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    Realistic Asia League expansion team for 2009/10

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 November 10日 Monday

    There have been rumours over the years about adding teams to the Asia League, anything from a Kazakhstani team to a third Korean team to the most recently floated idea by the China (and San Jose) Sharks brass about bringing back a second Chinese team (and my hope that Amur Khavarovsk will send one of its minor league teams to the AL).

    But this time there is a serious financial backer with a seemingly realistic plan. Xebio’s capitalization and annual sales are both over $1 billion, which should be enough to sponsor a few million dollars a year budget of an AL team, but the company’s about 1/10th in capitalization when compared to Seibu, Oji, and Nippon Paper. I’ll translate the short article that appeared in the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper’s Doshin Sports daily.

    Xebio has established an ice hockey team

    8 November 10:14

    Xebio Co., Ltd., a sporting equipment retailer, announced on 5 November 2008 that it has established a new ice hockey team with the aim of joining the Asia League Ice Hockey next season (Ed: 2009/10). Details will be revealed in upcoming press releases including one in Koriyama city (Ed: Fukushima prefecture).

    The team will call the entire Tohoku (northeast) area of Japan as its home territory, and its training base will be in Hachinohe city, Aomori prefecture (Ed: the Tohoku hockey hotbed). The managing company Tohoku Ice Hockey Club has already been established with former Nikko IceBucks president and current Xebio employee Keisuke Araki as president. About 10 new student-athletes from various universities who will be graduating this upcoming spring have already accepted their offer to join the team.

    Currently, the Asia League features 7 teams of which 4 are based in Japan including the Oji and Nippon Paper teams. According to the league agreement, adding expansion teams requires the consent of the league general assembly where the tentative club will be judged on criteria such as financial stability and its ability to ice a competitive team.

    Original Japanese article after the break:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 02_English, 03_Translations (英訳ポートフォリオ), Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    IHWC Div I 2008: Japan NT preparations

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 5日 Saturday

    The Japanese national team has been preparing to host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I tournament at Sapporo in the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. The games will run 13 – 19 April against Ukraine, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Croatia.Since the end of the Asia League season, the national team has been in training in Hokkaido and has recently played 2 practice matches against Amur of Khavarovsk (an RSL team, but no idea what kind of roster the team brought over, as the box scores only indicate uniform numbers and no names).

    Game 1 ended in a 4-4 tie. All goals were scored by the 34th minute in a flurry of a first half. One of the two remaining university players, standout defenseman Haga was used in the 2nd pairing with Aaron Keller. And High1 defenseman Okubo was used in the 4th pairing, but successfully quarterbacked the power play and assisted on 2 PPGs. Kikuchi (Seibu) allowed 4 goals, though the number of shots was not recorded.

    Japan eked out a 2-1 win in game 2 against an Amur squad that was fresher after a day of rest. Obara (Seibu) scored both goals on the power play this game, and combined with his 2 PP points (1G + 1A) in game 1 and has been playing great. Haruna (Oji) continued his hot play from the AL playoffs where he reeled off 9 straight victories (only allowing more than 2 goals in a single game), as he only let in 1 of the 19 shots he faced. Haruna has the hot hand and the original Japanese NHLer Fukufuji will be tied up in the ECHL playoffs with the Bakersfield Condors, so the Oji veteran should be the starting goalie in the upcoming tournament. AL’s top scorer in recent seasons Nishiwaki who is playing with the Dayton Bombers this season, and if his team loses in the first round of the playoffs (a best of 3 play in series), then he’ll be able to squeak into Sapporo for the start of the tournament.

    JIHL/ALIH and Japanese national team veteran Ryan Kiyoshi Fujita, who always plays way above his size, was nowhere to be seen over the Amur games although he’s listed on the long list of players in training camp. It’s unknown whether he was dropped because of injury, fitness, or team plans. 

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, International, Japan, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Oji wins 2008 AL Finals!

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 March 20日 Thursday

    Congratulations to Oji Paper Ice Hockey Team, the 2008 Asia League Ice Hockey champions!

