Posted by simon c on 2009 December 1日 Tuesday
Posted by simon c on 2009 October 21日 Wednesday
Three Japanese born players tried out for ECHL and IHL teams this season, but none of them made the cut. The economic downturn has also affected minor league pro hockey as several teams in the AHL and ECHL have folded or suspended operations for this season with probably more casualties in the lower leagues. This means that the pro hockey market is overflowing with capable players, and some players are having to play in lower leagues than their skills would normally warrant. Our Japanese challengers seem to have become casualties as well.
Former Nikko Ice Buck Kazuma Takahashi spent the past 2 seasons with the Utah Grizzlies, and he got an invite to the Stockton Thunder training camp after a successful FAT (Free Agent Training Camp). Despite being productive during he did not make the final cut and the official reason given was his old battle wound from 9 years ago, despite the fact that he played in the ECHL for the past 2 seasons. Luckily he was then invited to the SPHL tryouts, and was signed by the Louisiana IceGators along with Takaaki Ishikawa who just graduated from college and was due to play for the China Sharks of the Asia League before the team changed directions and became the China Dragon.
As for the Kawai brothers, defenceman Ryuichi and forward Takuma, who also went through a successful FAT and then were trying out for the IHL Bloomington PrairieThunder, they were both attractive players who played well during the tryout (their words) but they were cut because of lack of visas. Now, I thought teams were supposed to provide the visas once they signed the players, not the other way around. But the Kawai brothers are now back in Japan and are waiting for their US work permits to be issued. In the meantime, the expansion AL team Tohoku Free Blades have picked them up and they will definitely upgrade the upstart team. Their contracts with the Blades are supposed to be temporary until they head back to the States, but who knows what will happen.
Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, opinion | Tagged: bloomington, grizzlies, Ice Bucks, icegators, ihl, ishikawa, kawai, kazuma, louisiana, nikko, prince rabbits, ryuichi, seibu, sphl, stockton, takaaki, takahashi, takuma, thunder, utah | 1 Comment »
Posted by simon c on 2009 October 6日 Tuesday
Posted by simon c on 2009 October 6日 Tuesday
サンノゼ・シャークスのファンサイト、Sharks Site によるチャイナ・シャークスのChris Collins 元ＧＭとのインタビューです。シャークスの長期的目標はチームとリーグをもっとプロ化させる事で、各連盟の影響を無くしてビジネスモデルとしてアジアリーグとシャークスを成功させる事だったそうです（現状から考えると夢物語みたいですね）。その為には、短期的にはシャークスは外国人選手に頼り（今季のチーム構成は中国人７人、元ＮＨＬ選手５人－エンディコットとパーピック含む－と残りは日本人選手になる予定だったそうです）、中国人選手育成の為のファームチームを作り年間７５－９５試合を韓国、日本と北朝鮮のアマチュアチームと試合を組ませる予定だったそうです（合理的に見えますが、スポーツ省の権力者は自分の選手をトップチームに入れたかったそうです、ボロ負けする事になっても）。あとリーグの為にはオフィシャルの質の向上も欠かせなかったと言っています、今はレベルが低すぎると。ＮＹアイランダーズのオーナーCharles Wang 氏が中国北部で行っている、ユース・プレーヤー向けのProject Hope との連携は全く無かったのは残念です。Collins 氏はまた条件が揃えばシャークスは中国へ戻れると語っていますが、スポーツ省の現状を読む限り、両者の思惑が一致するのは難しそうです。アムールとバイキングスに続き、アジアリーグはまた残念なパートナーを無くしました。
[Q] Can you tell me about the San Jose Sharks ending their affiliation with the China Sharks this summer, a team which has been renamed the China Dragons?
[CC] In China, nothing is as it ever seems! We proposed a plan for total Chinese solvency financially and on the ice at the development and Asian League level. The Chinese ice hockey Association and its Jr. ministers in charge wanted things to remain ‘status quo’ which we deemed unacceptable. In the end I gave Greg Jamison and Mike Lehr, my two supervisors and partners, the opinion that we should not go forward in the Asian League with the Chinese until the Chinese Ice Hockey Association and its operatives were removed from our partnership. The (China Sharks) and the Asian League were asked by us NOT to use any of our “marks”.
[Q] Is there still a relationship between the Sharks and the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, and moving forward does the San Jose Sharks organization have future plans for China in general or the ALIH specifically?
