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Thread: Realistic expansion team for 2009/10

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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    Icon107 Realistic expansion team for 2009/10

    There have been rumours over the years about adding teams to the Asia League, anything from a Kazakhstani team to a third Korean team to the most recently floated idea by the China (and San Jose) Sharks brass about bringing back a second Chinese team (and my hope that Amur Khavarovsk will send one of its minor league teams to the AL).

    But this time there is a serious financial backer with a seemingly realistic plan. Xebio's capitalization and annual sales are both over $1 billion, which should be enough to sponsor a few million dollars a year budget of an AL team, but the company's about 1/10th in capitalization when compared to Seibu, Oji, and Nippon Paper. I’ll translate the short article that appeared in the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper’s Doshin Sports daily.

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    Xebio has established an ice hockey team

    8 November 10:14

    Xebio Co., Ltd., a sporting equipment retailer, announced on 5 November 2008 that it has established a new ice hockey team and aims to join the Asia League Ice Hockey next season (Ed: 2009/10). Details will be revealed in upcoming press releases including one in Koriyama city (Ed: Fukushima prefecture).

    The team will call the entire Tohoku (northeast) area of Japan as its home territory, and its training base will be in Hachinohe city, Aomori prefecture (Ed: the Tohoku hockey hotbed). The managing company Tohoku Ice Hockey Club has already been established with former Nikko IceBucks president and current Xebio employee Keisuke Araki as president. About 10 new student-athletes from various universities who will be graduating this upcoming spring have already accepted their offer to join the team.

    Currently, the Asia League features 7 teams of which 4 are based in Japan including the Oji and Nippon Paper teams. According to the league agreement, adding expansion teams requires the consent of the league general assembly where the tentative club will be judged on criteria such as financial stability and its ability to ice a competitive team.

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    IHF Staff Marc Brunengraber's Avatar
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    Interesting (and good) news....thanks for reporting it.

    Is Tohoku on Honshu or Hokkaido?

    Japan should have at least 4 teams as it did in the past. Ideally there should be at least a half dozen, given Japan's population.

    A second Chinese team and a minor squad of Russia's Amur would also be good, as would a third Korean team. The second Chinese team, if viable, would be really good news.

    By the way, TB, did the All Japan tournament take place this year with the AL teams competing against various company, university and club teams?

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    IHF Member rusher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marc Brunengraber View Post
    Is Tohoku on Honshu or Hokkaido?
    Honshu

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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    Yeah, it's the northern part of the main island of Honshu where hockey is most popular in Hachinohe, Aomori, but the most populous city is Sendai, Miyagi (where a professional baseball team is based).

    It'll be interesting to see how this story develops.
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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    The All-Japan Championship will take place in early February in Tokyo and Yokohama.
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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    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.

    http://jhockey.wordpress.com/2008/11...lades-is-born/
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    IHF Member buffmatt78's Avatar
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    why is the tryout in Dec of all times. what good foreign import has the time off from there own season to make this??

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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    Good point, this new team seems to be somewhat disorganized in this regard. They probably want to get a core of the team together (probably from trying out non-pro players), but yeah, foreign players is unrealistic.
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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    I think the Blades will also be recruiting imports during the summer, as other teams do.
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    I think there could/should be an Aussie and New Zealand team in the ALIH.
    Of course it's purely a matter of money and facilities at that level so neither country yet has a facility you think could provide enough revenue to support a team, or seats to promote to investors.

    Still think it could happen, and perhaps should for the health of the sport in these two countries.

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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    Yeah, that would be wonderful, if the logistics and finances could be worked out.
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    IHF Staff Jazz's Avatar
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    Just curious, but how long are flights from SW Australia & NZ to Japan, S. Korea, China?

    Just a quick glance of the map suggests 6-8 hours, but I wanted to make sure...

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    IHF Prospect putting on the foil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz View Post
    Just curious, but how long are flights from SW Australia & NZ to Japan, S. Korea, China?

    Just a quick glance of the map suggests 6-8 hours, but I wanted to make sure...
    Flight from Sydney to Tokyo is 9 hrs, if I remember correctly so it is not a short hop. Is not an ideal travel schedule for an Aus/NZ team. Nothing against the national leagues in these countries but it would give players in these countries something more to aim for while also providing year round competition and media attention. Perhaps it would be possible to send one of these countries national teams to compete in some training games against teams in the AL to see how it could possibly work?

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    IHF Member Geoff's Avatar
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    Any updates on the Free Blades?

    As far as an Australian team, it would be pretty simple scheduling away games as they could fly up to one location and then go on a tour of all the teams up there. But to make it more practical you'd have to have more than one team in the Australia/New Zealand region. Best fit would probably be 3 to 4 teams but you wouldn't want to throw together 4 teams quickly purely because it is easier than scheduling for 1.

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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    The 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).

    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) 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).
    http://www.icebucks.jp/news/2009/02/post_65.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Any updates on the Free Blades?

    As far as an Australian team, it would be pretty simple scheduling away games as they could fly up to one location and then go on a tour of all the teams up there. But to make it more practical you'd have to have more than one team in the Australia/New Zealand region. Best fit would probably be 3 to 4 teams but you wouldn't want to throw together 4 teams quickly purely because it is easier than scheduling for 1.
    In theory - it sounds like a good idea, but IMHO, I'm not sure how viable having southern hemisphere teams in the Asia League, only because you would be trying to attract patrons during the summer (when the Asia League would be running) to come watch hockey games.

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    IHF Member crossmr's Avatar
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    They need to straighten out russia and with the size of china I'd hope they could put together more than 1 team. I realize they had 2 before and had trouble with that, but they should make a better effort. A lot of problem I see in Korea is just a lack of promotion. They need to get the players out visiting sick kid hospitals, schools, raising money for charities, etc to raise their visibility.

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    IHF Staff Steigs's Avatar
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    If by "straighten out Russia" you mean make it more attractive for Russian teams to play in ALIH than KHL, that's never going to happen.
    As far as China goes, you might not have noticed their junior development becoming so poor as to be effectively nonexistent in recent years. They have no players of a good enough level to compete already, how do you expect them to EXPAND their hockey operations with the same amount of nothing in the cupboard?

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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    For cities like Khabarovsk, Asian cities are much closer than their domestic counterparts in European Russia, so it makes sense to send their minor/junior/development teams into the AL (like Amur did with Golden Amur, tho they pulled out after a year due to ownership changing issues, hopefully they'll make a comeback, as they are playing exhibition/practice matches against AL teams every year, so the connection is still there.)
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    IHF Member crossmr's Avatar
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    I was talking about Amur. I had heard there was some kind of financial issue or something. It would be nice if them and another team could get into it.

    China needs to improve their program. I had read they used to have a domestic league with many teams. If that has fallen apart, getting it back together would go a long way towards adding to the AL. If Japan can put 4 teams on the ice, I should hope in the future china could put at least as many teams, maybe as many as 6, but they need to work at it.

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    IHF Staff Steigs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crossmr View Post
    I was talking about Amur. I had heard there was some kind of financial issue or something. It would be nice if them and another team could get into it.

    China needs to improve their program. I had read they used to have a domestic league with many teams. If that has fallen apart, getting it back together would go a long way towards adding to the AL. If Japan can put 4 teams on the ice, I should hope in the future china could put at least as many teams, maybe as many as 6, but they need to work at it.
    In China they call the part in bold "chasing the dragon"

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    IHF Member crossmr's Avatar
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    I know it seems a long way off, but if they could get some help and really get the program going, the interest was there in the past, it could be there again. In the future I would look to china making up the bulk of the league. They're are just so populous that if you get the interest back, I'm sure they could do it.

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    IHF Staff Steigs's Avatar
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    They would have to find someone from outside the country to fund this massive development, and I somehow doubt that would happen.
    Kids aren't interested in ice hockey as a career because it doesn't pay as well as a government job.
    The government isn't interested in hockey because it won't win them Olympic medals anytime soon. So they're simply not going to pay money into a hole. Which is where Chinese development has fallen in past years. There was far more money pumped into the Chinese women's program, but even that has fallen off once it was noticed that Finland and Sweden were pretty much going to be in bronze contention every year. And now Switzerland. You'll notice even their women's program is falling off the edge of the Earth.
    I'm sorry, but if you think you're going to change the Chinese government's mind, well....

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    IHF Member crossmr's Avatar
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    Never said I was. Simply speculating about the future.

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    IHF Member Tokyo Bucks's Avatar
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    Hope Charles Wang's program is gonna bear some fruit in the future. It's building bunch of outdoor (I think) rinks in northern China.
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    What Steigs has said is correct. There is no money for funding for Chinese hockey for those reasons. You must remember that most if not almost all the players for the Chinese National teams come from really only 2 provinces. Those being the ones that border Russia. Check a roster and you will mostly see Harbin or Qiqihar as there home towns. So while China has a major population size it is really irrelevant right now as hockey is mostly played in such a small part of the coutry. An example would be like in Canada if hockey as only played in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Things may change in the future but it is a long way away from it happening.

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