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  • Posts Tagged ‘free blades’

    Free Blades sign two players and open camp

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 August 4日 Tuesday

    The Tohoku Free Blades have finally officially signed new players to bring their player count up to 16 (still far short of the minimum 23 player roster for the Asia League).

    Starting goalie will be ex-Ice Buck Michio Hashimoto, the 32 year old veteran will keep the new team respectable, and he is a product of the local Hachinohe hockey scene. Hashimoto appeared in 32 games for the Bucks last season and posted an 89.7% save percentage.

    Blades have also signed Yoshikazu Kashino from the defunct Seibu Prince Rabbits. Kashino played in 20 games and recorded no points last season.

    The team has opened camp in Hachinohe, Aomori on 3 August.

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

    Free Blades update

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 August 2日 Sunday

    Still no word on additional players on the meagre 14 man roster that’s supposed to be expanded to 23 players by 19 September when the 2009-10 Asia League season opens. (28 July, Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper)

    “東北”はゼビオの子会社が運営している。
    現在、14人いる部員を、9月19日のリーグ開幕までに23人に
    増やすという。(7月28日北海道新聞 朝刊)

    The Blades have also acquired Chris Wakabayashi the former manager of Seibu Prince Rabbits as its Head Coach to assist Manager Keisuke Araki.

    アイスホッケーのアジア・リーグに新たに来季から加わる東北フリーブレイズは27日、3月限りで解散した西武の監督だった若林クリス氏がヘッドコーチに就任すると発表した。荒城啓介監督を補佐する。

    There are rumours that the Blades will be able to sign more than 2 imports that other Japanese clubs are limited to. Also, rumour has it that now free agent former Ice Bucks starting goalie Michio Hashimoto is going to join the Blades, as he got pushed out of the Bucks by national team goalie Kikuchi, and Hashimoto is from the Tohoku area where the Blades call home.

    And finally, there are supposed to be 2 preseason matches against the HC Tochigi Ice Bucks (team renamed from the city of Nikko to the prefecture of Tochigi) on 29 (Sat) and 30 (Sun) of August at 14:00 (location unknown).

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

    Asia League Update

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 July 4日 Saturday

    Asia League Ice Hockey office has announced the tentative 2009-10 season schedule (pending Tohoku Free Blades approval into the league in the September general counsel, which seems backwards). The Blades basically take the place of the now defunct Seibu Prince Rabbits, and the league will operate just like last year with 4 Japanese teams, 2 Korean teams, and 1 Chinese team as a 7 team league. The teams will play 6 games against each other for a 36 game regular season that opens on 19 September in Korea and Hokkaido.

    Due to (cost cutting? and) to avoid clashing with the Vancouver Olympics, the playoffs have been shortened from 2008-09 and will only feature 4 teams playing two rounds of best of 5 series to determine the champion (last season included a best of 3 play-in round between 4th and 5th place teams, then best of 7 series).

    The expansion Tohoku Free Blades will open the season against the defending champion Nippon Paper Cranes in Kushiro. And the Greater Tokyo area will host a few games as the four Japanese teams will play doubleheaders in Shin-Yokohama on 14-15 November, in Sapporo on 19-20 December, and in Nishi-Tokyo (Higashifushimi) on 6-7 February.

    The Tohoku Free Blades will play half its home games at the Tohoku hockey hotbed of Hachinohe, Aomori, and will play the rest of the games in various cities around Tohoku including Koriyama, Fukushima.

    In addition to the officially announced player transfers, China Sharks have acquired tall scoring pest Joel Prpic (Seibu 35GP 43P 174PIM, he managed to score and draw a penalty simultaneously twice in one game I went to see) and Bin Ishioka (Seibu 36GP 8G+10A=18P). Though this alone won’t keep the Sharks up with the newly powerful Bucks, it is a step in the right direction (Prpic is a Japan/Asia vet that knows the league well with a long and successful career, and Ishioka won’t count as an import because Japan/Korea/China nationals do not count against imports in this league). (Thanks Martin!)

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

    Asia League player movement

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 June 7日 Sunday

    A few of the former Seibu Prince Rabbits players have found new homes this offseason after the team was shut down by its parent company Seibu Holdings. All these players so far are national team players.

    Yosuke Kon, Sho Sato (both forwards) to Oji Eagles, joining former Seibu/Kokudo player Kei Tonosaki on the team.

    Daisuke Obara (forward) to Nippon Paper Cranes, he’ll wear #76 with the Cranes, joining former Seibu/Kokudo forward Chris Yule on the team.