    3rd place finisher in the regular season, Oji convincingly won the championship, going undefeated in the playoffs reeling off 9 straight victories. Oji let in 2 or less goals in every game but 1 (the 10-5 shootout semifinal win over High1). Goalie Haruna was outstanding throughout the playoffs, and it was no different in the deciding game as he stopped 33 of 35 Cranes shots in the 3-2 win. With a 1.89 GAA, only allowing 17 goals on 221 SOG for a very solid 92.3% save percentage, he probably deserves the finals and playoff MVPs. He outplayed McLennan in the finals, Jamie had been having an excellent playoffs up until that point with a 92% save percentage going into the finals and he had singlehandedly won games for the Cranes, but in the end Haruna was the man.

    This was the first AL championship for Oji (every final before this year featured the Cranes v. Seibu/Kokudo), and the last time Oji won the league was the Japan Ice Hockey League way back in 1994. Congrats Oji!

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    2008 IHWC Div I Group B in Sapporo

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 March 18日 Tuesday

    It’s amazing that this all East European (except for Japan) tournament is being held in Japan at all. I wonder what went down in the host city nomination and the subsequent voting process.

    The tournament will run from 13-19 April at Tsukisamu Arena in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan and the other participating teams are Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Hungary.

    This is Japan’s best chance to win the dvision and qualify for the top group, playing in front of the home crowd, and having ECHL regulars G Fukufuji (unimpressive .891 save percentage this season, but he’s on one of the worst teams in the league so all goalies at Bakersfield are sporting a sub-.900 mark after posting better numbers in previous seasons) and F Nishiwaki (14+16=30 pts in 54 games so far, but was one of the leading goal scorers in the AL the two previous seasons) on the national team with their ECHL clubs slated to miss the playoffs. ECHL season runs to the first week of April, so these two will be able to join the national team for this Div I tournament at home that’ll run from 13-19 April. Oji goalie Haruna has been having a fantastic AL playoffs, posting 1.88 GAA and .924 save % so far in 8 games, and he’s had some success in international tournies if my memory’s correct. And Seibu’s Kikuchi, who is always solid in Asia, is also available, so Japan should be solid in goal, hopefully the porous defense from last year’s tournament has somehow been improved, but I don’t see how.

    Other interesting candidates remaining on the Japan team selection squad (down to 30 now, but there will be further cuts before the start of the tournament to get down to regulation size) are D Okubo playing for High1 of the Korean entry to the AL, he totally drove their offense this past season, and led AL defensemen in assists and points. University kids D Haga of university champs Toyo University (who scored a hat trick in the university championship finals), D Yanatori of finalist Meiji Univ., and F Kuji of Waseda University are also included in the selection camp. Other players are the usual suspects from AL teams including naturalized Canadian born veteran players (all Japanese descent Nikkeis) D Aaron Keller (Oji), F Ryan Kiyoshi Fujita (Seibu), and F Darcy Mitani (Cranes).

    Interestingly, the national team will play two warm up games again Amur Khavarovsk (the B team, I assume). 1 April at Tomakomai Hakucho Arena, and 3 April at Sapporo Tsukisamu Areana, both games start at 19:00.

    The 30 man selection camp squad (in Japanese).

    IIHF website for this tournament.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, International, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008 AL semifinals result and finals preview

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 March 11日 Tuesday

    Games 3 and 4 of the 2008 Asia League Ice Hockey semifinals were played last week.

    2008.3.5 Oji 4 – 1 High1

    (Oji wins series 3-0)

    2008.3.5 Cranes 7 – 2 Seibu

    2008.3.6 Cranes 2 – 1 Seibu

    (Cranes win series 3-1)

    Oji handily swept the 2nd place team in the regular season High1, outscoring them by an aggregate of 17-8 in the 3 games. High1 seems to have gone down without much of a fight (except for game 2), the team’s definitely got potential, so I’m hoping for a better playoff performance from them next season. Oji makes its first ever AL final (it has been Cranes – Seibu (Kokudo) every season in this league’s brief existence). For this once glorious team that won numerous Japan League and Japanese Championship titles, this could be a return to glory (though, getting to avoid Seibu and the Cranes leading up to the finals was probably the biggest blessing). Oji’s last Japan League title came in 1994, so they’ll be gunning for the trophy for sure.

