The Rabbits Society was only able to collect slightly more than 6000 signatures from all hockey fans in Japan, let alone Rabbits supporters. And of course, the current economic climate does not help. But let’s hope for the best and that a club team can rise out of the ashes of Rabbits, and that the Asia League will have 8 teams next season (as the league board is being forward thinking about letting the Tohoku Free Blades join, partially due to losing a team with Seibu folding).