Hockey is truly evolving into a global sport and the Kalkaska Rhinos will be proof of that in 2017-18.
This week, the Rhinos announced the signing of 18-year-old forward Hikaru Kinowaki, a native of Nara, Japan.
Kinowaki has played the past three seasons in North America, skating at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, British Columbia.
So how does someone from Japan get involved in hockey?
“My dad was a huge hockey fan and played a lots of roller hockey before, but he never played ice hockey,” explained Kinowaki. “I started playing ice hockey with my dad at the same time and he practiced with me whenever he had day off. That’s how I got into hockey deeply.”
It was also hockey connections that helped land Kinowaki with the Rhinos for the 2017-18 USPHL season.
“Tommy Sullivan, who used to coach me during the summer, knew coach (Krzysztof) Oliwa and suggested me to go try out for the Rhinos,” Kinowaki said. “I think I’ll be a good fit to this team. Looking forward to making memories with the new team. I love the way how Coach Oliwa talks about the game. I love the facility and it’s a great community. My goal is to get scouted by higher-level teams.”
“Hikaru is a tremendous young player with an unbelievable skill set and great skating ability,” Oliwa noted. “He does a lot of things that will help this team and we couldn’t be more excited to have him play for us this coming season. We have high expectations for him and we’ll do all we can to help him move up the hockey ladder.”
Kinowaki said he describes himself as a playmaker and feels his biggest strengths are his speed and stick handling skills.
Having been to Kalkaska for the recent tryouts, Kinowaki is excited about the season ahead, both on and off the ice.
“It’ll be hard at first, but I also love living and discovering new areas of the world, so it will be fun,” said Kinowaki. “My short-term goal is to contribute to this team and move up to next level. Long-term goal is to make it to pro hockey.”
In the long run, Kinowaki said his aspirations include learning about nutrition and teaching kids the proper way to eat to be successful.
Source: Kalkaska Rhinos