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    Japanese hockey wrap

    Posted by simon c 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 »

    Seibu v Oji, Ryan Fujita retirement game

    Posted by simon c on 2009 January 13日 Tuesday

    Seibu Prince Rabbits hosted the Oji Eagles in a special game on Sunday 11 January. The game featured Seibu wearing modified Seibu Railway era jerseys, the Wakabayashi brothers in the ceremonial face off, Kiyoshi Ryan Fujita’s retirement ceremony and speech, and the Seibu Shinjuku line going out of service at game time but the game still drawing standing room only crowd of over 2800 people. “Kataribe” Jiro Kato has a great post about this game with wonderful pictures. He also made another post outlining Ryan’s career in Japan with Seibu and the national team, also with more great photos.

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

    Seibu Prince Rabbits to fold after 2008-09

    Posted by simon c on 2008 December 19日 Friday

    Seibu Prince Rabbits, the perennial powerhouse team in the Asia League Ice Hockey (and also separately as Seibu and Kokudo in the Japan Ice Hockey League before their merger) will effectively cease team operations following the current 2008-09 season due to the termination of funding from the main sponsor Prince Hotel Group (a Seibu Holdings company). This announcement was made to the players from the team owner on 18 January.

    Head coach Chris Wakabayashi was in tears after the announcement, captain Takahito Suzuki was in shock and said “I can’t believe this right now. The most important thing at the moment is to finish the season, but this will be very difficult for (Japanese and Asian) ice hockey.” 

    The current economic climate also aided in this decision by the parent company to stop funding the team, which is said to cost about JPY 500 million (~ US$4.5 million) per season (equivalent to the salary for a couple of Saitama Seibu Lions star baseball players…). There is a possibility that the Seibu team will continue to exist as a club team (like how Yukijirushi (Snow Brand) became Sapporo Polaris for a season, and how Furukawa became the Nikko IceBucks as the parent companies ceased to fund these teams), but with the lack of fan base and community support, this seems like a rather unlikely scenario for Seibu, and Tokyo area hockey fans will lose their only source of watching live high level hockey. The Asia League should continue to exist in the current 7 team form next season, as the Tohoku Free Blades based in northeastern Honshu should be entering the league, barring any more unexpected team foldings.)

    On the same day, the much larger American Football X-League’s Onward Skylarks also announced that they will not be participating in the upcoming season as the team has effectively folded as well.

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

    Nikko IceBucks 2008-09 Changes

    Posted by simon c on 2008 September 7日 Sunday

    The Nikko IceBucks have welcomed 4 new members to the team for the 2008-09 season. 2 have passed open tryouts and they are defenceman Hiroki Iwasaki (Komadai-Tomakomai – Harrington College, Jr.A) and forward Shoichi Nakanishi (Nikko HS – Waseda Univ). And it’s good news that the team has the financial resources for 2 imports this season, and they are Eric Lafreniere (FRA-1) and his Middlebury (NCAA Div III) teammate for 3 seasons Mickey Gilchrist (AIHL Newcastle North Stars) who absolutely destroyed Aussie competition over the summer by scoring about 4 points a game to win the AIHL scoring title in only 15 games. Lafreniere and Gilchrist are both small but capable forwards and should be well suited for the less physical AL game. The Bucks have a bare minimum roster of 12 forwards, 8 defencemen, and 3 goalies, so player conditioning will be most important as any injury will be devastating to the squad.

    Pictures are small but the Nikko IceBucks have announced their new jerseys for this season

    Also, the Bucks are collaborating with Tobu railways (which connects Tokyo to Nikko), and will wear special Tobu railway uniforms against Seibu (which is sponsored by the Seibu railways). And special wrap Tobu trains will run between Tobu-dobutsu-koen and Nakameguro, starting in late September.

    Preseason finally got under way for the Bucks (latest out of the 7 AL teams) with a 1-3 loss (final goal an emptynetter) today to Seibu who went on an 11 day 6 game training trip to Bayern in Germany late last month.

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