The Japan Ice Hockey League, or J-Ice, is the second tier of hockey competition in Japan, below the multinational professional Asia League in which four Japanese clubs compete, and is about on a par with the university leagues. It's made up of six regional divisions: North, Northwest, East, Central, West, and South. The North and West divisions were established in 2005, the others in this decade.
J-ICE North Division is the strongest of the six divisions. There are six teams in five Hokkaido cities:
Kushiro Kousei-sya IHC. They play at Nippon Paper Ice Arena, capacity 3,000, which is also the home rink for Kushiro Tobu Blaze, and the Asia League's Nippon Paper Cranes. They wear red, black and white. Team owner Kushiro Kousei-sya is a waste management company. Kushiro is on Hokkaido's east coast, not far from Obihiro.
Tadano IHC. Founded in 1992, they are the company team for Tadano Corporation, manufacturers of industrial cranes. Their home rink, Obihiro no Mori Ice Arena in Obihiro, in eastern Hokkaido, can accommodate 2,500 spectators. Blue, white and black.
Skate House Sapporo IHC. They play at Sapporo's Tsukisamu Gymnasium, a facility built for the 1972 Olympics, which includes a rink with room for 3,371 spectators. Black, gray, white and blue.
Nippon Steel Sumikin Muroran. Muroran is a city in southern Hokkaido, and the location of the Japan Steel Works. Blue uniform. Their home rink is Muroran City Nakajima Sports Center.
Kushiro Tobu Blaze. Yellow and red. Nippon Paper Ice Arena.
Toyota Motor Hokkaido. Blue, gold and white. Their home rink is Tomakomai Shiratori Oyuko Ice Arena. The Asia League's Oji Eagles are also from Tomakomai, in southern Hokkaido.
It's the 90th edition of the Spengler Cup. This years' competitors are: HC Davos, Team Canada, HC Lugano, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Dinamo Minsk, and Mountfield HK.
Davos, Team Canada, Lugano and Avtomobilist all participated last year, and Team Canada won the cup. Dinamo Minsk are back after winning the tournament in 2009. Mountfield HK of the Czech Extraliga appear for the first time.
Avtomobilist and Dinamo are both members of the KHL, and Davos and Lugano are both in the Swiss NLA. The Spengler Cup starts out with a group stage, with one KHL team and one NLA team is each group, so that the chances of league rivals meeting are reduced. It can happen in the playoff stage, but has happened only once since the six-team format was introduced in 2010. Ufa and Zagreb (both KHL) met in the 2014 quarter-finals.
Team Canada's roster is posted here. Eleven play for NLA clubs in Switzerland. Six play for Medvescak Zagreb, plus one from another KHL club. Two are part of the Hockey Canada program. And there's one each from the AHL, Finnish Liiga, Austrian EBEL, the ECHL, and a Canadian university. The team is coached by Luke Richardson.
Avtomobilist is currently fifth in the Kharlamov Division. There are no Canadians.
Dinamo Minsk is second in the Bobrov. Canadians: Kevin Lalande, Ben Scrivens, Marc-André Gragnani, Matt Ellison, Rob Klinkhammer, Charles Linglet.
Mountfield HK from Hradec Králové is sixth in the Czech Extraliga. Alexandre Picard is the only Canadian on the squad.
Lugano is sixth in the NLA. Canadians: Ryan Wilson, Ryan Gardner, Maxim Lapierre. Head coach: Doug Shedden.
Davos is ninth in the NLA. The only Canadian there is Stefano Giliati.
Davos and Lugano also appeared in this year's Champions Hockey League. That tournament also started with a group stage where clubs from the same country were separated and spread out over the groups. The only time that Davos and Lugano might have met was the final. Clubs that Davos played in the Champions Hockey League this year: Djurgårdens IF, Dragons de Rouen, and Linköpings HC who knocked them out of the Round of 32. Lugano played Tappara, Adler Mannheim, HC Plzeň, and ZSC Lions who knocked them out of the Round of 16. The KHL doesn't participate in the Champions Hockey League.
