116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Miura is 1st-year professional with Iowa Heartlanders, Ando a junior player with Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
CEDAR RAPIDS – They’re only 20 miles from one another but about 6,000 miles each from home. Playing a game their country is not known for playing.
These two are from Japan, Miura from Tokyo and Ando from Tomakomai, actually playing together over the summer at a national team camp. Now here they are together again, sort of, trying to advance their respective hockey careers.
“(The summer) was actually the first time I’d met him and talked to (Ando),” Miura said. “He’s still young, but he’s very skilled, and he can make a play … I hope he keeps working hard and learning how to play in the United States at a higher level, higher level. I’m sure he’s going to make a good career.”
“Just tell him good luck,” Ando said, when asked if he had a message for his countryman. “I talk to him, we text back and forth. He might come and watch my game sometime, and I might go down and watch his game, too.”
Ando looks at Miura as a mentor. Miura left Japan for the Czech Republic before finding his way to the United States Hockey League, specifically the Waterloo Black Hawks.
His one season there led to a commitment to play college hockey at Lake Superior State in Michigan. After four years there, and a degree in kinesiology, Miura got an invitation to Heartlanders preseason camp, where he impressed.
He had to go back to Japan for awhile in order to secure a proper work visa to the United States, finally got one and joined the Heartlanders last weekend. Going into Friday night’s home game against Wheeling, the playmaking center had a goal and three assists in four games.
“I’m 25 years old, and I’ve finally made it to pro hockey,” Miura said. “My goal is to get to the NHL still. I’ve got to go through the process. But this is so fun. The guys are great, the facility here is great, and I’m so happy I could join a team that is one of the new teams. The culture, these things that we are building right now, I’m so proud to be a part of this.”
Ando is following Miura’s hockey path to a T thus far. He played two years in Canada before getting his USHL opportunity.
He spent two seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms and was acquired by the RoughRiders in a trade. In 11 games with Cedar Rapids (which hosts Waterloo on Saturday night at ImOn Ice), the forward has a goal and three assists.
Ando has committed to play college hockey at Minnesota State.
“We have the hardest coach I’ve ever met. But I’m getting better every day in practice … It’s a good thing,” Ando said, referencing Riders head coach Mark Carlson. “I’m not the biggest guy (5-foot-8, 145 pounds), am the smallest guy on the team. I’m not a fighter, not a big hitter type of guy. I try to play defense first. Coach always says defense first, then try to score after that.”
Both Ando and Miura said they learned to speak English simply by being immersed in it through teammates and coaches. Ando played in Quebec when he first came to North America, so had to try and communicate to most of his teammates and coaches in French.
Ando is one of three players from Japan this season in the USHL, joining Yu Sato of the Lincoln Stars and Kenta Isogai of Youngstown. He began playing hockey after falling in love with it watching his older brother play.
“It’s not big, but we have a lot of fun, a lot (more) guys are playing hockey in Japan,” Ando said. “I do think it’s getting bigger. A lot of guys have come to the U.S., the same route as me.”
“When he scores a goal, a point, I always text him and tell him good job,” Miura said. “He does the same thing for me. It’s always fun to have some friends in the same state playing hockey.”
Miura said he was very happy to be someone Ando looks up to.
“I am a guy who is trying to make a new path for Japanese hockey,” he said. “I think that’s my responsibility, to create new options for the younger generation. So I keep playing hard, keep going up, I think that helps new generations. It grows Japanese hockey. I want to be that guy.”
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