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​Exclusive Interview with Jeff LoVecchio ジェフ・ラベッキオ ​of the Nippon Paper Cranes

Now that you can say which team you play for, how does it feel to be playing for the Nippon Paper Cranes?

“I am very excited and honored to be playing for the Nippon Paper Cranes this season!! They have a history of winning here which is one of the reasons that I wanted to play here so badly this season. Every Japanese player on the team has been so nice and helpful to myself and the two other imports it has been great! We have a translator, Kaname, that basically is with us whenever we need him and he is a huge help to us when we need basically anything!”

Wacey Rabbit recently tweeted that he can’t shake you, no matter where he goes to play hockey. Are you stalking him and using hockey as cover?
“Haha! Actually, I signed here first and then Wacey signed here so I think it’s the other way around!! He is just using me so he can eat my wife Amy’s cooking!!!”

How did you decide on coming to the Asia League?
“I know quite a few guys that have played in this league and they all have said how professional it is.  Everyone always talks about how well you get treated and how good the hockey is which are some of the reasons I chose to come here.  In Europe, there are a lot of teams that do not treat the players as well as back home which makes playing hard sometimes.  The Cranes are a first class organization that have already treated my wife and I better than anywhere we have ever played overseas!”

What’s it like living in Japan?
“Living in Japan isn’t nearly as different as people think.  Yes you drive on the other side of the road here and people are always polite and respectful no matter what, but after living all over the US, Norway, and Europe I have come to realize that no matter where you are people are people. Food might be different, culture might be a little different but in the locker room and on the ice the guys all act the same…except for Japanese hockey players are the fastest guys I’ve ever seen!!!”

Some players have said the practices are different in Asia than in Europe or North America. How are practice and off training different than what you are use to?
“In the US, in the NHL and AHL you only practice once per day in training camp and have one easy workout (maybe). In Europe teams love practicing twice per day and having a hard workout.  I think the difference is in thought process.  In the US guys come to training camp in shape and the coaches know it. In Europe ice is harder to get in the summer months so teams make training camp a lot harder.  I have only been in Japan for ten days but it seems like we are kind of in the middle, which I think is the best of both worlds.”

Last year the Cranes missed the post-season for the first time in Asia League history, so there will be high expectations to get back in it. Have you felt any pressure in that area yet?
“I knew that they did not make playoffs last year and I know that as a team we have a very hard working culture already.  I think that the guys on the team probably are pushing themselves even harder this year to get better so that last season is not repeated.”

Could you tell us about RIPT? What was the motivation for starting it?

“RIPT is a training company that I started four years ago in St. Louis.  When I was fifteen years old I realized that the harder/smarter I worked in the gym the more prepared I was on the ice to succeed.  I studied Exercise Science in college and became certified four years ago so that I could start my own Hockey Specific training company in St. Louis.  My goal was to help the ELITE hockey players in my home town reach the next level and teach them a different way to approach training.  Everything I do with my RIPT clients is to make them better at hockey, not just walk around looking like body builders.  I now have over 20 clients as well as a young AAA hockey team I work with – some NHL, DEL, AHL, Divison I and III US college hockey players make up some of those clients.”

Is there anything you like to add?

“I would like to add that The Cranes have seriously treated my wife and I better than any team I have ever played for. It’s amazing how easy they have made moving to Japan for us and let’s me (and the other two imports) really get to focus on playing hockey and helping our team win!”

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