Jamie McLennan, in the Kiss shirt, and Tyson Nash, over Jamie's left shoulder, pose for a photo with a few of their new friends.
Hello everyone. These will be the final installments of my Japan blog. It has been a great ride and I have had a ton of fun and great experiences. I am going to get the hockey stuff out of the way now and then highlight the top-10 events of the season next week.
Moving on to the second round against the high-powered Seibu team in Tokyo was going to be a huge challenge for us. They had beaten us in the season series and had what I perceived to be more depth, headlined by Joel ‘Kosmo Kramer’ ‘The Donkey’ Prpic.
The first two games were played in Seibu’s building and were pretty tight. We won the first game 3-2; both teams played well and there were good chances at both ends. Game 2 was quite even until some rough stuff happened in the second period and we ended up shorthanded for nine minutes. It never ceases to amaze me how, just when you think you have seen it all, something else happens to make you chuckle and say, ‘Now I really have seen it all.’
Like I said, in Game 2 things got a bit chippy. Emotions were running high, the intensity level up was up and there were some scrums after whistles. One particular scrum got more physical than the others; I tripped up one of Seibu’s players who was getting in my face and all hell broke loose.
Tyson Nash came in to defend me and got sucker punched by one of their players, so he dropped his gloves and pounded the guy pretty good. I knew I was going to get a penalty and figured since the guy dropped his gloves and punched Nasher they were both going to get penalties as well.
I noticed the ref was completely confused as to what took place and I saw him asking his linesmen for their opinions. Fair enough, but in a move I had not seen before, the supervising ref left the stands, went to the penalty box and made all the calls himself.
After 20 minutes, the supervisor finally worked everything out and to my laughable surprise they were the wrong calls. I mean, how do you take control of a messed-up situation and screw it up even more?
Somehow this genius gave Seibu a nine-minute power play with a 5-on-3 thrown in there for good measure. There was no penalty given to the guy who suckered Nasher, but Tyson was thrown out of the game and given an extra game misconduct on top of that by the supervisor – the same jackass who made all these calls.
If you think this is confusing now, multiply it by 10 on the ice. There’s the supervisor trying to explain the situation to us while standing on the ice in his street clothes. Needless to say, it was one of those moments when you say to yourself “Where the hell am I? And why am I here again?”
Games 3 and 4 were back in our building. In Game 3 we pounded them pretty good, 7-2; it was just one of those games where everything we did went right. In Game 4, Seibu came at us extremely hard, but we were able to hold on for a big 2-1 win; David had slain the Goliath of Japanese hockey.
Even the efforts of their resident bully (Prpic) could not shake the will of our team, although I did laugh to myself on several occasions when Prpic was jawing and trying to torment our smaller guys. He even tried a few shots at me, but let’s be honest here, even he knew he could not say anything to rattle me.
So it was on to the finals against OJI, the team I figured was the best in the league. My early assessment was not wrong; they gave us an old-fashioned ass kicking in all three games to sweep us for the championship. Although the scores were all close, OJI dominated us all over the ice.
If we lived in medieval times, it would have been said they had their way with us in every facet of life - darn near raped and pillaged us. At one point they tried robbing me in the parking lot for my wallet and when I got home I found three of them living in my apartment. They absolutely ravaged us into submission, but we went down with class and great pride.
I was a bit emotional at the end, knowing this could be the last competitive game of my career, but I quickly realized how fortunate I have been to play 18 years professionally and to finish the way I wanted to: having fun.
I may not have been an elite player and definitely far from a Hall of Famer (although people have told me I lived a hall of fame life off the ice), but I am proud to have played in the NHL for so long and to have been able to experience so many of the different things the game of hockey has to offer.
I am looking forward to the challenges ahead of me and am grateful for the many lifelong friendships I have made throughout my journey. Although I have abused my good friend Tyson in this blog on several occasions, everyone, including Nasher, knows how I truly feel about him and how much respect I have for him.
But enough with the serious stuff, next Thursday I’ll highlight some of my experiences this season.
Born in Edmonton, Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender who spend this season 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.