    Cranes vs Seibu, this has been the staple of Asial League championship every season (and in Japan League championships leading upto the creation of the Asia League in 2003). Yet again, the Cranes won a playoff series on the back of their new goalie Jamie McLennan. Though the Cranes demolished Seibu 7-2 in game 3, McLennan won game 4 all by himself making 36 saves in the 2-1 win to seal the series at home while in Kushiro, Hokkaido. He has been absolutely stellar throughout the playoffs posting 93.75% save percentage in round 1 against Halla, and a 92.8% save percentage against the most explosive offense in the league in Seibu in the semifinals. Other than getting involved in some rough stuff in game 2 and taking some penalties that led to Seibu power play goals, Jamie has been just amazing. If he keeps his cool, the Cranes can take the Hokkaido derby final and defend their AL title. Oji’s best bet to dethrone the champions may be to get under McLennan’s skin. After all, a goalie fresh out of the NHL (he was a backup only last season) is well above the level of play in this league (AL is probably a similar in level to a less physical ECHL).

    Semifinals games 1 and 2 review.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, NHL, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008 AL semifinals games 1-2

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 March 3日 Monday

    Asia League Ice Hockey completed its first 2 games of the semifinal series this past weekend. Results were (home teams listed first):

    2008.3.1 Seibu 2 – 3 Cranes

    2008.3.1 High1 5 – 10 Oji

    2008.3.2 Seibu 4 – 1 Cranes

    2008.3.2 High1 2 – 3 Oji

    So, Seibu and the Cranes split the games in Tokyo and head up to Hokkaido with the Cranes now having earned the home advantage with games 3 and 4 taking place up in Kushiro.

    Oji pounded 10 goals into the High1 net despite only having 30 shots on net (33% shooting percentage!) in game 1. High1 finally pulled the starting goalie Eum (who had a solid regular season with 90.9% save percentage) after 32 minutes when he let in the 6th goal. High1 came back much sharper in game 2 with the 1 goal loss, but was still outshot 36-24. Defenseman Okubo was involved in both High1 goals, but was also on the ice for all 3 even strength Oji goals, so maybe the Japan national team candidate’s offensive prowess does come with a price.

    Both teams with first round byes seemed to have been rusty coming off the long break in the schedule, as the league wrapped up its regular season on 27 January, and the top 2 teams didn’t see playoff action until 1 March, a month later (Seibu had the 3 Japanese championship games inbetween, but High1 was forced to play practice matches against local university teams to stay in game shape).

    I attended the game 1 between Seibu and the Cranes in Higashifushimi, Tokyo. Seibu had solid rushes up the ice time and again in the first 2 periods, but hardly any of them led to quality scoring chances or shots. Then, as things came together for the team in the 3rd, Jamie McLennan was there to slam the door shut with one great save after another. McLennan deservedly won the game MVP. Seibu won game 2 convincingly by 3 goals, but all 5 goals in the game were scored on the power play (and only 1 Seibu goal was with a man advantage, the other 4 goals were scored with 2 man advantages!), so maybe this means Seibu hasn’t figured out McLennan yet, so it will be interesting to see what happens in games 3 and 4.

    Some photos from game 1:

    Cranes before the game started

    Cranes before the game.

    Tyson Nash with the playoff beard

    Tyson Nash (looks like a playoff beard, but he’s had it since shortly after he landed in Japan)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    Jamie McLennan in Beijing and AL semifinal mini preview

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 February 22日 Friday

    Some interesting observations from Jamie about the Asia League. I’ve seen games in Korea but not in China, so first hand reports like this are neat (from his blog entry at The Hockey News):

    Secondly, in 17 years as a pro hockey player I’d like to claim I’ve had many experiences and would say I’ve seen it all when it came to what this game has to offer. But I broke out laughing in amazement six minutes into the game when I spotted the goal judge behind the net, smoking, with an ashtray on the boards and carrying on like he’s watching the game from his living room couch.

    It was awesome. I’m not condoning the smoking issue, but it was a very unique sight to see someone involved in a sport actively lighting a dart while the play is on. There were plumes of smoke everywhere around him, like he’d actually see a goal if it went in. It was so crazy; I thought it was worth mentioning. It was one of those things that if you didn’t see for yourself, you wouldn’t believe.

