Anyang Halla right wing #96 Song Dong Hwan was lighting it up in the Asia League Ice Hockey, at least he was in 2005-06 clinching the league scoring title with 32 goals. Unfortunately Dong Hwan was called up to serve in the Korean army for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 ALIH seasons. Compulsory service of just over 2 years is mandory for all adult males in South Korea over the age of 18.
Will the "Asian Rocket" pick up where he left off, and challenge the dominant Japanese Oji Paper, Nippon Paper Cranes, Seibu Price Rabbits or Nikko Ice Bucks teams? Anyang Halla is one of two teams based in South Korea, along with High1 (named after a newly developed series of ski and golf resorts). Anyang Halla, formerly Halla Winia (a refrigerator company), won 5 Korean Hockey Championships before moving to the Asian Hockey League and finishing 3rd in 2003-04. Based in Anyang City an hour south of the capital Seoul, Anyang Halla finished the 2007-08 ALIH season in 5th place registering a 14-14-2 record (30 game season). Anyang Halla was swept by the Nippon Paper Cranes 3-0 in the best-of-five first round of the playoffs (4-3, 2-1, 2-1).
According to the offical website, the Nippon Paper Cranes defeated regular season champion Seibu to advance to the finals against Oji Paper. Cranes goaltender Jamie McLennan said of the finals berth, "We knew it would be the toughest game in this series. SEIBU is an elite team being on a higher level than us, so I have conditioned myself well to be in top shape for the series. Oji Paper is one of the best teams I've seen, but we have a chance to win as we did win over SEIBU. With humility, I'll try to be well prepared for the finals."
The ALIH Championship Finals begin on Saturday, March 15th in Tomakomai, Japan. The "Asian Rocket" Song Dong Hwan will be on the shelf until the 2008-09 ALIH season. My brother Soren has traveled to South Korea the last two years to study Judo, I might draft him to provide a little hockey coverage if he makes the trip a third time. Follow the ALIH Finals on the official Oji Paper and Nippon Paper Cranes websites.
This post would not be complete without a bizarre Korean We are the World team song by Anyang Halla, Flying Halla? A few Czech teammates are thrown in for good measure, Patrik Martinec, Jaroslav Nedved, Daniel Seman and Pavel Falta. The official Anyang Halla website is available at anyanghalla.com.
A brief China Sharks update is up on my blog here. Also note the first youtube highlight video I posted, featuring a different rocket, is nearing 30,000 page views. My Godzilla vs Patrick Marleau highlight video needs to catch up. "I'd rather put a 'C' on Godzilla -- he's a better leader, too." - Earl Sleek. *** Ahem. Cough.
[Update] Oji Paper, the Cranes to Face in Finals - ALIH.
[Update2] Cranes oust Rabbits, advance to AHL finals - Daily Yomiuri Online. More here.