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Happy Hockey Hapas’ “Dream Season”

The 2018 "Hockey Hapa Dream Season" when the team won the Western Canadian Bantam AAA championship. 14 players are of Asian heritage. Photo courtesy of Eddie Tin.

Every team across Canada dreams about winning it all, and in 2018, Richmond’s Seafair Islanders Bantam hockey club’s young U-15 (ages 13-14) finished the season as winners of the Pacific Coast Tier One regular season with a record of 19-1, and moved on to the play-off series to qualify for the B.C. championship.

In Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, the Islanders went undefeated in round-robin play with wins over Yukon 13-2, Racquet Club of Victoria 6-0, and Prince George 4-1. In the semi-finals, the Islanders won a close victory over Kelowna Rockets 3-2 in overtime. Davis Sato scored the winning goal. The team met Prince George Cougars in the finals to win the BC title by a 3-0 score. The team’s depth, tenacious fore-checking and great defence were the ingredients for their success.

A week later, the club travelled to Kamloops to win their biggest title of them all, the Western Canada Bantam AAA Championship. Seafair won three of four round-robin games to reach the finals. They started the journey with a 5-4 win over host Thompson River Blazers, defeated Airdrie of Alberta, but lost to Winnipeg Hawks 4-3 and bounced back with a dominating 9-3 win over West Central Wheat Kings. The championship game was against Airdrie Xtreme. The title game went into double-overtime. Thomas Tien, another hapa, scored the winning goal, delivering the Islanders the championship! However, the win is bittersweet; next year, the Seafair Islanders will merge with the Richmond Minor Hockey Association, so this will be the first and last time the Seafair team will ever win the Western Canadian Bantam AAA Championship.

So what makes this team so unique? In addition to their amazing athletic ability, the Islanders must be one of the most diverse ethnic team in the province: seven players have Chinese, Filipino, and Indo-Canadian roots and another seven players are Japanese/Nikkei, each with a deep family history connecting them from Japan to Canada. Back in the old days of the famous Vancouver Asahi baseball club, they were able to field an all-Nisei team, but it’s quite a rarity to find seven Nikkei players on one team in this day and age. Nevertheless, diversity is a fantastic way to promote unity and harmony in Canada.

These are the seven Seafair Islanders Nikkei players:

  1. Tyler Matsuo: Tyler is 4th generation Nikkei. His grandfather Kiyoshi Matsuo was interned in Grand Forks, B.C., a self-supporting site1 just twenty-six miles east of Greenwood and his grandmother Akiko Takasaki’s family chose Lethbridge, Alberta. His mother, Shelley Matsuo, commented that her son’s team had the most amazing year not only because of the success of the team, but the friendships and connections of these players on and off the ice was magical. They just loved every moment they spent together. Many have played together since they were four years old. Tyler hopes to play minor midget for the Greater Vancouver Canadians. Tyler, with teammates Jacob Bonkowski and Davis Sato, are excited to visit Japan to play hockey with the Asahi Blades in July of this year.
  2. Davis Toyokazu Sato’s grandparents came from Kyushu post-war, so they were not interned like most Japanese Canadians. He is Sansei with shin-Nisei parents. Grandmother Yuriko Sato used to volunteer with the Steveston Kendo Club and Steveston Buddhist Church. Next year, Davis hopes to play for BWC E-15 Academy. He will be playing friendly exhibition games in Hokkaido with the Asahi Blades.
  3. Josh Akira Mori’s father is Marty Mori, his grandparents are Henry Mori and Misako Mochizuki and his great-grandfather was Masazo Mori. Josh is a Yonsei, or 4th generation Nikkei. Josh’s paternal side came from a fisherman family in Tofino who were taken initially to Hastings Park Holding Ground in March of 1942. The family was interned in Lemon Creek, then transferred to New Denver in the fall of 1946. In 1949, they moved to Kamloops, the same year that Japanese Canadians were granted the right to vote starting April 1st. Josh has played defence since he was an Atom2. His major hockey accomplishments are: in 2015, he played at a tournament in Tokyo, won the Fred Desrochers award for Atom Rep player, and was named Best Defenceman when the team won the RMHA Atom A1 tournament. In 2016, he participated in World Selects tournament in Bolzano, Italy and at Chamonix, France. Josh will be playing for the Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep team.
  4. Ethan Yodogawa is a Yonsei. His father is Mark Yodogawa and his father and grandparents were interned in Greenwood. Unfortunately, he broke his collarbone early in the year and didn’t play for the rest of the season. However, he was able to travel and share the ecstasy of his team’s success. Ethan joined Seafair in Atom and played rep hockey throughout. He’s uncertain of his goal for next year, but he has developed a love for volleyball and basketball.
  5. Jacob Bonkowski’s paternal family’s surname is Nishimura and her maternal side is Kuramoto. They were interned in Alberta and later settled in Lethbridge. Jacob is 5th generation or Gosei. He started playing hockey when he was 5-years old; next season he will play for the West Vancouver Academy.
  6. Josh Hikida: Josh was a call-up when the club had five players on the injured list, but he contributed much to the success of the team with his willingness to take the hits and go in the corners. His father is Rick Hikida and grand-parents are Tadashi and Kazumi Koide. They are ijusha from Japan.
  7. Thomas Tien: Thomas’ father’s family side is Taiwanese and his mother’s family side is Nikkei. Anne Nakagawa’s father was Francis and her mother is Frances Yoko (Tasaka). In World War II, both the Nakagawa and Tasaka families were interned in Greenwood, and in 1961, they moved to Summerland. Thomas is a hard-working, two-way player, who played a pivotal role in the Western Canada AAA championship game when he scored the biggest goal of his young career in double-overtime. Thomas had a globetrotting time competing in World Select tournament in Chamonix, France, travelling to Toronto, Winnipeg, Phoenix and Shanghai. Next season, he will play for St. George’s Academy.

Rest of the Seafair roster: C. Bigras, M. Abgrall, R. Bal, A. Kofler, D. Passalacqua-Main, E. Riesterer, T. Taylor, J. Uy, J. Wessels, A. Gundarah, D. Tsang, N. Fromm-Delorme, B. Hung. Several of this year’s players were drafted by the WHL Jr. hockey league.



1. Japanese Canadian families could choose to “pay for their own incarceration” by moving into government approved areas. Many Nikkei families chose Alberta or Manitoba for families to stay together.

2. Hockey program for minors, ages 9 - 10.


© 2017 Chuck Tasaka

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