    In addition, productive Nikko Ice Bucks defenceman Takyuki Ono (one of the three on the team to notch over 1o points last season) has signed with Korean powerhouse Anyang Halla (Japanese, Korean, and Chinese players do not count as imports in the Asia League).

    The word is still out on the rest of the Rabbits squad (about half are expected to take up regular jobs within the Seibu Group), and of a possible new club team being founded at Higashifushimi, the former home of the Seibu/Kokudo teams, the chances are slim to nil as there is clear lack of a big time financial backer. And there’s still no word yet on how the new entrant in the league, Tohoku Free Blades, are doing to bolster their currently barebones lineup in preparation for their inaugural Asia League season in 2009-10.

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

    Fukufuji next season

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 May 24日 Sunday

    First ever Japanese NHL player and ECHL Bakersfield Condors goalie Yutaka Fukufuji has hinted on his blog that he’s looking outside America for a team to play next season. With his former Asia League team Kokudo/Seibu team folded, I’m not sure whether he means a return to Japan (the newly formed Tohoku Free Blades? Very unlikely), move to Europe (ECHL goalie would translate to second division in an elite nation?), or maybe he’s just yanking our chain and is looking into Canada 😛

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

    Free Blades Golden Week events

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 April 29日 Wednesday

    The upstart ALIH team Tohoku Free Blades will be hosting promotional events in Fukushima and Sendai (two of their 3 home towns) on 3 and 5 May, the latter being Boy’s Day, a national holiday.

    2009/Fukushima Airport YOU/YOUR Festival

    [Event] 2009/Fukushima Airport YOU/YOUR Festival

    [Date] 3 May (Sun) 9:00~16:00

    [Location] Fukushima Airport

    [Details] Take your shots event, autograph session

    [Participating players] #9 Takuya Nakamura, #18 Kota Tanaka, #19 Kosuke Takahashi

    Ice Rink Sendai Golden Week Special Event

    [Date] 5 May (Tue) 13:00~14:00

    [Location] Ice Rink Sendai

    [Details] Ice hockey shooting demo, skating class, autograph session

    [Participating players] #8 Shuji Kikuchi, #16 Jeffrey Koichi Honma, #21 Kazuki Yamamoto, #41 Yujiro Kasahara

    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, press releases | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Blades the newest AL team!

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 April 14日 Tuesday

    The Tohoku Free Blades have been tentatively accepted into Asia League Ice Hockey starting with the upcoming 2009-10 season!

    The Blades currently only have 12 skaters and 2 goalies on contract, but now they can start their work in earnest to strengthen the team by signing more experienced players (probably some former Seibu Prince Rabbits) and imports, now that they’re more or less officially part of the AL. This is great news for hockey in the Tohoku area (north eastern part of the main Honshu island). The timing is great as most seasons in hockey playing countries are starting to wind down, and players and coaches will be looking for employment for next season. The plan is to play 8~10 games in Hachinohe, Aomori, and other games in the Tohoku area such as Koriyama, Fukushima where the team will be based.

    Edit: The team is expected to operate on an annual budget of 150 million yen = $1.5m (much closer to the Nikko Ice Bucks budget than the Seibu Prince Rabbits’ 500 million yen = $5m), and is going to work to draw an average attendance of 1,500 per game.

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

    Rescuing the Seibu Prince Rabbits

    Posted by japanstats 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).

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

    Blades 0 – 3 Eagles

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 April 7日 Tuesday

    On 5 April, the Tohoku Free Blades hosted last season’s Asia League champions Oji Eagles in the Xebio (Blades’ parent company) Charity Festival exhibition match at Bandai-Atami Ice Arena in Fukushima (north east Japan) where the Blades are planning on playing some home games in the upcoming (hopefully Asia League) season.

    Tohoku Free Blades 0 (0-1, 0-0, 0-2) 3 Oji Eagles

    6:15 Oji Okuyama (Suzuki, Ishizuka) EQ

    35:21 Oji Okuyama (Suzuki) +1

    40:20 Oji Okuyama (Suzuki) EQ

    The Blades still only have 12 skaters, so Oji also only iced 12 players, and some of them didn’t get much playing time during the past season, like the game’s hat trick star Okuyama, who only played 2 games this past season. The game featured 15 minute periods, and Oji outshot the Blades 35-24.

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

    Seibu oldtimers game and AL’s future

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 April 3日 Friday

    On 28 March 2009, as part of the Seibu Prince Rabbits fan appreciation day, there was a Seibu Railways (Polar Bears) – Kokudo (Bunnies) oldtimers game (Seibu Prince Rabbits are a result of the merger between Seibu Railways and Kokudo teams, both owned by the Seibu Group, in 2003. In fact, the Seibu Railway team split into Kokudo in 1972, shortly after the club was formed in 1966, a now jailed Tsutsumi CEO project, he was a huge hockey fan who even took Daisuke Matsuzaka to a Seibu hockey game shortly after he was drafted to the Lions).

