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    Seibu Prince Rabbits on the Globe

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 April 3日 Friday

    The Asia League Ice Hockey powerhouse Seibu Prince Rabbits folding even made the news in the Globe and Mail (via AP), the Canadian (or Toronto) newspaper.

     TOKYO — The Seibu Prince Rabbits, a Japanese hockey team with a 37-year history, is the latest casualty of Japan’s economic crises.

    The Rabbits were disbanded Tuesday after the club’s parent company, Prince Hotels Inc., was unable to find a new owner.

    Since announcing its withdrawal from the sport in December, the Seibu group held talks with more than 20 companies seeking a buyer for the team but found no takers.

    “I think they could have done more,” Chris Wakabayashi, the team’s Canadian-born coach said Wednesday. “They tried to negotiate with companies to take over the whole team and that’s tough to do in this climate. It seems to me there was no Plan B and I think they just wanted to get out of the sport.”

    Annual costs of running the team were estimated at $5.1-million (U.S.), while the average attendance for games was just 1,000.

    The decision leaves Seibu’s players out of a job. Wakabayashi said about 12 or 15 players on the 30-man roster have a chance of finding a place on other teams in Asia or Europe.

    The Rabbits roster includes Richard Rochefort of North Bay, Ont., and Joel Prpic of Sudbury, Ont.

    http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090401.wsptjapan0401/GSStory/GlobeSportsHockey/home

    What’s surprising is that there were over 20 companies who were in talks (who knows how deep, though probably not very) to take over the team.

    Here’s an official statement from the Asia League chairman, it’s good to know that the league is forward thinking about accepting new teams (ie.  Tohoku Free Blades.)

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

    Weekend hockey update

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 March 9日 Monday

    The new team Tohoku Free Blades who are aiming to join the Asia League starting next season played another exhibition game recently. The team is still undermanned and its 5 defencemen and 7 forwards hung on but lost 6-4 to western Japan powerhouse amateur team Surpass Kagawa. Once the team’s status on joining the Asia League becomes clear, the team is likely to sign the rest of the players to fill out its roster (some imports will be needed to be competitive in the AL).

    Eri Kiribuchi’s dad made the trip from Prague to be at Harbin for the Universiad where Eri made her debut with the Japanese national team. He has uploaded a bunch of video segments to Youtube. They’re not just Japan-centric, but Eri-centric as the camera never leaves the goalie  😛

    And last but not least, the Nippon Paper Cranes pulled the rug from under Anyang Halla’s feet. The Cranes were down 3-2 in the semifinals with the series heading back to Anyang, Korea with Halla only needing to win one game to become the first non-Japanese team to advance to the Asia League finals. But the Cranes managed a gutsy OT win in game 6, followed by another 3-2 win in game 7, this time in regulation time.

    The Cranes will meet the Seibu Prince Rabbits in the finals which will begin on the 13th with games 1 and 2 in Higashifushimi, Tokyo at the Dydo Drinco Arena (Higashifushimi Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku train line). Game 1 on Friday should start at 7pm and game 2 on Saturday at 2pm.  Games 3 through 5 will be in Kushiro, Hokkaido. And game 6 will be on the afternoon of Sunday 22 March, and game 7 on the following evening if necessary. The Rabbits are looking to go out on top as the team won the All-Japan Championship tournament earlier in the year, and the club will fold after this season if no buyer is found (and in this economy, it looks unlikely. Luckily it looks like the Blades will replace the Rabbits in the league.)

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

    Blades and Bucks update

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 March 2日 Monday

    The Tohoku Free Blades played an exhibition match against the last place Asia League team Nikko Ice Bucks on 28 Feb during the Ice Bucks Fan Appreciation Day. The game was 3 periods of 15 minutes each, and the Bucks won easily 8-3. But the real news was that the Free Blades only had 15 players dressed. 2 goalies, 6 defencemen, and 7 forwards. I assume that the Blades are going to sign the rest of the players during the off season, depending on whether they’re accepted into the Asia League or not (decision on signing imports and their number depends on this). 

