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!)