Hmm.. finding information on Chinese teams is always trouble. I can't find any either, but of course I completely lack Chinese ability. Perhaps you could contact the Qiqihar team through the Nordic Vikings in Beijing? (Or the AL office, of course.) http://www.nordicvikings.com/
Last year's 3rd place finisher's parent team Amur played against Kokudo in preseason games this past week. There seems to be a change in ownership at Amur, but by keeping contact with AL, Amur may still be interested in fielding an AL team in the future once their new ownership situation settles down..? But then again, I wonder if they'll have the finances to field a third team anymore, and moving Amur-2 into the AL might be too drastic..? Lots of questions as usual with this league, and particularly the Russians http://www.hcamur.ru/
Lucklustre games in Japan to open the season. Kokudo won 2-1 over Oji where neither team looked particularly sharp (Oji had a good second period but that was about it). And the Cranes shut out the Bucks 5-0. Looks like things haven't changed much from last year on this end either. Bucks' new imports Podein had occasional nice plays but on the whole was muted, and Paradise was kinda invisible. Cranes' Plante also had occasional flashes of good shots and playmaking. Once these guys get rolling in the season, maybe things'll get more exciting.
Elsewhere, the original AL Korean team Halla won 5-3 over the new entrants Kangwon Land, which was a better result than a blowout that was feared. And the new Nordic team Vikings won handily over Harbin 5-1. Hopefully this all means that the league will be more closely fought than last year when only the first and fourth place were up for grabs. (No massive two digit blowouts yet, phew.)
Second day of games proved to be much more exciting in Japan. The scores don't reflect it, but it probably had to do with the matchups. Yesterday was last year's league #1 Cranes vs #6 Bucks and #2 Kokudo vs #4 Oji, and the top two teams are a rank or two above the other two at the moment. But today's games were more closely matched Cranes vs Kokudo (2-2 with many many chances unfinished on both sides) and Oji vs Bucks (4-1, but Oji did not score an even strength goal). But on top of that, the referee called less penalties that interrupted the flow of the play, and teams committed less offsides so there was more back and forth action in both games, instead of defensively shutting down Bucks and Oji, respectively (which is effective, but not as interesting hockey). http://www.alhockey.com/popup/current/scores.html
And in interesting turn of events already, Korea's second team Kangwon Land beat Halla 5-3, despite Halla having most of the national team members and probably better imports (Czech Extraleaguers vs CHL, etc.) And the game drew 1600, which is promising.
Vikings beat Qiqihar 5-3, which makes it look like they did better than Harbin who lost 5-1 to the Scandinavians. But Harbin was pretty much even on shots while Qiqihar was being outshot 2:1 giving up almost a shot a minute, allowing 57. So, that probably more closely reflects the strength of Chinese teams.
The schedule pits many international matchups in October, so some of the team strengths should become somewhat clear by then.
Interesting season up ahead, did anyone catch any of the games?
Some troubling results early in the new AL season.
The new, mostly Swedish Division 1 level team, the Nordic Vikings of Beijing, has lost two games in a row (8-1 and 2-1) to last year's finalist Cranes. What's troubling is the shot count, 53-28 and 32-14! They seemed to be utterly dominated by the Cranes (I need to hear a report from someone who attended the games though.
Maybe it's the difference between Canadian shoot from anywhere vs European setting up the perfect shot styles of play.) But does this mean that the Cranes are significantly weaker than Amur last year, and that the Cranes are Swedish Division 1 level? (Of course, we need a larger sample size to make this determination. And maybe it's that the Vikings have only played the doormat Chinese teams until they met the Cranes, so they need to get adjusted to top level AL play.) OK, there are probably still too many variables. But it's still interesting to see what will happen in the next few weeks.
Keep it coming T-Bucks...Love to here whats going on in the games on the island.