Japan has had an annual ice hockey championship since 1930. Today the 84th edition starts in Nagano with eight teams facing off: the four Japanese teams of the Asia League; three university teams*; and the President's Cup** winner.
Game No. 1, Chuo University [1 - 2] Nikkō IceBucks
Game No. 2, Nippon Paper Cranes [9 - 1] Kansai University Kaisers. [Highlights.]
Game No. 4, Tohoku Free Blades [7 - 4] Meiji University
[Congratulations to Chuo University for not losing so badly.]
Game No. 5, [Cranes 3 - 4 IceBucks]
Game No. 6, [Free Blades 4 - 6 Eagles]
Third-place game (Sunday):
Game No. 7, Cranes [1 - 4] Free Blades
Game No. 8, IceBucks [2 - 3] Eagles
[Oji Eagles are Japanese champions.]
*The top team from the Kansai league, and the top two from the Kanto league. The current members of the top division of the Kanto league are Chuo U, Hosei U (The Orange Seals), Meiji U, Nihon U, Toyo U, and Waseda U.
**President's Cup competition began in 2013, and is a championship for Japanese hockey clubs that are not part of the Asia League. To date the winners have been: (2013) Team Hasegawa, (2014) Toyota Motor Hokkaido Centuries, (2015) Kushiro Kousei Company IHC, (2016) Kushiro Kousei Company IHC. Kushiro Kosie play in the J-Ice North Division.
KHL. Red Star Kunlun, based in Beijing, joins the Chernyshev Division, bringing the total number of KHL teams up to 29. A rumoured Swedish franchise named Swedish Crowns hasn't materialized, and now the talk is about expanding to London, England.
Sweden. Svenska Hockey Liga: Leksand come up, MODO go down. HockeyAllsvenskan: Södertälje and Västerviks IK come up; Asplöven and Sundsvall go down.
Finland. Espoo Blues have gone bankrupt, and are replaced in the Liiga by last season's Mestis champion Mikkelin Jukurit (pictured above). The Mestis still manages to expand to 13 teams by admitting a new Espoo club, Espoo United, and IPK (Iisalmen Peli-Karhut).
Switzerland. No change. The league qualification series between Biel and NLB winner Ajoie was cancelled after Ajoie failed to file the necessary paperwork. Failing to file the paperwork is a tried and true method for clubs that decide they can't afford to play in a higher league.
Germany. Hamburg Freezers are out due to financial difficulties. Fischtown Pinguins of Bremerhaven take over Hamburg's license.
Czech Republic. No change.
Slovakia. Early in the 2015-16 season HK 36 HANT Skalica were booted out of the league for being so awful. Nové Zámky, who played in the Hungarian MOL Liga a couple of years ago, take their place.
Austria. No change in the top-tier Erste Bank Eishockey Liga. The second-tier Inter-National League, which most recently contained six Austrian and three Slovenian clubs, is replaced by the Alps Hockey League, with seven Austrian, eight Italian, and one Slovenian club.
Joseph Bonaparte and Edward Cornwallis shake on the Peace of Amiens, which lasted from 1802 until 1803.
It's the third iteration of the Napoleon Cup, the annual invitational hockey tournament held in Amiens, France. This year's four teams are Gothiques d'Amiens, Nottingham Panthers, EC Kassel Huskies, and UQTR. Amiens and UQTR have taken part in all three Napoleon Cups to date. Nottingham are here for the second time. They won in 2014. It's the first appearance for Kassel Huskies.
Nottingham Panthers play in the Elite Ice Hockey League, the top league in England. Gothiques d'Amiens are members of Ligue Magnus, France's top hockey league. Kassel Huskies are in DEL2, the second-tier league of German hockey. Les Patriotes de UQTR belong to the OUA East Division, which last season they won.
The close level of competition in the Napoleon Cup suggests that these four leagues are about at a par.
From left to right back row: Connie Smith (right wing), Elizabeth “Betty” Hinds (rover), Peter Muldoon (team manager), Nellie Haddon (centre), Miss Matheson (left wing); from left to right front row: Mrs. French (coverpoint), Mrs. L.N. McKechnie (goal), Mrs. Percival (point). Source: Vancouver Archives.