[CC] There is a fabulous relationship between the Sr. Director of the CIHA, Mr. Zhou and SVSE as we look forward to working with them in the future. Our main goals now are developing coaches, players and on/off ice officials with Sr. officials in the Minister of Sports office in China. This level is going to affect change in China and help our work and expertise reach the people as opposed to any game playing at the lower levels we’ve tried to avoid.
[Q] I have read hockey is historically popular in certain regions of China. In what parts of the country was hockey already played? How did the Sharks work to increase the development of new players? How quickly did Chinese fans or the Chinese media adapt to a new team and a new sport being played in such an urban location? How was that reception compared to other teams in Japan or Korea?
[CC] Hockey in China is well known despite the results under the current regime of the CIHA. Hockey is mainly popular in the North mostly because of the influence of the Russian border. The sport with the influx of rinks nationwide is growing in unconventional areas weather-wise as the South and West will see rapid growth in the game in the near future. This is vital to the games survival if for no other reason than to get the game away from the grips of the same old “dinosaurs” in the north of China who have taken the game the wrong direction while using it as a game where development of coaches, players and officials (was non-professional).
The Chinese media covered our team and results because the team is incorrectly classified and created as the official ‘National Team’ of China for financial reasons that has no benefit for people like us or those who play the sport. Because the players level was so poor due to bad development and bad coaching and training, the Chinese media were and are ‘brutal’ towards the sport, especially the Men’s team.
This season we were only going forward in the Asian League in a commercially run team where the Jr. ministers and their local (associates) would have no say or affect on any players we picked, trained, paid and developed. Of course the CIHA was vehemently against this proposal as it basically boxed and blocked any influence they would have, so our investment in China of developing coaches, players and officials would be expedited two-fold.
You must understand that the rules in creating the team are set for Jr. ministers and their buddies to keep everyone happy by selecting teams that their (associates) ask them to pick. Of course for one season we did not allow this and the team was more successful than it had ever been. This created chaos for the very few ‘obstructionist’ in the local northern region, as the game was changed and those responsible for the destruction of the Chinese so called ‘product’ were left out in the cold. Their players of choice who have led China to the B division of group 2 at the WC, and have led the country to be the laughing stock of international hockey were all told by me and my coaches ‘thanks but no thanks’ as we were rebuilding the team from top to bottom.
The crowds in Songjiang where we played last season (about 35 minutes outside Shanghai with no traffic) were good as we averaged just over 3000 per game. Mostly college kids and young families as they were loyal and vocal about the Sharks! Sadly this season they’ve lost their first 6 games in a hapless situation where on average 350 people have been let in free to watch this… collection of kids being led down a path of more failure.
Chinese (fans) are obviously not very kind to the Japanese teams as a whole and maybe like the South Koreans a bit more. Other sports mainly feed this rivalry like soccer, table tennis, badminton, volleyball and basketball.
[Q] In an interview, Claude Lemieux mentioned a few thousand fans in attendance during one of the games in China. How was the turnout and the atmosphere during the China Sharks first season? Which was the toughest building to play in?
[CC] Atmosphere in the building was great. There are plenty of YouTube clips from fans at home games last season in Songjiang as we enjoyed our time there and the community.
God Bless Claude and his family for letting him come over as he was and is great. He is one of the best people I’ve ever known as he is the consummate professional, and like Mac and Flats gave our team and league a sense of being. I will forever be indebted to my friend Claude as should all hockey people as the game needs more talent and character like Claude.
The toughest building for the China Sharks to play in was Anyang, home of the Halla team in South Korea. They seemed to be the only team who prepared as if the NHL Sharks were on the ice (laugh). We liked our partners in the AL as we hope to be back soon under a completely separate structure than what is currently in place and unacceptable to us an ownership group.
[Q] The San Jose Sharks brought a few China Sharks forwards to Oakland Ice for an offseason hockey clinic. San Jose also brought several foreign-born players to China to help solidify the lineup, including player/coach and former San Jose goaltender Wade Flaherty, and 6-foot-7 defenseman/coach Steve McKenna. How difficult was the process of bringing in foreign-born imports to China and the ALIH? Flaherty was named the best goaltender in the league last year, former Stockton Thunder forward Brock Radunske lead the league in goals (29) and points (57), and Jason Beeman lead the China Sharks with 15 goals. How much of an impact of did foreign-born players have on the ice and in the development of the ALIH players elsewhere and in China? Were there any other players that you contacted, or that contacted you, about playing in China or the ALIH?
