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'East Hokkaido Cranes' to succeed Nippon Paper franchise

Kyodo

Asia League Ice Hockey said Tuesday it has approved an application for a successor team to Japan’s Nippon Paper Cranes, which closed the curtain on its 70-year history at the end of the season last month.

The team, which will be named the East Hokkaido Cranes, is expected to be officially recognized at ALIH’s annual general meeting in June.

A representative of the management company from Sapporo called the East Hokkaido Ice Hockey Club joint venture company which submitted the application said the Cranes’ base will remain in Kushiro and at least 15 players will stay on with the team.

The Asia League plans to obtain approval of the new club from its member teams before the general meeting via email.

“I want to give consideration to the new club so it can be up and running as soon as possible,” said AHIL chairman Sumio Kobayashi.

Nippon Paper Industries Co. announced its decision to disband the four-time Asia League-winning ice hockey club in December to streamline management and cope with declining revenues, and hoped to find local companies willing to underwrite the team.

The joint venture company has received support from more than 100 mainly Hokkaido-based companies and has already collected ¥125 million ($1.1 million) toward the team’s operating funds. The company plans to continue its search for sponsors.

The Nippon Paper franchise was founded in 1949 and won the national championship seven times since becoming the Cranes after a company merger in 1993. The Cranes were swept in the ALIH final last month by Russia’s PSK Sakhalin and missed out on their bid for a fifth title.