It’s September, which means it’s time to say “さよなら summer”. Mother Nature, or in physics-nerd-talk the Earth’s Rotational Axis, says pack away your pool noodles, fold up your beach chairs, and pile in the last of those Ball Park Franks. Baseball, bikini’s, and boardwalk snacks are coming to an end. But hey, we had a good run right? If we’ve learned anything from Monty Python it’s that “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.” No, no, no, that’s not it. It’s that we should “always look on the bright side of life.” That’s more like it.
So whats the bright side of summer being over? For starters, you can dust of all those hoodies, jeans, and track jackets that have been discarded in your closet like an island of misfit toys. Another biggy is that bugs will disappear and the chemical-chloroform -dance of leaves and light will begin. Is there anything better than walking under pastel colored leaves, the embers of a dieing fire, on a crisp autumn morning? I can think of only one thing. Ironing out that Couch-Cushion-A#*-Groove in preparation for the mother of all sports seasons.
For me this means Hockey. That’s right football-junkies, I said slap-shot-stick-save-drop-your-gloves-Broadstreet-Bullies-backyard-knuckle-puck-pond-Hockey. What’s that you say, the NHL might go on strike? What the Puck! Hmm… I should have thought about this before opening my big mouth.
Well now what do we do?
Don’t worry I have a plan-B.
This isn’t that idea about dressing up beavers in hockey equipment again is it?
No, I swear this will work.
It turns out there is an Ice Hockey League in Asia. He shoots he scores!
The AL, short for Asia League Ice Hockey, is a decade old this year. The league is composed of 7 teams from Korea, China, and Japan. Four of the teams, the Ice Bucks, the Nippon Paper Cranes, the Oji Eagles, and the Free Blades, are located in Japan.
Although the AL could never replace the NHL or my love for the Flyers, these teams are an interesting and worthy stand-in. As the Olympics illustrated, one of the best ways to bring different countries together is athletics. The competitive spirit and fun derived from sports transcends linguistic and cultural boundaries. For the most part the rules of a game change very little with location. When I would ride my bike around the Olympic built, 駒沢公園, I’d see that the Japanese had adopted almost every world sport. Some of the more surprising discoveries were Lacrosse, Rugby, and American Football. However, as a life-long hockey player I was hoping to find some Japanese-Hanson-Brother-counter-parts. Although the sport is still widely unknown, I think the AL represents a bright future for international collaboration and the sport of Hockey. In reality, other than a few countries, Hockey has always been the underdog of the athletic world. Perhaps we like it that way.
To help spread the love I attached some interesting links to sites about hockey in Asia and Japan.
Asia League Ice Hockey main site.
Asia League Facebook Page
Japan Ice Hockey Federation
Japan Ice hockey Federation facebook page
Overview of Japanese Ice Hockey Arena’s. location/pictures/history/details
5 rinks in Tokyo. Google Maps the locations. Many are closer to major stations than I thought.