    Haha, pretty funny stuff. The level of professionalism really varies throughout the countries in this league. Looks like Jamie was needed in the second game though, as the undermanned Cranes managed to somehow lose to the lowly China Sharks by the score of 6-5 (who only won 3 out of 30 games all season to finish dead last).

    The Cranes just swept Anyang Halla in 3 games (best of 5 series) to advance to the semifiinals of the AL playoffs. But all 3 games were decided by one goal, so it looks like the series could have gone either way (I didn’t get to see any games, but shots on goal were fairly even). Now I’ll get to see McLennan, Nash, and Co. in action against the Seibu Prince Rabbits when they open the semifinals here in Tokyo on 1 March.

    The other semifinal features Oji, who handily swept the underpowered Bucks, against High1, the first non-Japanese team to finigh the regular season with such a good record (2nd). Both Seibu and High1 had byes in the first round, they should be well prepared for the semis. The Cranes fortunes rest on McLennan’s shoulders, as the team’s been inconsistent all season and Seibu is a solid squad with no obvious weaknesses. Oji – High1 should be a very even and interesting series. I’d like to see High1 win and become the first non-Japanese team to make it to the AL final, but this series is a real tough call.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    2007-08 Asia League Ice Hockey Regular Season Review and Playoff Preview

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 February 16日 Saturday

    The 2007-08 season of AL was competed with 7 teams (the league makeup changes every year, hopefully we’ll get some new teams entering the league in the near future). The top 6 teams make the playoffs (haha), the top 2 teams get a bye in the first round where 3rd plays 6th and 4th plays 5th.

    I was going to write a more thorough season review and playoff preview, but work and the recycle paper scandal (and the McLennan story that was too good to pass up) took up too much of my time, and the playoffs begin today, so here’s a quick summary. (EDIT: Or so I thought, this turned out to be, by far, the longest article I’ve written so far for my young blog. And it seriously needs editing and is full of grammatical and other errors… but I’ve got a real job and this is just a hobby so please bear with my late night stream of consciousness, thanks.)

    Final Standings

    RK

    Team

    G

    W

    OTW

    T

    OTL

    L

    GF – GA

    Points

    1

    Seibu Prince Rabbits

    30

    20

    0

    1

    0

    9

    138 – 73

    61

    2

    High1 Ice Hockey Team

    30

    17

    2

    1

    2

    8

    118 – 89

    58

    3

    Oji Ice Hockey Team

    30

    17

    1

    2

    2

    8

    112 – 74

    57

    4

    Nippon Paper Cranes

    30

    15

    1

    2

    1

    11

    97 – 85

    50

    5

    Anyang Halla Ice Hockey Club

    30

    13

    1

    2

    1

    13

    93 – 92

    44

    6

    HC Nikko IceBucks

    30

    8

    2

    2

    0

    18

    60 – 109

    30

    7

    China Sharks

    30

    3

    0

    0

    1

    26

    63 – 159

    10

    http://www.alhockey.com/popup/9/standings.html

    Scoring Leaders

    RK

    Player Name

    No

    Team

    GP

    G

    A

    P

    1

    KIM, Alex

    79

    HG1

    30

    23

    28

    51

    2

    PRPIC, Joel

    33

    SPR

    27

    17

    30

    47

    3

    SMITH, Tim

    21

    HG1

    30

    23

    23

    46

    4

    MARTINEC, Patrik

    43

    AHL

    29

    7

    29

    36

    5

    ENDICOTT, Shane

    12

    OJI

    30

    13

    22

    35

    5

    MITANI, Darcy Takeshi

    20

    NPC

    28

    13

    22

    35

    5

    SMITH, Bud

    58

    HG1

    30

    9

    26

    35

    5

    SUZUKI, Takahito

    18

    SPR

    30

    13

    22

    35

    5

    YULE, Chris

    75

    SPR

    30

    10

    25

    35

    10

    FUJITA, Kiyoshi

    40

    SPR

    28

    16

    18

    34

    10

    SAITO, Takeshi

    19

    OJI

    30

    11

    23

    34

    http://www.alhockey.com/popup/9/point_rank.html

    Goalie Stats (sorted by Save %, goalies who faced over 100 SOG in bold)