Anyang's first two games have shown me two things: one, Halla is much the same team they were last year. They have still not addressed the team's two biggest weaknesses from last season. They still do not have a sizable center to stand in front of the net on the PP. Working the corners in one thing (and Anyang is good at that), but all passes from the periphery gets a bit redundant and the opposing keeper is seeing way too many shots. Anyang also does not have a defenseman strong enough to push a Pirpic away from the crease. I literally laughed out loud when the team's newsletter described Nedved as a towering defenseman suited to police the crease. He's even skinnier than Ponto was and plays with even less aggression. Second, Anyang needs an agitator. These guys are way too nice. Kawonland is not nearly as talented as Halla is, but they made them look like *******. I just about cried in embarrassment when Zdenek Nedved went over to the Kawonland bench to apoligize for a highstick that drew a bit of blood from a Kawon player...Tobin gave him what he deserved a "get lost" rub in the face with his glove...utter foolishness. If this team wants to compete, it's going to have to play with more grease.
The following are the lines I had coach Vejvoda running over the weekend:
Kim, Kyung-Tae Nedved, Zdenek Song, Dong-Hwan
Jeon, Jin-Ho Martinec, Patrik Kim, Han-Sung
Bae, Young-Ho Tetsuo, Setaka Kim, Hong-Il
Kim, Do-Yun Shim, Eui-Sik Lee, Ho-Jung
Lee, Yoon-Ki Nedved, Jaroslav
Lee, Kwon-Jun Jang, Jong-Moon
Seman, Daniel Yoon, Kyung-Won
Nedved, Zdenek: can't understand why this guy was a second round draft pick by the Leafs out of the OHL. Haven't seen anything yet.
Kim, Han-Sung: watch out for this guy...he's my early pick to lead the team in points. Sees the ice well. Beautiful stick-handler. Works well in the corners. Goes to the net. Uses his size. Watch number 89 when he comes to town.
Martinec, Patrik: should put up a lot of points. Plays much the same game Poulsen did last year for Anyang. Will not skate into traffic, but plays good positional hockey. A solid second-line center in the mold of a poor, poor man's Brendan Morrison.
Kim, Kyung-Tae: Should have a better year than last. Couldn't stand this guy last year. Skates like the wind. Handles the puck well, but unlike last year is passing with his head up. This guy tried to go end-to-end every time he had the puck last season. I'm surprised he wasn't injured actually. Took more hits than any other forward on the team.
Shim, Eui-Sik: So glad the team has decided to keep "grandfather" on board. Has more heart and knowledge of the game than any other player on the team. Has already potted two goals and they were both beauties. Heart on his sleeve type with good conditioning for an older player.
Nedved, Jaroslav: The older brother of Peter (NHL) is even worse a skater. Good, sound positional player. Will likely lead the defense in points (even ahead of a more offensive type such as Seman). Looks very awkward out there, but as long as he keeps the play in front of him he's alright...If you get by him though...there is not a player in the league he'll catch. Think Cory Cross.
Jang, Jong-Moon: My boy...By far my favorite player. Doesn't stand out but plays the man like no other d-man on the team. Other teams will be hard pressed to score on Anyang five-on-five against Anyang when he's out there. I expect him to log a lot of minutes and finish the season with one of the team's best +/- ratings.
Kim, Sung-Bae: A bit worried about him this year. Is flopping around even more than last season. Can play the angles well, but tends to go down too often -- especially from shots in close. Watch out for Kawon's keeper. This guy looks like he may have a future. Could see him being the starter for Korea in the international stage.
I really hope coach Vejvoda has Halla on the bikes. These guys looked really bad on home ice in the second game against Kawonland. Poor conditioning. They were absolutely dominated physically. It's going to be a long season with something like eight match ups against "The Land". If Kawon continues to intimidate them, I fear Anyang will lose too many games vs. a first season second Korean team
Hop others will post on other teams around the league...I enjoy reading your stuff T-Bucks. If you get to Anyang for a weekend game this season let me know. We'll have to meet up. You too, "Seoul_"! You plan on getting out to many games?
Thanks for the great intro for Halla, hunter. Were there some Kangwon Land fans in the crowd at Anyang too? That would be great. I look forward to seeing Halla in town next weekend. Hopefully I'll be making a trip to cold Seoul or Chuncheon in the next few months, will definitely let you know then.
