United Nations of hockey

FukufujiKings games in the afternoon often attract a bunch of fans in shorts and t-shirts, but I only spotted one pair of bare legs down near the ice today at Staples Center. The Kings lost 4-3 in a shootout after leading the Dallas Stars for awhile in the third period. By taking some shots in the pre-game warmups and watching the loss from the end of the bench, Yutaka Fukufuji became the answer to a trivia question: who was the first Japanese player to suit up in the National Hockey League? Fukufuji began the season in Reading, PA and moved up to Manchester, NH, where he's the backup goalie and has yet to play a game. He's unlikely to play for L.A. either — he's here as an emergency call-up for injured goalie Dan Cloutier. Fukufuji's arrival brings the number of nations represented in the Los Angeles locker room to nine: Canada, U.S., Japan, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine and Latvia (home of enforcer Raitis Ivanans.)

Sunday update: The Kings, who don't play again until Tuesday, stashed Fukufuji on the roster of the Long Beach Ice Dogs for now.

Photo: AP/Mark Avery via Yahoo

December 16, 2006 7:13 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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