The very mention of Kariya conjures up images of wild and mythical romance. The purest waters, the tranquility of the landscape and the most naturally delicious produce. From the grouse in the field, to the smoothest whiskey in the tumbler, and the finest Asahi in the winners’ gift box.
On a cool and rain-soaked day in Kariya, Japan, the TSHA stormed through the third annual tournament to take the top prize. Hosted by the Kariya International Friendship Association and the Tokai Japan Canadian Society (TJCS), the tournament featured seven teams from Japan and Canada, and was well organized and enjoyed by all.
Paul, John, Ted, Casey, Dave, and Chad represented the TSHA for this adventure. The first three sensibly arrived the night before with the intention of getting well rested at the hotel before game time. And then upon arriving in Kariya, promptly abandoned that plan in favour of all night drinking. The latter three thought they would save some money by taking an overnight bus. But it turned out that they would pay with their bodies by experiencing what turned out to be a rolling sleep deprivation chamber designed to reorder one's vertebrae.
So the TSHA arrived at the tournament, as they do for all tournaments, not to mention most of life's tasks, in less than ideal condition. The first game was against the TCJS team, The Street Beavers 2. Due to the tournament structure, an early loss would have been the end of the day for TSHA, but instead saw the Street Beavers 2 downed 9 – 0 on the back of Chad’s dominating performance as center. Despite both TSHA defensemen still being drunk, Casey was largely untested in the first game.
Game two was a calmer affair, with TSHA facing off against an entirely rookie Japanese team. Casey shed the goalie gear and the TSHA had an actual substitute for a game. The Japanese team showed great heart and put in a solid effort, and were the only team to score against the TSHA (although not against the goalie). The final score was 6 – 2. This was followed by a long break for the TSHA which included skills competitions and events. There was a relay race, a trivia competition, and a shooting accuracy contest. Much to the TSHA's shame, the only member to score was a completely surprised Ted. Then lunch happened, and much advantage was taken of the pancakes, omelets, bacon and beer that were on offer by the organizers.
Finally the sun broke through for the championship game between the TSHA and the Ball Hockey United team from Mississauga, Canada. Like the TSHA, they also only had six men, but if measured by size and Canadian-ness, they were the equivalent of 11 TSHA members. In any case, as the Canadian Counsel to Nagoya remarked, “it was natural that these two teams should meet in the final since they were not burdened with substitutes and fresh legs”. Despite having traveled the greatest distance, United was the crowd favorite and adopted home team, getting loud cheers. The TSHA played strong and dominated play, but the teams ended the first half in a scoreless tie.
In the second half the TSHA again poured it on, moving the ball well and limiting United’s chances. Chad, who had repeatedly tested the endurance and pain threshold of the United goalie, notched his third game-winning goal of the day. Dave later picked up an insurance goal, slipping a rebound between the goalie’s pads. Great back checking by Chad and Paul further thwarted what would have been good chances for United and ensured the TSHA win by a final of 2 – 0. The only mar on an otherwise impressive win for the TSHA was the sad, slow, and soggy demise of Casey’s cardboard blocker.
To the victors go the spoils, and, when the tournament is backed by a city government, there are plenty of spoils. In addition to the TSHA name being added to the huge championship trophy, shirts, shortbread cookies, and a case of beer were presented to TSHA.
The games were followed by a luxurious rotenburo bath, a mad eki-ben dash in Nagoya station, and a trip back to Tokyo on the Nozomi shinkansen, where anecdotes were already beginning to be formed, told, and retold until they ceased to amuse.
The TSHA will surely be back in Nagoya next November to defend their title. And we look forward to facing off against the talented boys and girls from Nagoya and Mississauga at the Yamato Cup on October 10, 2009, in Tokyo.*
*Editor's note: We haven't been back, the boys from Mississauga have not made it to the Yamato Cup, and Nagoya finally came in 2015.