I didn't see any games in person this weekend (only one close to Tokyo was Nikko today), and was involved in a gruelling 7 hour fantasy hockey draft via msn (...orz ) so I'll just mention a couple of notes from the games this weekend.
Podein went back to the States for a few days and missed the Kokudo game in Nikko today, which the Bucks won 3-2! According to some Bucks fans, the team withstood an onslaught of Kokudo attack in the 3rd to defend the narrowest of margins. That's the way this team has to play in order win against other Japanese teams, and Halla and the Vikings (probably).
Harbin handled Qiqihar handily (maybe it just seems that way from the scoresheet, but it would be consisitent with last year) in 2 wins in the Chinese derby.
Vikings won one and lost one in the two games in Tomakomai against Oji. They've gotten quite outshot in all 4 games in Hokkaido. But since they took one against Oji, and came close against the Cranes, it's probably partially style of play and also getting used to the speed and skill of top AL teams.
Oh, the Vikings have a poster up for the games in Beijing. People in the capital, this is your chance to see some decent live hockey in the People's Republic! (Chinese officials seems to have muddled with the team name, now it sometimes reads like a comrade's team, Vikings/Nordic China Combination Team, geez... though it was weird that the team name didn't mention the fact that it was based in Beijing.) http://www.nordicvikings.com/downloads/poster.jpg
Last edited by Tokyo Bucks: 10-02-2005 at 08:25 AM.
It IS early, but i'm concerned with Anyang's defense and even more so with Kim Sung Bae (their keeper). I actually predicted they'd drop both games to Nikko. Anyang is looking bad thus far and Nikko always plays them tough.
Expect more of an effort against Kokudo. Anyang doesn't like this club and seem to lose to them every time. It's been chippy between these two clubs after Fujita nailed a Halla player open ice after the whistle (last season). The guy (can't recall who it was) left the game on a stretcher. The team was irrate and fans even wanted a piece of "chicken fahita" as my friend then dubbed him.
I would think Pirpic will spend the game in Anyang's crease and Anyang will do little to move him. If Anyang can stay out of the box they may have a shot at stealing one game away from Kokudo. If not, it could be a slaughter...
Last edited by hunter orange: 10-09-2005 at 01:32 AM.
Ugh, maybe non-Japanese teams just need to warm up and adjust to the level of play of Japanese teams, but things are looking worse than last year for league parity. Halla appears to be weaker than last year, losing both games to Nikko (who finished below Halla last year), and not having any standout players in the first game against Kokudo that I went to see (they seemed to have done better in the second game). Then Harbin went on to lose all four games in Hokkaido by giving up 10 or more goals! (this didn't happen last year.) So, if both Harbin and Halla are worse than last year, and if the Land is at best equal to Halla, and Qiqihar lost to this Harbin team... all we might have left is the Vikings improving as the season goes along (as it is a new team in a new league). Hopefully the non-Japanese teams will improve as the season progresses, for the sake of league parity..
Halla 2 - 1 Cranes! Halla beat the top team in the league, giving them the first loss of the young season. The Cranes looked to be in command of the game from the shots on goal, but hey if you can't score, you lose.
This is after Halla lost both games to the lowly Bucks, and the Bucks didn't stand a chance against the Cranes. But the Land beat Halla, and they have a loss against Harbin, and Harbin got blown out by the Cranes in both games.
The league doesn't make sense, in a good way. It'd be boring if most matches were predictable.
Halla grabbed another point from the Cranes in an OT loss too. Good stuff. They were leading the game though, too bad they couldn't hold onto it for the shocker sweep.
Vikings finally have Chinese language version of their website (click on the Chinese flag on the top right corner). Hopefully they'll get marketing in gear and get a better turnout than the 300-something people they had for the opening games in Beijing last weekend. http://www.nordicvikings.com/
This weekend's games could be pretty interesting:
Bucks @ Qiqihar
the Land @ Cranes
Halla @ Vikings
Looking forward to your Halla reports hunter, any plans to go to Chuncheon?
Last edited by Tokyo Bucks: 10-14-2005 at 03:30 PM.
the Land lost both games to the Cranes by 2-3, losing the second game on a last second goal! Otherwise they could've grabbed a point or two from the top team.