    Here are some great photos and story (Japanese) from the oldtimers game. The advert-less unis look wonderful, as the old rivals squared off for one last time. There were 44 Seibu oldtimers and 29 Kokudo seniors. Seibu had a ringer in current Nikko IceBuck Hideji Tsuchida (sorta like Mark Messier in the Canadiens v Oilers oldtimers superstars match while he was still an active Ranger). The oldtimers game ended in a fitting 5-5 tie.

    Apparently more than 20 companies made inquiries about taking the Rabbits off Seibu’s hands, but the 5-oku (~$5m) operating cost and average attendance of 1,000 was the deal breaker (in the 70s(?) hockey was able to draw crowds of 10,000 at Yoyogi Arena). Though I doubt that any of the discussions went too deep, because it’s possible to run an Asia League hockey club on less than half that budget, like the Nikko IceBucks are doing. Something tells me that Seibu wanted to get rid of its hockey arm, as part of eliminating the Tsutsumi colours, what with the former group president being convicted for large scale fraud. (And I suspect that’s the similar reasoning behind the Saitama Seibu Lions moving away from the sky blue and Osamu Tezuka Leo logo towards almost-black navy and the weird lion palm and baseball logo, though the faux-Detroit Tigers unis are classy.)

    Here’s the official statement from the AL Chairman about Seibu folding. The one positive is that he mentions that the league is rather positive about accepting new teams into the now 6 team league (same size as the old Japanese Ice Hockey League). This is good news for the Tohoku Free Blades who have an exhibition game against the Oji Eagles  on 5 April at 13:00 at the Bandai Atami Ice Arena in Koriyama, Fukushima (one of the Blades’ home towns). The Blades have already played an exhibition match against the AL last place team Nikko, so the increasing involvement with AL teams is positive development for the Blades to join the AL. (I’m also hoping that the western Japan powerhouse Surpass Kagawa will eventually join the AL as well, but there are no current rumours.)

    So, there’s a decent chance that the AL will still be a 7 team league next season, despite being weakened by the loss of Seibu (though this opens the door for the Korean and Chinese teams, which is a welcome change). Apparently 12-15 Seibu players have a chance of catching on with another team in Asia or Europe next seasons, others are likely to become regular Seibu Group employees. Though with the lack of funding for the Blades, they look unlikely to be taking on the expensive Seibu players.

    A short Q&A was held with the Seibu hockey club owner (president) Koyama on 31 March when the official team folding was announced. Here’s the abridged version (full version in Japanese here).

    Q: What was the reasoning behind the timing of this press conference?

    A: Each team must submit player transfer/release list by mid-April, hence the timing.

    Q: How will the players be treated going forward?

    A: Individual interviews will be conducted with each player during April. The key question is whether players want to keep on playing hockey or joing the company (Seibu) full-time and start working on regular jobs. We will support the players as much as possible.

    Q: What are the specific plans to support the players?

    A: Players will be able to stay in the team dorm until July. Request has been made to the company so that the (semi-pro) players will be given a 2 year sabbatical from the company to pursue their hockey careers if that is their wish.

    Q: What will happen to company referees and coaches who contribute to the AL?

    A: Immediately pulling them out will cause trouble for the league, so we are in discussion with officials such as the federation for their future. The rink (Higashifushimi) will continue to operate as usual (as the home of the women’s Princess Rabbits team, figure skating, and public skating.)

    Q: What were the reactions inside the company regarding the hockey team folding?

    A: The company itself is undergoing major restructuring, so this issue went rather unnoticed compared to the past.

    Q: How did the discussions go with prospective buyers of the team?

    A: 20 to 25 companies from Tokyo and outside Tokyo expressed interest. They were interested in hockey as a sport, but the average attendance of 1000+ made serious discussion difficult, and ultimately ended in failure.

    Incidentally, 2008-09 average attendance:

    1: Oji Eagles 1498 (all games over 1000)
    2: Seibu Prince Rabbits (attendance boosted after team folding announcement)
    3: Nippon Paper Cranes 1211
    4: Anyang Halla 1052
    5: Nikko IceBucks 1013 (used to have over 4000 supporters when the club first formed 10 years ago)
    6: High1 488 (all tickets are free, but no advertising, sponsor must be loaded)

    7: China Sharks (many comp tickets given out, attracting thousands of fans at some games, hopefully they gained some traction in the Shanghai student town.) 

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