Jamie McLennan, (left, incase you couldn't tell) led his Nippon Paper Cranes team to a sweep in the first round of the ALIH playoffs.
Welcome back everyone. Just wanted to check in and give an update of what has been happening on the other side of the world as we are now battling through the playoffs.
Our first round opponent was the team from Seoul, Korea named Halla. To be honest, I was quite excited to play them for a couple of reasons. It was a chance for me to visit another country on my world tour and also an opportunity to see if yet another country’s immigration department would challenge the validity of Tyson Nash’s documents.
Although listed in his papers as somewhat human and standing just barely inches above an average countertop, Tyson’s appearance raised some red flags. The Koreans immediately took issue with our team’s approach of transporting him in his custom-made cage with an automatic feeder.
With the cage dimensions being equal to that of a golf bag, the only real issue was why his mouth guard, very badly decayed and barely recognizable, was traveling in a separate case.
Upon further review, Tyson was asked to roll over in his cage and smile, and that’s when things took a turn for the worse. Visibly traumatized, the customs worker was immediately relieved of his duties and taken to the infirmary for treatment. It was deemed necessary for a high-alert quarantine until further review and tests could be done to explain what was seen in the cage.
The team fought hard to be by his side and we were confident it was only a matter of time until the Korean officials would release Nasher without international incident.
While waiting for Tyson’s release, the team forged ahead and got settled into our hotel. I was able to take in the local sights. The one thing I loved immediately about Seoul was it had a touch of western civilization to it. There are lots of fast food restaurants – McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King – and various stores that make you feel a bit at home.
Throw in your typical crazy cab drivers and pedestrians running everywhere, and this had the makings of some ridiculous adventures all over again.
Without incident, we were able to get food and return safely back to our hotel to focus on the upcoming important games. Upon winning the first two hard-fought games in our building by one goal each, we had to win one more to take the best-of-five series.
Game 3 was a close, low-scoring battle and we came out on top 2-1 to earn a three-game sweep. I have to say there were two reasons why I enjoyed winning the series in straight games.
While watching from my crease, it’s an absolute joy to see Tyson hit people and monitor the reaction of our team and the opposition. As everyone knows, I poke fun at him constantly and believe me, he is quick to return the abuse. But that doesn’t diminish my belief of how effective he is as a player over here and how much he can change a game. I often find myself chuckling from in my net and sometimes wonder if spectators notice me laughing to myself.
A prime example of what I am talking about happened in Game 3. Tyson had the puck and was skating forward with what seemed like his head down. One of the Halla players thought he could catch him with an unsuspecting hit, when at the last second Tyson does a move called the reverse hit and basically runs him over and keeps skating with the puck.
To see the reaction of both teams is funny, because it gives our team a lift and more courage and deflates the other team and makes them a bit more apprehensive to go around him.
He had one hit in the third period where I thought he popped the guy’s head right off. It was a clean check, but the guy’s helmet flew 10 feet in the air – I thought his head was still in it! So needless to say, Nasher had a huge influence on our victories.
The second reason why I appreciated the sweep was the lag time it created. Because our return flights were already booked, we had two days off in Seoul to really take in the sights and nightlife. Ultimately, we were able to find a local pub that, of all things, had a Canadian theme so we could relax and enjoy ourselves.
The neatest thing about it was the bar had all Canadian team jerseys on the walls including the NHL and CFL. Later as we walked home, the street vendors had Team Canada jerseys for sale. I could only laugh to myself as I realized no matter where I go in this world, I cannot escape Iggy’s smiling face.
After being tempted to eat some bar food, which is referred to back home as “street meat,” I could only watch in amazement as Darcy ‘Rock Gut’ Mitani, our top scorer and proud Dryden, Ont., boy, scarfed down some mystery stew out of a dirty pot and some dumplings that had a surprise in the middle.
No one ordered the pigs feet and raw fish head that was proudly on display and for sale, but I’m sure for the right price I could have coaxed one of our players to eat them. (Maybe after the playoffs, when food poisoning and stomach pumping will not have as big an effect on the outcome of games.)
So it was back home for some rest and to prepare for our next semifinal series against the rival Seibu Rabbits, who received a bye in the first round because of their first-place finish.
You might remember from my previous blog that their team has Kosmo Kramer (Joel Prpic) on it, so I’m sure there will be some yelling and bullying being done in the next series, and because they are a solid team led by him, we will have our work cut out for us. As much as I joke about him, he is very good in this league and makes his team go, so it is a battle that I am looking forward to.
Finally, if this didn’t happen right in front of me, I would not have believed it, nor would I write about it.
Driving a car here in Japan is somewhat of a treat for various reasons. Everyone is polite. Nobody honks for any reason. Even the most bone-headed move behind the wheel is greeted with a smile and a wave. It is comforting, but sometimes frustrating when on the receiving end of driving negligence. Making matters more challenging, the steering wheel is on the other side, and the driving is done on the opposite side of the road, too, so it is a huge adjustment.
I was heading to Game 2 of the first series in our building and was driving my trusty mini-van, which the team loaned me to get around while I played here. Typically, I arrive early to games, so as I pulled into the parking area of our building, the lot was completely empty except for one car that seemed be running and had its brake lights on.
I parked in my usual spot, jumped out of my car and was heading inside when I heard a loud noise that surprised me. As I turned I witnessed this vehicle backing into the curb and pole. It didn’t look like there was a driver behind the wheel.
The car started to move, so I walked over to it, stuck my head in the window and startled the smallest, cutest, oldest living Japanese woman with an eye patch. At least she looked and seemed like that to me. Now after making sure she was OK and then trying to communicate with her, I instantly had a million thoughts running through my head as I tried to help her get out of this predicament.
I mean, is it even legal for a 141-year-old woman with an eye patch to secure a drivers license? Was this woman’s last vehicle a horse-drawn buggy? Imagine me trying to help her negotiate a turn from behind the vehicle when she can’t see over the seat, can only look from one side, while we cannot communicate because of the language barrier.
Well, we found a way through trial and error. Under my direction, she hit the curb two more times. I instantly fell in love with this sweet one-eyed woman as she pulled out of the parking lot with a wave and a smile. I did a double take when I realized she was making her way down a one-way road in the wrong direction.
Don’t think me to be uncaring. I found out later that day she made it home OK. Tyson said he spotted her later that evening behind the net. I could only chuckle when I heard that.
If we make it to the final, I’m going to have to ask the team to loan out our bus driver to get her back and forth.