    RK

    Player Name

    Team

    No

    GP

    SOG

    GA

    Saves

    Sv%

    GAA

    1

    KATAYAMA, Kazuhito

    SPR

    20

    4

    79

    5

    74

    93.67

    1.88

    2

    McLENNAN, Jamie

    NPC

    29

    14

    415

    33

    382

    92.05

    2.5

    3

    KIKUCHI, Naoya

    SPR

    39

    29

    801

    64

    737

    92.01

    2.37

    4

    HARUNA, Masahito

    OJI

    61

    20

    513

    43

    470

    91.62

    2.22

    5

    KIM, Sun-Ki

    AHL

    32

    1

    23

    2

    21

    91.3

    2

    6

    EUM, Hyun-Seung

    HG1

    31

    29

    854

    78

    776

    90.87

    2.81

    7

    ISHIKAWA, Hisashi

    NPC

    61

    18

    538

    50

    488

    90.71

    2.97

    8

    KANAMARU, Hisashi

    HG1

    39

    4

    83

    8

    75

    90.36

    3.47

    9

    HASHIMOTO, Michio

    NIB

    1

    30

    1031

    100

    931

    90.3

    3.39

    10

    OGINO, Junji

    OJI

    30

    10

    228

    23

    205

    89.91

    2.5

    11

    GUARD, Kelly

    CSH

    1

    2

    59

    6

    53

    89.83

    3

    12

    SON, Ho-Seong

    AHL

    33

    27

    698

    77

    621

    88.97

    2.98

    13

    PARK, Jun-Soo

    AHL

    30

    5

    89

    12

    77

    86.52

    3.6

    14

    KIYOKAWA, Kazuhiko

    OJI

    45

    2

    41

    6

    35

    85.37

    4.2

    15

    KAWAGUCHI, Rei

    NIB

    30

    2

    22

    4

    18

    81.82

    6.95

    16

    YU Yang

    CSH

    30

    18

    428

    78

    350

    81.78

    6

    17

    XIE Ming

    CSH

    33

    8

    170

    33

    137

    80.59

    7.35

    18

    MATSUMOTO, Shiro

    SPR

    31

    1

    7

    2

    5

    71.43

    6

    19

    TADA, Kyohei

    OJI

    55

    1

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    http://www.alhockey.com/popup/9/gksp.html

    1.seibu Seibu Prince Rabbits (20-1-9, 61 pts) – First round bye

    Another solid season by the bunnies. Like in previous years, the team started training hard early in the summer with a regimented program under the guidance of their conditioning trainer. This worked as the team started off the season 7-1-1 (Sept-Oct) and solidly in first place. But this team can get sloppy and streaky during the regular season, and only the luck of their schedule allowed Seibu to claim top of the table. The Rabbits finished the season with 3 straight games against the lowly Bucks, easy 9 points (8-0, 4-1, and 8-2 wins) to overtake High1 for 1st place. But the bunnies went only 4-6 leading up to the Bucks games at the end of the season.

    Seibu did beat Oji and the Cranes to capture the All Japan Championship on 10 Feb, and the bunnies are deadly clinical on the power play leading the league with incredible 34% conversion rate. Seibu is definitely the favourite in the upcoming playoffs, especially with the unstable Cranes this year, and the unknown factor of High1 in the post season. Seibu features the highest scoring Asian trained player in the league in the veteran Takahito Suzuki, as well as Prpic, Fujita, and Yule who all cracked the top 10 in scoring. Then again, they did run up the score 15-3 against the Sharks one game, so the AL scoring leader board and goal differentials figures are still not very reliable. And all these players are on the wrong side of 30, so they have the skills and experience, but a youthful team may outskate and out-grit them.

