Asia League Ice Hockey is the top professional hockey league in Japan and South Korea, and also includes China's one professional team.
The eight teams each play a schedule of 42 games from September to March, after which the top four move on to the playoffs, with best-of-five semifinals and finals. The Japanese clubs take time out in February for the All Japan Ice Hockey Championship, which has been going on since 1930. The Korea Domestic Championship dates back to 1955.
The teams are:
Oji Eagles. Founded in 1925 as the company team of Oji Paper, the Eagles play at Hakucho Arena (capacity 4,015) in Tomakomai, on the southern coast of Hokkaido. They have won the Asia League championship twice, its forerunner the Japan League championship 13 times, and the anyone-can-enter All Japan Championship 35 times including last year. They wear blue, white, yellow and black. The squad includes Canadians Aaron Keller, Mike Kompon and T.J. Kemp.
Nippon Paper Cranes. Oji Eagles' rival on the ice and in the boardroom, Nippon Paper Cranes are owned by the Nippon Paper Group, and play at Kushiro Ice Arena (capacity 3,000) in Kushiro on the eastern coast of Hokkaido. They began in 1949, have won the Asia League three times and the All Japan Championship five. Black, red, blue and white. Canadian: Eric Regan. The club name puts you in mind of the art of origami.
Anyang Halla. Founded in 1994, they won the Korean Ice Hockey League five times, and then after 2003 the Asia League once plus one co-win. They play at the Anyang Sports Complex Arena attached to Anyang Stadium. Blue, yellow and white. Canadians: Brock Radunske, Dustin Wood. Anyang is a city of about two-thirds of a million on the southern outskirts of Seoul.
High1. Founded in 2004, High1 joined the Asia League the next year. They are based in Goyang, South Korea, on the north side of Seoul. Black and red. Canadians: Bryan Young who has played 17 games for Edmonton, David Brine who played 9 games for the Florida Panthers and later played for Medveščak Zagreb, and Michael Swift.
China Dragon. This club is an amalgamation of two venerable Chinese powerhouses, Harbin and Qiqihar, both founded in 1954 and neither based anywhere near Shanghai. The team roster closely matches that of the Chinese Olympic team. Colours: red and yellow. No Canadians.
Tohoku Free Blades. Founded 2008. Their home address is Niida Indoor Rink (capacity 1,576) in Hachinohe, Aomori, the northernmost prefecture on the island of Honshu. Blue, gray and white. They have won the championship once, and were declared co-winners the year of the tsunami. Canadians: Darrell Hay, Brad Farynuk and Ned Lukacevic.
Daemyung Sangmu. New this year. This is the hockey team of the South Korean military and is tasked with training the South Korean national team for the 2018 Olympics. They play at the Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul. Black, yellow and red. No Canadians.
The league had a team in Khabarovsk, in the Far East of Russia, for one season. The KHL has since moved into that town and Vladivostok.