The only Japanese in the Latvian league is Yoshihiro Kuroiwa plays in the team of Riga Prizma and has ambitious goals.

#45 Yoshihiro Kuroiwa, High1/Asia League ©Yoshihiro Kuroiwa

The highest Latvian league consists of eight clubs this season. New additions are teams from HK Dinaburga and HK Olimp Riga. Players from six nations are under contract with these eight clubs. A single player from Japan plays in Riga Prizma, it is a goalie with Yoshihiro Kuroiwa. He played for Prizma two years ago and is now returning.

Yoshihiro Kuroiwa played in the season 2010-11 in US for the U18 team of “Motor City Metal Jackets” and “Honeybaked”. The following season he went to Canada to play for the “PEAC Piranhas U18”. After an extensive season Kuroiwa moved back to the US and played for the “Richmond Generals”. Another year later he remained in the US and was signed by the “Odessa Jackalopes”. Then Yoshihiro had enough of the US and went to Europe.

His first stop was in Latvia, the club of “Tukums”. After that he moved to Finland to “S-Kiekko”. In Finland, he played only eight games and should get a chance in Ukraine at the “Generals Kiev”. There he did not play a single game, and so he moved back to Latvia within the season, this time to Prizma Riga. After the guest performance at Prizma he moved again also Finland to “AIK / Laser HT”, in the third Finnish league. After a single game in the same season, they had the chance to play in the Asia League, with “Gangwon High1” from South Korea. Even with this team Kuroiwa played only two games, and so he asked at Prizma, if the team does not seek a goalie, he needs match practice. Prizma agreed and Kuroiwa returned to Latvia.

#45 Yoshihiro Kuroiwa, Asia League/Gangwon High1 ©Yoshihiro Kuroiwa

We asked Yoshihiro for a short interview, which the likeable Japanese also liked to follow:

Baltics Media: Hello Yoshihiro, first thank you for your time, which you have taken for this talk. The reason for this interview is, you are the only japan player in Latvia. Please give us a little personal review of the past. You have been playing eleven clubs on three continents since the 2010-11 season. Including in typical ice hockey countries such as USA, Canada, Finland, but also in not so popular clubs in South Korea or Ukraine. What made this brisk exchange decisive.

YK: “It is so hard to find a team for import goalies so I take a offer when I get it. That is why I have been playing in those countries.

BM: Which station in your career was the most challenging and which club was the best for you?

YK:”The most challenging was Prizma Riga, because the Latvian top league is a good level with super offensive hockey. It is very hard to for goalies, sometimes in this league scores will be like 6-8 goals, so there are very high scores. to keep my confidence in this league. The best club was Gangwon High1 in the Asia league. I felt very professional with a good contract, good ice rink, but in the Asia League there are only around 35 games. Also we have a gap of level between Asian players and import players. Asia players are similar level with Suomi-sarja, which is 3rd highest league in Finland, with import players are from NHL, AHL, KHL and Asia league. The Teams always take import goalies. There is no chance to play for Asian goalies. These are huge problems for Asia league.”igh1 who I played for last season, they disappeared this season. Then I was trying to find new team in Europe and asked Prizma Riga if they need a goalie and they said me that they are looking for goalies. That is why I came back to this team.”

BM: You are returning to a club for the first time, to Riga Prizma. Here you are already in the season 2016-17 for some games in use. Why this club?

YK: “High1 who I played for last season, they disappeared this season. Then I was trying to find new team in Europe and asked Prizma Riga if they need a goalie and they said me that they are looking for goalies. That is why I came back to this team.”

BM: Riga Prizma will play in the latvian national hockey League (OHL), did had a very good last season. There are this season 8 teams in the league, what you think about, there are also some ex-NHL players in the other teams (example Kurbads, HK Olimp).

YK: “I actually do not care of players who used to playing in pretty high level leagues before because now we are playing same league. I respect what they did in the past but I do not care of past. I am living in the present and the most important is right now.”

BM: What is your impression of the new team and do you know your new collegues?

YK: “Impression of the new team is we have a lot of young players around 18-23 years old. Its a very young team and there is not many guys at my age. Some players are still playing for this team since I played for this team last time, so it is great to play with them as teammates again.”

BM: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia plans to make Hockey more popular in this countries with the international “Baltic League” with 8 Teams, and 4 from Latvia, and to give the players an “international flair”. What you think about this idea, the will start october 2019.

YK: “I think it is good for them, because they can travel those countries by bus and it is not so far. European countries can do that, this is a problem for Asia League. The had to pay so much money for traveling by flight. Asia league is in Japan, South Korea and Russia, so the Klubs have to flight to the games and cost of it is like 400,000 euro for a season. That is great here, that Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia is next to each other and it is not hard to get into those countries.”

BM: What you think about of the japanese national hockey team generally. There are some really very good players, but the performance this year was not so good, and what aou think about the Goalie position at the team. Fukufuji is a legend and it looks, he never will end his career.

YK: “I really would like to be a goalie for Japanese national team.But Japanese national team always selects players only from Asia league and always same players. It is not excited and fun for me. Also the Asia league players do not want to leave that league because contract is very good for that hockey level.  I hope, the Japanese national team looks more about players who are playing in other countries the could be play for Japanese national team. Make Japanese national team and play good on world championship is key for steping up to next level in Europe or North America.”

BM: Al least what are your personal goals for this season and for the next years.

YK: “Personal goals for this season is play for Japan national team and play games as many as I can for Riga Prizma in Latvian league. Next season, I will go back to Japan and play there then the biggest goal in the future is playing in DEL, Germany.”

BM: Yoshihiro, thank you for your time and a successful, injury free season, and all the best for your hockey-life.