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Anyang Halla to raise funds for Japan quake victims

 An ice hockey team based in Gyeonggi Province announced that it is planning to hold a charity game to raise funds for disaster-ravaged Japan.

Anyang Halla, the defending champions of the Asia Ice hockey League, were due to play Japanese side Tohoku Free Blades in a best-of-five championship final series in Japan last Friday, when the country was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

All five matches are now canceled due to the earthquake and tsunami. But the Korean club announced that it would host a charity match on Mar. 22 at its home in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, to help the victims in Japan.

“We’re going to divide our team into two and play against each other. The coaches and former players are also coming to play as well,” said Min Ji-young, marketing manager of Anyang Halla.

“There will be no entrance fee, but we’ll accept donations,” she added.

“We were very fortunate to be able to be back here,” said Anyang’s head coach Shim Eui-sik.
Players from Anyang Halla (in blue) and Tohoku Free Blades during a regular season game at the Anyang Indoor Ice Rink in October. (Anyang Halla)
Players from Anyang Halla (in blue) and Tohoku Free Blades during a regular season game at the Anyang Indoor Ice Rink in October. (Anyang Halla)

According to Shim, the team landed at Sendai Airport last Friday just hours before the massive tsunami engulfed the airport. Shim and his players were heading to Fukushima, when the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the area.

“We were at a service stop on a highway when it happened. All of sudden the ground was shaking. It was really shocking,” he said.

Fortunately, the Korean team was able to catch a flight to Seoul the following day before the problems at the nuclear power plant in the area began to escalate.

“No one was hurt and I also heard that everyone on the Japanese team is okay,” Min said.

But the Tohoku Free Blades’ ice rink was seriously damaged and some of the players’ relatives are still missing following the disaster. And with the situation worsening, the hockey league governing body has decided to scrap this year’s championship finals, according to the marketing manager.

“The league officials are still waiting to hear from the Japanese team, but we received confirmation that there will be no finals this year,” she added.

The Asian League was established in 2003 with seven teams from Korea, Japan and China in order to make up for the declining popularity of the Korean and Japanese ice hockey leagues.

Anyang became the first Korean team to claim the league title in 2010, and was aiming for a back-to-back title crown this season.

“We’ve been working hard to reach the final and were so close to winning the title again,” said Shim.

“But we understand the decision, and want to be of help to the victims. In the past years, we learned a lot from the Japanese teams, so it’s time to give something back to them,” he added.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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