    Okubo_Fujita

    Okubo (High1) and Fujita (Seibu)

     

    2. High1High1 (19-1-10, 58 pts) – First round bye

    21-1-12 for 62 points last season as Kangwon Land (34 game schedule in 2006-07). On a per game basis High1 earned 1.93 pts, with a GF of 3.93 and GA of 2.97. Whereas Kangwon last season was 1.82 pts, 4.5 GF, and 3.24 GA. Upon first glance it seems like the team did better last season, but there were two Chinese minnows last year, where as they combined to form the somewhat more competitive China Sharks this year. So, it’s difficult to compare with just those raw numbers.

    But one aspect of the team that definitely improved was the power play unit. It went from league average 24% (5th out of 8 teams) to an impressive 31%, good enough for 2nd in the league. Not taking stupid penalties, and containing the High1 power play will be the key for the team that meets them in the semifinal (Oji or Nikko). Korean teams did have an easier schedule than the Japanese teams though, as they got to beat up on the Sharks 3 extra times when compared to their Japanese counterparts. So this may really have been a 3rd place team had the schedule not been unbalanced with the extra regional games.

    The incredible aspect of the High1 season was that the team lost its starting goalie Ho-Seong Son (34GP, 89 Sv%, 3.14GAA), top scorer Kyu-Hyun Kim (26+38=64pts), and young national team player Kwon-Jae Lee (1+5=6pts) all to its archrival Anyang Halla. So, High1 was reasonably expected to struggle this season. But in their place Hyun-Seung Eum (29GP, 91 Sv%, 2.81GAA) and Korean-American import Alex Kim (23+28=51pts, good enough for the league scoring title) more than filled in. Japanese defenseman Tomohito Okubo continues to be crucial to the team’s success with 28 assists (2 shy of league leader Prpic’s 30) and 33 points to lead all defensemen, and he’s the only foreign based player, besides NHL experienced goalie Yutaka Fukufuji, to be invited to the national team selection camp. Together with D Byoung-Wook Hwang (8+12=20pts) and the Smith brother (Tim 23+23=46pts, Bud 9+26=35pts) the High1 fivesome is truly a force to be reckoned with.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan, opinion, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    Jamie McLennan and Tyson Nash with the Nippon Paper Cranes

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 February 15日 Friday

    So, ex-NHLers Jamie McLennan and Tyson Nash, who are good friends, joined the Nippon Paper Cranes of the AL. For Jamie to finish off his career in an interesting land halfway around the world, for both of them to experience Japan and East Asia, for the different culture and hockey style and hopefully bring back the AL championship trophy to Kushiro again.

    McLennan has been very solid in the regular season since joining the team halfway through the season. Posting 92.05 Save % (good enough for 1st in the league among goalies who faced over 100 shots) and 2.50 GAA in 14 games (it’s a 30 game regular season, but there’s also an open FA Cup style knockoff championship, and national team players compete in international tournaments during IIHF international breaks. And of course, there’s the playoffs too, so the season’s longer than 30 games, much longer for some players, though nowhere near the unnecessarily grueling 100 game NHL schedule if you count the playoffs.) Tyson Nash injured his knee right away, so he only got into 5 games and scored 1 goal and 16 PIM while still getting accustomed to the less physical play of the league.

    mclennan

    nash

    These two are a definite improvement upon the cheap imports that the Cranes started the season with (perhaps being perennial champions or finalists made them overconfident?) and can definitely be a force in the upcoming playoffs which follow the disappointing regular season by the Cranes.

    What I didn’t know was that both Jamie and Tyson have online presence (I guess this shouldn’t be such a surprise these days) and are chronicling their journey through Japan and Asian hockey. These two guys seem easy going, if not a little too rambunctious for the ordinarily reserved Japanese (when not drunk), but it looks like they’re fully enjoying their life in countryside Hokkaido. And this provides a nice contrast to the infamous Ballads of Jason Johnson, a pro baseball player. Perhaps “hockey players are the most down to earth big money pro athletes” isn’t just Canadian propaganda 😛 After all, McLennan, Nash, and Johnson were never star players in the big leagues.

    Some interesting snippets of Jamie’s blog (some to The Hockey News no less) and other articles.

    From his first article to THN:

    I was going to retire this summer and pursue other interests in hockey when I received offers in Europe and Russia. I took an offer in Russia and was there for six weeks when I decided that it wasn’t for me and we parted ways (another long story but not for this article).