    Bucks in black and Blades in grey, not sure if the Blades uniforms are just practice unis or the real thing:

    blades1

    blades2

    Also a note of concern was that the Bucks were only able to draw 572 fans to the exhibition match despite it only costing 1000 yen and the event being held on a Saturday. Then Bucks supporters club used to have over 4000 members, but is now hovering around 1000 members. I pray that the Bucks survive (currently they’re carrying more than 100 million yen = $1m in debt on an operating budget of about 250 million yen per year) and that the Blades join the Asia League now that Seibu Prince Rabbits are folding (the best option here would be another company buying the team or it becoming a club team, but this is very unlikely in the current economic climate).

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

    Japanese hockey wrap

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 February 20日 Friday

    The best-of-3 play-in round between 4th place Nippon Paper Cranes and High1 finished in a blowout for the Cranes, sweeping the series with 5-2 and 8-4 wins. Now the semifinals pits the rested Anyang Halla (the first non-Japanese team to top the regular season standings) against the battle worn Cranes, and soon to fold Seibu Prince Rabbits against the Oji Eagles. They both should be dandy series, and with the balanced schedule this past season, Halla’s record is for real and I’m looking for them progressing to the finals! (And for Seibu to have its last hurrah in addition to them winning the 2009 All Japan Championship in an exciting 6-5 final against the Cranes.) 

    In other Japanese hockey news, with the Seibu group officially pulling the plug on its hockey team, there will be a memorial alumni game to be held at the DyDo Drinco Arena in Higashifushimi, Tokyo, on 28 March. The match should feature Kokudo and Seibu Railway legends such as the Wakabayashi brothers, Herb and Mel.

    And in Harbin 2009 Universiade news, Japan won 3-2 over China, with Eri Kiribuchi notching her first win turning aside 26 of 28 shots in a much better performance from the previous day’s game where she allowed 4 goals on 23 shots against Finland in a shutout loss. Without playing any official games this season, she seems to have secured the starter’s position on Team Japan, way to go Eri! The men were lucklustre in their 1-4 loss to Slovakia on their opening game of the tournament.

    And finally, the newly formed Tohoku Free Blades is going to ice a team for the first time in the next few weeks. First an exhibition match (three 15 minute periods) against the Nikko IceBucks of the Asia League on the Bucks’ fan appreciation day on 11am 28 February at the Nikko Kirifuri Arena. This event will cost 1000 yen and it will be a good measure to see if the team can be competitive in the Asia League. The Blades will also be making an appearance (normal rules) against western Japan amateur powerhouse Surpass Kagawa at 8pm 6 March in Miki City, Kagawa Surpass Sports Center Arena. Let’s hope this helps Blades pass the muster to enter the Asia League, as the uncertain future of Seibu means that a new Japanese team in the league will be a much needed infusion.

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

    Tohoku Free Blades is born!

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 November 14日 Friday

    Official press conference for the perspective Asia League franchise was announced on 12 November in Koriyama (Fukushima, the team’s headquarters), Hachinohe (Aoyama, the team’s training base), and Sendai (Miyagi, the largetst city in the Tohoku area). The team’s name is the Tohoku Free Blades, incorporating the meaning of free and sharp newcomer in the league that will cut through the old bureaucracy (not sure how realistic this is.)

    The team was established in Xebio as part of its subsidiary, so it’s another industrial team insted of a club team. The Blades already have 12-13 players under contract, and are planning of adding about 10 players who are new graduates this spring from various university teams, and also through some tryout sessions (open to foreigners, though all players bear all costs during the tryout) in December 10-11. It will definitely be a young team, and if it is approved to join the AL in the April meeting, I expect them to be compete with the Bucks and Sharks for the last playoff spot.

    The team intends on drawing talent from the hockey rich Tohoku area eventually, but is mainly compoased of players from hockey hotbed Hokkaido for now. The Blades will host games in Koriyama and Hachinohe, but will also host games in Morioka and Mitsuzawa also in Aomori. 

    This is wonderful news for Japanese and Asian hockey which has been constant decline in the number of teams. Hopefully the Blades will be granted the permission to join the Asia League next season, they certainly seem keen enough.

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