Monday, March 21, 2011

Keller family fine despite situation in Japan

Aaron Keller, with children Jordan, Alyssa and Kiran during a visit
to Canada during the summer of 2010.

(Photo courtesy Aaron Keller)
Daily News Sports Editor
Aaron Keller was in his apartment in the port city of Tomakomai on the island of Hokkaido when the big one hit on March 11.
“Our apartment was shaking pretty good,” he told The Daily News via Facebook on Sunday. “Most smaller earthquakes usually shake us for 10 seconds or so, but this one felt like it was around two minutes.”
Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s two main islands. Tomakomai, a city of more than 170,000 people, is on the southern side of Hokkaido, about 300 kilometres north of the Sendai area of Honshu, the main island, where a lot of the damage from the earthquake and resulting tsunami is centred.
Aaron Keller, in action in Japan.
(Photo courtesy Aaron Keller)
“So far everything is OK where I’m at . . . pretty lucky,” Keller added.
Keller, a defenceman from Kamloops, played four seasons with WHL’s Blazers (1992-96) and was part of two Memorial Cup championships. He has played hockey in Japan since the 1997-98 season. He just completed his ninth season with the Asia Ice Hockey League’s Oji Eagles, who play out of the Hakucho Arena in Tomakomai. The Eagles’ season came to an end in a semifinal series a week before the earthquake struck.
The Asia league final, which was to feature the Tohoku Free Blades, who play out of Koriyama in the Fukushima Prefecture, and the Korean side Anyang Halla has been postponed indefinitely. The series was scheduled to open in Koriyama, which is about 70km west of the heavily damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.
When you live in Japan, you come to treat earthquakes as a regular occurrence. However, Keller, 35, had an inkling this one was different.
“There are always earthquakes here but most are extremely minor, like a big truck rumbling by your house,” he said. “You could tell right away this one was different.”
He and his family -- wife Yoko and children Alyssa, 8, Jordan, 6, and Kiran, 2 -- are safe and well. Yoko is Japanese and Keller said that her family, too, is safe.
“My wife . . . can't stop watching the news,” Keller said. “It's just unbelievable the extent of the damage over here.”
Still, the Keller family doesn’t have any plans to move, at least not for now.
“For my family and me, unless the nuclear stuff spreads, it's pretty much life as normal,” he said. “It‘s harder to find some essentials like bottled water but everything is still available.”
In Kamloops, Keller said, his mother has been “answering the phone non-stop about it. Friends and relatives were pretty worried.”
He wants everyone to know that all is well, or as well as can be expected considering the circumstances. And he already is looking ahead to another hockey season.
“I will keep playing as long as my team still wants me,” he said.
Keller also is a regular on the Japanese national team, which won a silver medal at the 2011 Asian Games in Astana and Almaty, Kazakhstan, early in February.
He was to have played for Japan in the IIHF World championship (Division I Group A) in Budapest, Hungary, in April. However, with all that has gone on, the Japan Ice Hockey Federation has cancelled out of that tournament.
“Personally,” Keller said, “I would have liked to have played but, obviously, that’s not a decision the players get to make.”

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