fight night

some of you "footie" fans may argue that hockey is a sport for wimps because of all the padding we wear. for me, no other sport can top hockey. you go have fun playing with your balls.

hockey in japan is an experience all its own. when i was on a university exchange in Kobe four years ago, I played on the university hockey team. Despite, or maybe because of, living in a large city as Kobe, I think there was only one hockey rink in Kobe, so we had to practice in Osaka. Since there were so many teams fighting over ice time, we ended up an ice slot that started at midnight two nights a week. In japan, university is all about club activities... not cramming for exams. So before and after every practice we had a meeting. The meeting before the practice was to talk about what we were going to do in the practice. The meeting after was to talk about what we did. I would get home from my Sunday night practice at the crack of dawn on Monday mornings. Unlike in my home country where hockey is a religious following, hockey is rather obscure here. As a result, most people start learning how to play when they are in university. Needless to say, my university team SUCKED!

Saga is no different. I play on the Saga Club team which is composed of a wide range ages... from high school kids to 50 year old men, all Japanese except for one other foreigner. Since there is no rink in Saga prefecture, we have to practice in Kurume. We practice two nights a week. Since we aren't a university team, we don't have any meetings, so I get home at a reasonable hour. I think the Kurume and Saga University teams are lucky (compared to my Kobe team, at least) because in addition to their ice slots, they can practice with us.

Most of our games are tournament games either in Fukuoka or Kumamoto. This time last year we were playing a Kumamoto club team that had only 7 players. It was a physical game with lots of hitting by the third with the score 6 - 0 in our favour, the play turned chippy. With about five minutes left in the game a brawl broke out on the ice. It was nuts. From one of the senior players on our team it was the first time he had ever HEARD of a fight in Japan, never mind seeing one. I got suspended for two games, everyone else on my team got a one game suspension... all their players got kicked out of the game, so since they only had 7 players to begin with, they couldn't finish the game....

Two weekends ago we played the team again... but this time they joined another Kumamoto team. We were joking before the game how it was "fight night tonight", but I doubt anyone seriously believed that things would turn nasty. Sure enough, with us losing 5 - 2 and one minute left in the game one of our players checked an opponent head-first into the boards. That started the melee. One of their players tried jumping over into our bench to fight our coach. I don't think any solid punches were thrown, so that moron was the only one to get a game suspension. Despite the loss... it was a fun game.

One of the funny things about the hockey rinks here is that there are no change rooms so sometimes both teams end up putting on the equipment in the same area and everybody knows everybody. Even though we had just gotten into a brawl with them for a second time, we exchanged "otsukaresamadesu"s after the game.

this past Sunday we had another game in Kumamoto again a different team. no fights... but lots of hard hitting. our defense and 50 yr old goaltender played like shit, but we managed a 7 -6 win. I got home at 1am.