By: Quinn Schmidt
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications student
CANTON, N.Y. – Competing in Group A with powerhouse programs like Canada and the Czech Republic, Japan’s men’s ice hockey team knew it would be in for a trial by ﬁre. But still, longtime National Hockey League veteran head coach Perry Pearn understands how great of an opportunity the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games presents for Team Japan.
“Having seen the teams in our group the assumption I would make is that Canada is the strongest team, but I think the Czechs will be able to give them a good game,” said Pearn after a hard-fought 5-1 loss to the Czech Republic on Jan. 13. “I think we felt today that the winner of this game potentially would be a medal contender. There’s a lot to be proven after this but this game was important to us.”
Not only was this game important for the Japanese men’s ice hockey, which has not made it into the playoff rounds in two decades, but the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games present a chance for Japan to insert itself into the international ice hockey scene.
If there was ever a man to spearhead such a feat, it would be Perry Pearn. His illustrious NHL career dates back to 1995 and is highlighted by stints with the Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers.
Pearn is hoping to bring his NHL expertise to Japan, which most recently ﬁnished 11th in a 12-team ﬁeld at the Krasnoyarsk 2019 FISU Games. The country is currently ranked 25th in the International Ice Hockey Federation world rankings, the lowest ranking in Japanese history.
Overall, Japan is not necessarily known for its ice hockey prowess, but Pearn is not using that as an excuse.
“The league that this group plays in isn’t challenging enough for them to be able to make big steps and add to their game on their own,” said Pearn. “But they’re all really good players, so what they have to do now is be good players at the next level. That next level means taking some of the things we’re trying to give them and some of the adjustments we’re trying to make.”
With Pearn at the helm of the Japanese under-20 team in addition to the national team, Japan is already making waves, claiming a 1B World Championship in Poland in April of 2022. So far in Lake Placid, Japan has already beaten Ukraine and played well in a loss to the Czech Republic, one of the best teams in the tournament.
The team will again be put to the test tomorrow when they face Canada at 9:30 a.m. at Roos House of Canton, N.Y. Canada has yet to lose in the tournament with a goal differential of +13.
Regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, the future is bright for Japanese ice hockey with a fresh wave of talented young players under the guidance of a hardened, battle-tested leader.
“We are ideally working towards creating players wh are capable of playing in the Olympic Games in qualifying for Olympic Games,” Pearn said. “The group of players on this team in Lake Placid is the core group at the top end of Japanese Hockey right now. By the time those Olympics roll around in 2030, they would be in their mid to late twenties and hopefully, some of these guys would be part of that team.”
PHOTO COURTESY: Isaish Vasquez