[CC] Many ex-NHLers I know want to come to China as the numbers this past off season were very high as we would have been a favorite to win the AL had we gone forward. My plan was two stage: One was to field a development team playing 75-95 games while playing exhibition schedules all season against AL teams and Asian hockey colleges in Japan and South and North Korea. This team would have been 99% Chinese. The AL team would have been 7 Chinese tops with the other 13 players half import and half Japanese. Because of the Sharks name, and because of the exoticness of China, acquiring players was not a problem.
Import players are China right now which is what is wrong with the current people running Chinese men’s hockey. They do not understand the concept of 3 steps back in the long run equals 15 steps forward. Whether its because of financial interests or ignorance is not important, the Chinese men will never grow until a proven researched national strategy, like what we invested millions in, is fully implemented and the troublemakers are pushed aside.
This season we would have had 5 former NHL players on the China Sharks roster had we proceeded.
[Q] Steve McKenna might have the most interesting post-NHL career story of any hockey player to date, going from England to Australia to Italy to Korea. Can you describe how he came to the China Sharks? He also mentioned a persepctive shift when he and Flaherty were riding bikes through the University campus on the way to work. Is an open minded and adventurous mindset needed for former North American or European players to enjoy themselves in the ALIH? What are one or two things that a player might have to deal with playing in China that he would not expect prior to coming over?
[CC] The minute we were announced as taking over the AL franchise, which by the way was never our goal as we came to China to develop players, coaches and officials and still see this as our mission, I targeted Mac as I knew him well. After our first season when we realized how dysfunctional the system currently in place was I called him and said ‘Mac, you must be in China next season’… I think we agreed to a contract on that phone call. The fact Mac is the national team coach of Australia and has won a World Championship at the helm there also fit our needs of playing and assisting Derek.
YES, players must be open minded and adventurous to live and play in China… (laugh). The bicycles were my idea as I thought it would be great to have these big guys in their suits riding to and from the arena daily in front of hundreds of thousands of college students.
Communism and its effects on people in a society that is quickly changing into a full fledged democracy in some ways is a major eye opener. It seemed to me that the players got it very well while the Jr. ministers did, but wanted no part of it and its affect on the average person… (laugh). The absolute lack of understanding of the team game is another. How the game of hockey is really coached and taught is another. How people eat team meals and travel and what is socially acceptable and what is not is another major eye opener. If you factor in what communism’s principals are and add them to these equations you get some very entertaining and interesting results. I am saving the juiciest stories for my book that I am writing on China and team sports.
Posted in 01_日本語, 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, NHL, opinion | Tagged: アイスホッケー, インタビュー, サンノゼ, シャークス, チャイナ, china, chris collins, san jose, sharks, 中国 | Leave a Comment »
Posted by simon c on 2009 September 30日 Wednesday
Thanks to the outstanding performance by the hometown goalie Michio Hashimoto, the Tohoku Free Blades notched their first victory in only their 4th regular season game in their young Asia League history with a 5-3 win over the upgraded Nikko Ice Bucks team in the second game of the two game series in Nikko. Hashimoto turned away 39 of 42 shots for a well deserved hero of the game, while his counterpart Naoya Kikuchi had a terrible game letting in 5 goals on only 26 shots. Looks like the league might be even more competitive than my initial prediction for the 2009-10 season.
Congrats Blades, and we look forward to more fierce battles in a league with that may have the most parity ever in the short history of AL. Korea-Japan games start this upcoming weekend in October, and this should be very interesting in terms of giving us a clearer outlook on the season.
Posted by simon c on 2009 September 25日 Friday
Looking at the game sheet for the China Dragon season opener last night, Mikhail Nemirovsky was the only import dressed for the Chinese squad in the 2-8 loss to Oji. It’ll be a long long season for them unless they sign a few more imports. (They’ve declared that the team will not use up all 7 import slots in order to give Chinese players more playing experience. And Asian players don’t count as imports within the league, Japanese rookie goalie Inoue was in nets for the Dragon.)
