Japanese prospect making most of his first visit to North America
Mei Ushu, a 20-year-old defenseman, was invited to Islanders Mini-Camp
Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 7:25 PM ET / News
By Brittany Cole
Mei Ushu, a 20-year-old Japanese Islanders Mini-Camp invite, made his first trip to North America this past weekend to attend camp. He’s already enjoying his stay on Long Island for a number of reasons. He said he loves the hockey atmosphere in the organization and the skill level of his fellow players.
“I’m enjoying playing with talented players,” Ushu said through his interpreter Taka Shirai. “I haven’t really played with top players like this in Japan. I’m really learning and I want to improve my hockey skills.”
|Mei Ushu skates at Islanders Mini-Camp held at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.|
Shirai, a former hockey player himself, said he can see Ushu’s excitement.
“He’s really enjoying this experience,” Shirai said. “It’s definitely a different environment than he’s used to, but you can tell he’s very excited. He’s one of the best Japanese players for his age, but these players here are better or as good as him so it’s good competition for him.”
Ushu, a defenseman, started playing hockey at age seven and has since gone on to play for the under-18 and under-20 Japanese National Teams and traveled to Belarus, Italy and Latvia for games. He captained the U-20 team last year before starting his Japanese collegiate career at Waseda. This fall, he will enter his sophomore season and continue to major in sports sciences.
With so many talented players from across the world at mini-camp, the language barriers can sometimes make communication difficult, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Ushu. Though he speaks very little English, he said it’s all about how you play the game on the ice.
“I can’t really speak much English, but hockey language is how we speak to each other,” he said through Japanese translation. “I’m gradually making friends and trying to communicate with all of them.”
Those friendships were apparent as Ushu skated and laughed with Islanders prospects Corey Trivino and David Ullstrom after their skate Thursday afternoon.
“I was just playing around with the puck and Corey after practice,” Ushu said. “We were having some fun. I’m having fun here, too.”
|Mei Ushu poses against the glass with his translator and friend Taka Shirai at Islanders Mini-Camp held at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, July 13, 2011.|
“I can only watch American hockey games from NHL.com in Japan,” he said. “It’s a great league and my dream is to play in it.”
Playing for the Islanders would make that dream even better.
“I want to keep putting on this jersey,” Ushu said with a smile referencing his Isles practice jersey. “It’s so exciting to be here, so I would be even more excited to play here. I would be honored. It would be great to stay and play here.”