    Taking some time off was what I was doing when I was approached by my best buddy from growing up, Joel Dyck, who has been playing in Japan for 14 years and he told me I should come and play with him on his team to have a little fun and finish our careers together.

    So, Jamie was in Russia but things didn’t work out for him there (can’t find his Russian stats at eurohockey.net).

    And he’s long time friends with Japan and Asia League veteran and erstwhile Japanese national team player Joel Oshiro Dyck (he’s part Japanese descent who obtained Japanese passport a while back) from their junior days in Alberta. So, this was why McLennan and Nash came over as midseason replacement imports to the Cranes. Imports that come to play in Asia always arrive via the Asian-North American or Asian-European hockey pipelines.

    From an Ottawa Citizen article via tysonnash.com:

    “Five minutes before the games, the entire building is dead silent. No one says a word. Then we come on the ice and they go crazy. There are no anthems. We just bow to each side of the stands, then, after the game, we do it again. But the fans seem to really love the game.”

    McLennan says the level of hockey is surprisingly good, somewhere between the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League. He doesn’t want to say what he’s getting paid, but I’m told it is in the neighborhood of $200,000 a year, and the team takes care of all his expenses.

    Anthems aren’t played for domestic matches, but that’s just a minor detail. Interesting that he notices this though.

    The comment about the level of play is valuable, as it is a good measuring stick (along with statistics). Though, AL probably shares the same lack of depth problem as NPB. The top players may be near AHL level (many Japanese players have succeeded in the ECHL), but the third and fourth line guys probably won’t even make an ECHL roster. The money’s interesting too, as it’s not public information. I heard somewhere that Prpic is getting about $300,000. This is better than what these players can earn in most of Europe (maybe except for Russia, and Switzerland?).

    “It has been a wild experience,” McLennan says from his hotel room in Sapporo, where he has just made 26 saves in a 5-1 Paper Cranes victory against the Oji Ice Hockey Team (That’s their real nickname by the way: “Ice Hockey Team.” Did they hold a “Name the Team” contest to come up with that? Why not the Oji Whiz? The Oji Simpsons? The Oji Wan-kenobis? Work with me, people.)

    Everyone seems to get this wrong, but “Nippon Paper” is the company and the team name is the “Cranes”. Though, the paper cranes wordplay may have been involved when deciding on the nickname. And Oji really needs to be called the Eagles. Heck, one of their uniforms already features the eagle mascot (their other more traditional uni is a Habs tribute bleu, blanc, et rouge).

    eagles

    oji_cranes

    From Jamie’s blog entry about the China road trip:

    Joel was a master of negotiation when it came to the market and we sat back and let him work his magic. By the end of the day, the locals were none too happy with us [mostly him] as we held out for bargain basement prices and were able to come away with a few souvenirs for ridiculously cheap prices.

    Hahaha, I never knew Joel was a shrewd negotiator. In fact, he’s one of the more quiet Japanese-Canadian guys on and off the ice, from what I can tell by going to games and his (lack of) media exposure.

    When it came to the games we won the first one and completely stunk the joint out the second one, I think the guys just took them too lightly the second game, but needless to say we lost the second game in the last minute. I did not play in either game because I hurt my hip flexor in the previous game, so I unfortunately just watched and toured the city. Overall though, a great experience.

    The Cranes only took 16 skaters to Beijing and McLennan was resting, so it’s obvious that the team took the Sharks way too lightly. I guess this could be one promising thing about the disastrous Sharks season, they’re not complete roll overs (even with just 3 wins in 30 games this season).

    Anyways, here’s the totally non-pimped up ride that Nash picked up for the two of them to drive around Kushiro. From McLennan’s blog entries, it seems like Nash is the rather pragmatic one in a foreign land.

    ride

    Good luck in the playoffs Jamie and Tyson! (Though they face Halla, and Korean teams advancing further in the playoffs makes Asian hockey as a whole more interesting too…)

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Recycled Paper Scandal to hit Japanese Hockey?

    Posted by japanstats 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?)

    http://www.enn.com/pollution/article/29560

    http://kdd.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200801180095.html

     

    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.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »