For a short time in the early 1990’s I was actually quite into ice hockey which was mainly due to often playing ‘Blades Of Steel‘ on my mates Nintendo 64 and that in turn led to me paying far greater attention (than usual) to the sport at the Winter Olympics of 1992. The fast paced action and regular bouts of fisticuffs made it quite an appealing spectacle. I was aware of an ice hockey league in Japan many years ago but was instantly put off on hearing that the nearest team were up in Nikko in Tochigi prefecture.
That all changed a couple of weekends ago though when a couple of games were played in Tokyo at the ridiculously named DyDo Drinco Ice Arena near Higashi-Fushimi station along the Seibu Shinjuku line. When Jack, the man behind the Rambling Northerner website, mentioned it to me a few weeks back I was immediately keen to tick off yet another live sports event. He purchased us some advance tickets for ¥2800 each and, along with Scottish Neil, the three of us had our first outing together since our double dose of lower J-League action back in October of last year.
The arena, which opened in 1984, was actually smaller than I had expected as I was expecting a proper stadium arena rather than an ice rink with a few temporary (?) seats added. The place actually has a capacity of 3,500 people (2,482 seated and 1,018 standing if you must know!) and it looked fairly full though it probably wasn’t due to the Japanese propensity to put bags and coats on the seats next to them. We certainly spread ourselves out rink side on our bench! There were a few other foreigners in the crowd, presumably Canadians quenching their thirst for their national game.
Face off was at 1pm with the Tohoku Freeblades (from Aomori prefecture) taking on the Oji Eagles (from Hokkaido).
As expected there was a lot of music played over the PA system which reminded me of Family Night Football in the early 1990’s at Leicester City reserve matches which were jazzed up in terms of pre-match razzmatazz and music played at any slight interval including throw ins!
The first game finished 6-4 to the Freeblades and with an hour till the second round of action we headed for the exit to get some more supplies from the convenience store (including the pink beer cans we are all holding below) as indeed did many others. Unlike at other sports events, there were no bag checks and we were able to get our ticket stamped to allow re-entry.
The second game of the day between the Nikko Icebucks (from Tochigi prefecture) and Nippon Paper Cranes (from Hokkaido) began at 4:30pm and our support was very much with the Icebucks who had a foreign player in their team called Bonk. Very puerile and childish behaviour from three guys who really should know better but we lapped it up and the banner (below) was most amusing to us due to the strange English and of course his comical name!
Having looked at some previous results in this league it seems we were very lucky to witness two goal-fests. The first game was exciting enough but that was turned up a notch for the second one as the Ice Bucks took their net-minder out at 6-4 down with just over a minute left and the pressure paid off as they got it back to 6-6. No ties in this sport so sudden death extra time followed which was end to end stuff as each side was reduced to just four players (including the net-minder). The Paper Cranes eventually claimed the victory though.
As ever when the three of us get together there was so much chat and top banter that the sports action just played out in the background. There were plenty of lost tunes from yesteryear played on the public address system which led to a big discussion about one-hit wonders and we discovered that no-jacket-Jack has a knack for knowing their follow up singles. He may have a talent for that but he wasn’t very clever in turning up to the ice rink in the middle of winter in just a t-shirt and hoodie whilst the rest of us were wearing many layers as well as hats and scarves!
He wasn’t the only plonker though as the guy behind us was also one. A kid put his clapper against the window which mustve restricted the view by about 1% but the guy wasn’t having any of it and ran down, took the clapper down and handed it to the kid sending him on the way. All a bit over the top really!!
So having ticked off horse racing at the Japan Cup in November and now ice hockey I have to start thinking about which sport I will make my debut at next time.
Click here to read ‘Goals, Bucks And Pucks At The Ice Hockey‘ courtesy of Rambling Northerner