Three Japanese teams are considering withdrawing from Asia League Ice Hockey and re-forming a domestic league, sources close to the matter revealed Monday.
While the Asia league issued a statement online saying the rumors are not true, sources claim that all eight of the league’s teams, including those from South Korea and Russia, will now enter into discussion on how to move forward.
There is also talk of each country’s top-ranked teams taking part in an Asian championship, according to the sources.
Four Japanese teams currently take part in the Asian league including the Oji Eagles, Tohoku Free Blades and Nikko Ice Bucks.
In December, Nippon Paper Industries Co. announced its decision to shut down its four-time Asia League-winning team, the Nippon Paper Cranes, and is currently looking for other companies willing to take over the club.
The teams have been burdened with costly overseas expenses and the challenge of guaranteeing the number of games, in addition to the possibility of seeing fewer teams participate in other countries next season.
The ALIH was formed in 2003 with four Japanese teams and one South Korean team, and replaced the Japan Ice Hockey League as the sport’s popularity declined throughout the country. The 2018-2019 playoffs conclude in March.