Japanese National Teams Withdraw from World Championships

The mangitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked northern Japan on March 11 also had the rather trivial effect of ending the hockey season in the country.  The Asia League Ice Hockey Finals were cancelled as a result of the earthquake, as the disasters essentially destroyed the city of Hachinohe, the home of the Tohoku Free Blades.  The Free Blades were to play Anyang Halla from South Korea in the Final, and both teams were in the region preparing to play when the earthquake hit.  Both teams were in the Fukushima evacuation zone due to the partial meltdown of one of the nuclear power plants' reactors as a result of the damage sustained.  Read more from the IIHF's story here.

Now comes word that Japan will be withdrawing their national teams from competition at all of the IIHF tournaments in the coming weeks.  The tournaments they will be missing are the IIHF Men's Division 1A in Budapest, the IIHF World U18's Division 1A in Riga, and the World Women's Championship Division 1 in Ravensburg, Germany.  

"Although we regret the absence of the Japanese athletes at our championships, this is a time where sporting activities become almost irrelevant. Our thoughts are with the Japanese people who have suffered immeasurably during the last weeks and we know that it will take many years to overcome the damages."

"As ice hockey in Japan is concentrated to the northern parts, we know that many of the athletes selected to represent their country and also the officials have been directly or indirectly affected by the disaster," says the IIHF President. "We recognize with full sympathy the need of the athletes and officials to be with their loved ones during the very difficult times of mourning and national recovery."

The Japanese Ice Hockey Federation has informed the IIHF that family and friends of the Japanese ice hockey community, including co-workers of the national team players have fallen victim to the disaster.

There is no word of any players being killed in the disasters, but it has definitely had a major impact on the hockey community in Japan.  The IIHF will no doubt offer a special exemption for the team for missing this year's championships when dealing with technical issues such as the world rankings and promotion/relegation for next year, when hopefully the Japanese hockey community will be rebuilding itself.  

Japan's only international participation in 2010-11 was winning the silver medal in both the men's and women's disciplines at the 2011 Asian Winter Games, finishing eighth (and being relegated) in the top division of the 2011 Women's World U18s, and finishing fifth in the World U20 Championships Division 1A group back in December.

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