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We have settled in and are practicing regularly with the team. The one thing we knew coming here was that games are very spaced out. The season is just 30 games in total and by the time Tyson Nash and I got here, there were only 19 games left.
We had to wait for our work visas to come in, so we were unable to play the first set of games against our team’s bitter rivals, the Seibu Rabbits. The Rabbits are based in Tokyo and have some good players. From what I’m told, they’re at the top of the standings every year, kinda like the Detroit Red Wings of Japan. The Rabbits have some Japanese-Canadians on the team and a couple of imports who make them the team to beat.
I can’t wait to play them, but the first encounter we had to watch from the stands. I got a chuckle out of one of the imports on their team. His name is Joel Prpic. He is a guy who played a handful of games in the NHL (18 with Boston and Colorado), but mostly played in the minors (Providence, Hershey and Cleveland).
What makes him unique over here is he is 6-foot-8 and tries to bully his way around on the ice. He is constantly yelling at the ref and seems to get so agitated at everyone because there is no fighting in the league, which, I am sure, makes it extra frustrating on him.
He has earned himself the nickname ‘the donkey’ from the guys on our team and, although he is a very good player here and very valuable to their team, every time I watch him play it reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer is in the kids karate class and comes in first because he beats up 10 year olds. This is the only thing I think of when I watch him play against us.
The first game we actually played in was against a team named Oji. Tyson and I were very nervous because we both hadn’t played in a while and were unsure what to expect from the level of play and the pace of the game. We ended up playing well and winning the game. The play is so much different here that we will have to adjust.
The ice is bigger and the systems are different and although the players are very fast, there is considerable difference in the level of play from North America.
Nasher is fitting in well with the guys. They have adopted him like a stray dog, with his matted hair, multi-colored leathery skin and oversized gums, they have come to realize he is a unique breed and are taking turns walking and feeding him.
Although he has brought the team height average down to 5-foot-6, his ‘never quit’ attitude has inspired the team to build him a play area where he can run, dig and enjoy his days.
Until next week….
Born in Edmonton, Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender currently playing for the Nippon Paper Cranes of the ALIH (Asia League Ice Hockey). Nicknamed 'Noodles,' McLennan was drafted by the Islanders in 1991. He played 254 NHL games with the Flames, Rangers, Panthers, Wild, Blues and Isles, compiling a 80-109-33 record.