Photo by Greg Mason
OTTAWA – On Thursday night at the Minto Sports Complex, Madoka Suzuki took the ice with the Carleton Ravens for the first game of his OUA career. His approach was like any other night, he prepared to play the role his coaches asked, to be a good teammate and to help his team win. Not only was Suzuki making his season debut, but he was also making history. Taking the ice as a member of the Carleton Ravens, Suzuki is believed to be the first Japanese-born player to dress for the men’s hockey program.
As the puck dropped on the 2021 season, only a small number of Japanese-born players had ever played in a Canadian interuniversity hockey game. While six Japanese-born players suited up for the UBC Thunderbirds from the ’60s through the ’80s, there are few records of many others playing in the 30 years since. Having few fellow Japanese-born players come before him is a fact that is not lost on Suzuki. “I think my family is a little more are more excited than I am,” he said on the morning of the first game adding “I don’t think about it too much, it’s something that just happened to be, but it’s not something I worry about.”
Photo: Greg Mason
For the young Raven, the start of the new season is an opportunity to continue his hockey career. After a successful Junior A career in the local CCHL, Suzuki spent the 2020-2021 season as a member of the Long Island Land Sharks of the NCAA. In the 61 team league, Suzuki was one of only a few active Japanese-born players. Now after overcoming an injury and transferring to Carleton in the off-season Suzuki is looking to make an immediate impact on the ice.
Suzuki has arrived Carleton looking to improve his game under the tutelage of Ravens bench boss Shaun Van Allan. Asked about the addition of Suzuki to the line-up coach Van Allen was quick to identify his skill set.
“Without getting a chance to see him in the preseason we’re still getting to know him. But he’s a very quick player, you can’t deny his speed. He’s also very heady and tends to read the play very well.”
Suzuki’s speed was on display quickly in his first weekend in the OUA. After almost scoring on Thursday against the Gee-Gees, Suzuki found himself back in the line-up on Sunday as the Ravens played on the road at the Université de Trois-Rivieres. Trailing in the final minutes of the third period Ravens forward Aaron Boyd drove the wing while Suzuki accelerated towards the back post. As Boyd threw the puck towards the net Suzuki would quickly find space above the sprawling Patriotes goaltender finishing the play, tying the game, forcing overtime and securing a point.
“It definitely meant a lot,” said Suzuki, adding “After going through an injury, transfer and clearing eligibility at the last minute all within a year. I couldn’t have done it without everyone who supported the process. I’m very thankful for them as well.”