Elsewhere, over the weekend, the Japanese and Korean teams opened their seasons. The Korean derby games were both wild shootouts (6-8, 5-4) as the teams split the games. The newly bolstered Nikko Ice Bucks took one of the games from the Oji Eagles despite being badly outshot (2-3, 2-1), and the newcomers Tohoku Free Blades managed to earn their first Asia League point by taking game 2 of their opening series against the defending champs Nippon Paper Cranes to a shootout after the teams were unable to settle the score following regulation and overtime (2-4, 5-4 so). You can find all the scores and game sheets here:
Posted by simon c on 2009 September 17日 Thursday
The ever changing Asia League of Ice Hockey had another paradigm shift this past off season. They’re easier to sum up in point form, so here we go:
Now, let’s take a team by team look at the upcoming season in more detail:
Nippon Paper Cranes (21-4-11, Playoff Champions)
The defending champions from the 2008-09 season returns with a team largely unchanged. The Cranes have reduced the number of imports from two (Brad Tiley, Kelly Fairchild) to one (Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu) in order to save costs (Beaulieu has only ECHL and German 2nd division experience, thus should be considerably cheaper than the more experienced Tiley and Fairchild, but whether he’ll be able to contribute as much remains a question to be answered), and have also picked up national team member Daisuku Obara from Seibu. The amazing playoff run last season that capped off with the championship trophy was largely due to the outstanding goaltending of Hisashi Ishikawa who absolutely stood on his head in many postseason games. More of the same will be needed for the team to repeat as champions as the top of the league could be a logjam.
Anyang Halla (23-4-9, lost in semifinals)
In 2008-09 Halla became the first non-Japanese team to claim the regular season title. However, the team was unable to overcome the eventual champions Cranes despite having the home ice advantage in a tough 7 game series that went the distance (4 of the 7 games were 1 goal games). The core of the team is intact as Halla has done the previously unthinkable in the AL by inking their successful imports to multiyear deals (3 years for leading scorer Brock Radunske, 2 years each for Jon Awe and Brad Fast). With sniper Song Dong-Hwan back having a successful season (35GP 45P) after missing 2 seasons to military service, the team looks poised to avenge their playoff disappointment from the previous season.
Oji Eagles (22-4-10, lost in semifinals)
The Eagles have decided to really save on expenses by doing away entirely with imports for the upcoming season. Instead the team has added national team forwards and former Seibu players Sho Sato and Yosuke Kon (the AL and Team Japan pest, in the Esa Tikkanen mould, it’s a compliment). The production from veteran imports Ricard Persson and Shane Endicott will be missed, but with the parent company Oji Paper’s finances on shakier grounds with the economic downturn, the team will ice an all-Japanese squad this season (though the team still has a “ringer” in Japanese passport holding Japanese-Canadian Aaron Keller who is also a national team defenceman). It’s still a good team, especially with the addition of Sato and Kon, but it’s tough to see this team taking either the regular season title or the playoff trophy home with them.
High1 (13-4-19, lost in first round)
The High1 club had a disappointing 2008-09 season being unceremoniously swept out of the play-in first round of the playoffs against the eventual champs Cranes after a 5th place finish in the regular season where they were not in contention with the top 4 teams. The team looks to rebound to 2007-08 form when they finished 2nd in the regular season. The team has brought back Tim Smith who had a successful run from 2006-08 (63GP 106P) and has also brought in new imports D Jeremy Van Hoof and F Trevor Gallant. Along with their Korean rookies, the team has also added Japanese rookie Hiroki Ueno who scored 30 points in 24 games for Waseda University in the Kanto University League (top university league in Japan).
China Dragon (6-4-26, did not make the playoffs)
The ever changing Chinese entry in the Asia League will play as the China Dragon this season. The former China Sharks became the first team to send a non-Chinese team to the bottom of the standings last season largely in part to the excellent goaltending by NHL and AHL veterans Wade Flaherty (who won AL goalie of the year last season) and big, tough defenceman Steve McKenna, and the team showed the most discipline of any Chinese team in AL history by staying close in many games where they were blown out in the past (well, it may have been mostly due to Flaherty who played every game making 40+ saves per game with a 91.7% save percentage). The Dragon are allowed to have 7 imports on their roster, but intend on entering the season with only 3 or 4 imports in order to be less reliant on imports to better develop domestic players. The team is under the stewardship of experienced Belarusian Andrei Kovalev, and its imports haven’t been announced as of yet. Unless the team can sign a Flaherty-class goalie, look for China to sink back to the bottom of the league standings in the coming season. Oh yeah, and the new Dragon logo is totally underwhelming and uninspiring piece of bureaucratic art(?), don’t they have snazzy designers in Shanghai these days?
