Abbotsford Canucks forward Yushiroh Hirano will be leaving the team next week to begin training to represent his home country of Japan at the IIHF Division 1 Group B World Championships in Tychy, Poland. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford Canucks forward Yushiroh Hirano will be leaving the team next week to begin training to represent his home country of Japan at the IIHF Division 1 Group B World Championships in Tychy, Poland. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford Canucks forward Yushiroh Hirano selected to Japan IIHF team

Canucks will release Hirano from his contract, set to represent country at tournament

Abbotsford Canucks forward Yushiroh Hirano will be released from his contract to represent his home country of Japan at the 2022 IIHF Division 1 Group B World Championships in Tychy, Poland.

The Canucks plan to release Hirano on Monday (April 11) so he can join the Japanese team for training camp ahead of the tournament, which runs from April 26 to May 1.

Hirano was initially signed by the Canucks on Jan. 5 and has contributed with nine points (five goals and four assists) in 28 games. He’s most recently played in Abbotsford’s top six and has time on the power play. He’s scored two power play goals with the club.

“While Yushiroh has been a big part of our team this season, it was an obvious decision for our organization to allow him to leave Abbotsford and take advantage of this terrific opportunity”, stated Abbotsford GM Ryan Johnson in a press release. “Yushiroh has set a great example as a player and as a teammate, while showing professionalism and dedication off of the ice as well. He has been an exceptional role model for our young fans in the Japanese community, and I know that is something he is very proud of. We will certainly be cheering him on.”

He will suit up for the Canucks this weekend as they host the San Diego Gulls on Friday (April 8) and Saturday (April 9).

The 26-year-old Hirano is in his third year of pro hockey in North America, having previously played for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers and Cincinnati Cyclones. He also suited up in one game for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and in that game he became the first-ever Asian born player to score a point in AHL history.

When he left Cincinnati to sign with Abbotsford earlier this year, he was tied for third in ECHL scoring and had collected 29 points in 25 games.

“I would like to thank the Canucks organization for allowing me to go to the World Championships,” stated Hirano, “I will do my best in this tournament to show what I have learned playing in Abbotsford at this level. Thank you to my teammates, the staff, and the fans in Abbotsford for welcoming me here. My goal is to help make hockey a bigger sport in Japan, and the organization is helping me to do that.”

Hirano has represented Japan at several international tournaments as a junior and senior player. Japan will be competing at the event against Serbia, Estonia, Ukraine and Poland. They open against Serbia on April 26.

Japan enters the tournament ranked 25th in the world for men’s hockey. The highest the country has ever been ranked was 15th. The country’s best showing in men’s hockey at the Olympics was eighth in 1960. The most recent appearance for the men’s team saw them finish 13th in 1998. Japan did finish first in men’s hockey at the Asian Winter Games in 2003 and 2007.

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