Halla lost two close games to the Vikings, one in OT, thus earning a point.
So, upsets shouldn't be too unusual in this league because there are many close games.
But, as it stands right now, the 4 Japanese teams + Vikings top the table, and Korean and Chinese teams are at the bottom. Not very encouraging to the CK teams and fans.
One funny thing though. The Vikings only drew about 300 people each in their cavenous 10000 capacity home rink on the opening weekend. But this past weekend the games apparently drew 3000 people each. That seems really unlikely unless they successfully stepped up massive marketing campaigns. Or the team or Chinese officials decided to paper the walls with free tickets. The latter seems more likely. I wonder how many people actually showed up to watch the game (hopefully at least half as many did, and some became hockey fans), and how many actually paid for the tickets
There are only 5 games in the Kansai area all year, but two of them take place in the first week of November.
2 Nov 19:00 Kangwon Land vs Ice Bucks
3 Nov 13:00 Kangwon Land vs Ice Bucks
The Bucks who only finished above the overmatched Chinese squads last year and had no hope for a playoff spot, is actually in 3rd place at the moment! (They've played more games than Oji and Kokudo, but still, this is fun.)
Tickets should be about 1000-2500 yen, and you should be able to just walk up on game day. Hopefully there'll be a decent crowd, but with only 5 games in the area all season, I'm not sure. But Bucks fans are fantastic, so many of them should be making the trip down from Nikko, they're definitely worth a look. And the teams should be closely matched and the games unpredictable.
Yup, players are all signed as free agents (or hired by the parent companies), there's no draft.
We're about 1/4 of the way through the season now..
Korean teams have put up a really good fight against Japanese teams, but have come up short most of the time (except for the Halla upset of Cranes, and the occasional ties/OTL). They can't keep on losing close games while outshooting the opponent, so they should come up in the standings as the season progresses. Kangwon Land is not embarrassing themselves, which some of us feared. In fact, they're playing competitive hockey. Anywang's lack of success (apart from the Cranes win) is disapointing, but then again the team switched to a completely Czech system this year, and that probably takes some time to adapt.
The Bucks have played well, after the lame opening weekend games. They haven't dropped many games that they should have won, unlike last year, which is the key to their current success (they're 2nd!) I hope the Bucks can keep this up, being the Japanese underdog team, but I fear they're going to come back down to earth with tougher domestic matches coming up, and luck evening out. This fast start should help them with a playoff spot, where 6 of 9 teams qualify.
Oji aren't as solid as Kokudo or the Cranes, losing to the Vikings who got destroyed by the Cranes. But then again the Cranes lost against Halla after a seemingly invincible start to the season.
The Vikings are still an unknown entity, but they should continue to improve as the new team gels.
Harbin appears to be a bit unpredictable, getting blown out in Hokkaido, but playing good games elsewhere, beating Kangwon. Qiqihar... hopefully they'll improve as the season goes along, otherwise they're in for repeat of last year when they finished with only one win, and even that might've been suspicious as it came against Harbin :-P
But as it is, the league's divided into haves and havenots. The haves are the 4 Japanese teams and Vikings, and the havenots being the Korean and Chinese teams. With the Bucks expected to slow
Just looking at some stats over at alhockey.com. Chris Yule! Impressive stats...Has that guy really not been on the ice for a goal against? He's leading the team in points and shots on goal, so I'm assuming he's getting first line minutes. Seven games, top line minutes, twelve points, 15/0 on the +/- stat...This guy's got to be an early candidate for league MVP. Any way this stat is being colored a bit, TB? Is Yule playing any difficult minutes at all? Whose on his line? Has he taken on a more prominent role with the offense in Tokyo this year or is there just so much depth there that's it's hard for an opposing coach to match up lines?
Kokudo loooks to have the best depth (perhaps once again) than any team in the league this season. When I look at all these teams on paper, I'm hard-pressed to understand why Kokudo does not run away with things a bit. Makes me kind of wonder about team cohesiveness. Any problems with egos in Tokyo, TB?
Off to the game today...I'm predicting an Anyang victory. Let's say 3-2.