Nikko Ice Bucks (6-2-28, did not make the playoffs)
The Bucks had their worst season since AL begun by becoming the first non-Chinese team to finish the season at the bottom of the table. The interesting choice of using unproven import forwards Eric Lafreniere (34GP 10P) and Mickey Gilchrist (36GP 19P) did not quite work out, but this is the team that has experienced the most changes during the offseason. Firstly, the Bucks have brought in 6 former Seibu players including national team captain Takahito Suzuki and NT goalie Naoya Kikuchi, the addition of 3 quality defencemen is sure to bolster their game in the defensive zone, and the addition of Bud Smith gives the team flexibility with its top 6 forwards. With such a significant upgrade to their team, the Bucks are the wildcard in the 2009-10 season. If the team gels well, it could finish high in the standings and fight their way through the playoffs. Though a 2 year plan is probably more realistic.
Tohoku Free Blades (expansion team)
The unproven Blades take the place of powerhouse Seibu in the league. The team was created last year based on 14 players who made the cut in team tryouts. Then once the team was officially approved to join the league, the Blades went out and reinforced their lineup with Asia Leaguers and imports. It was a coup obtaining Bin Ishioka (36GP 18P) from Seibu and D Steve Munn and LW Bruce Mulherin have a good trackrecord in the English league the past couple of seasons and have proved to be solid additions to the team so far in the preseason. The goaltending duties will fall on homegrown Michio Hashimoto who got bumped from the Bucks when they acquired Kikuchi, but Hashimoto is capable of stealing some games and will keep the team in games where they have no business being in. The Blades will play most of their games in Hachinohe, Aomori, but will also play a series in Koriyama, Fukushima, another city in the Tohoku region.
Seibu Prince Rabbits aftermath: 6 players including Suzuki and Kikuchi have signed with the Bucks, Kon and Sho Sato have signed with Oji, the Cranes acquired Obara, Kashino and Ishioka went to Tohoku, Yuya Yamada to High1, and G Inoue who was to become the first Seibu player from the Seibu junior team has joined China. Players going overseas are Go Tanaka to German 2nd division team ESV Kaufbeuren, Ryuichi Kawai (along with his younger brother Takuma who is the first Japanese player to appear in the Memorial Cup) are training in Alberta in now-retired Ryan Fujita’s hometown of Taber, Alberta (also Devin Setoguchi’s hometown) and will be trying out for minor league teams, long time ALer Joel Prpic has signed with Medveščak, the Croatian entry in the EBEL (Austrian based international league), and is waiting for his Croatian passport (his parents are Croatian) to be processed and should start playing with them in October.
To say the least, this should be a very interesting Asia League season with so many changes to the league. I expect Halla to be the team to beat in the 2009-10 season, but the top of the standings could get very congested with the Cranes, Eagles, High1, and the Bucks all having a crack at it. Unless China can bring in a quality goalie, I expect the Dragon to be doormats once again, and the expansion Blades should finish ahead of them with Hashimoto in nets. And since the teams have only been playing preseason games in their respective regions (Hokkaido, Honshu, Korea, and China) probably to cut costs, so we are even more in the dark than usual regarding team strength and chemistry.
The season opens on 19 September with the Hokkaido teams hosting the Honshu teams and the Korean derby in Anyang. Let’s drop the puck!
PS This is exactly the 600th post on this blog, yay!
Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan, NHL, opinion | Tagged: anyang, bud, china, cranes, dragon, eagles, Flaherty, free blades, go tanaka, halla, High1, Ice Bucks, ishikawa, joel prpic, kawai, korea, McKenna, nikko, nippon paper, Oji, prince rabbits, radunske, ryuichi, san jose, seibu, sharks, smith, song dong-hwan, takuma, tim, tohoku | 5 Comments »
Posted by simon c on 2009 September 16日 Wednesday
2009年8月16日 スポスタ 台湾出身のサウスポーチェンの物語 出演：陳偉殷 故郷の大先輩 郭源治 二軍時代の恩師 小林聖始 元同僚 樋口龍美 協力：チェンの家族 スポスタは企画自体もそうですが、編集もなんつーか面白いですね 。
Posted by simon c on 2009 September 12日 Saturday
The Tohoku Free Blades hosted their first preseason game today in Hachinohe, Aomori against the Nikko Ice Bucks. And despite local reports that it was a rough game with lots of penalties against the Blades, the expansion team managed to pull off a wild 9-6 win over the stronger than usual Bucks squad. The shots on goal were Blades 35 – 36 Bucks, so it looks like the Blades have improved a lot compared to their first pair of preseason games in Nikko where they were clearly being outplayed. Apparently there was a decently sized crowd as well (there better be, as it was a weekend game, and the first one against an AL team at that.)
Edit: Official game sheet. There were 420 spectators, this’ll have to improve during the regular season.
Posted by simon c on 2009 September 11日 Friday
This should be familiar to those living in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.