Profile: Steve Tsujiura

The MVP of the Western Hockey League in 1980-81, Steve Tsujiura was one of the most prolific scorers in junior and minor hockey.

Tsujiura was born in 1962 in Coaldale, a small town in the Canadian prairies. After two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Taber Golden Suns where he compiled 143 points in 107 games, Tsujiura joined the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. During his time in the WHL, Tsujiura amassed 389 points in 243 games across four seasons. In 1980, he was named the most sportsmanlike player, repeating the honour in 1981 when he was also named the Player of the Year after scoring 139 points in 72 games.

Tsujiura was drafted in 1981 by the Philadelphia Flyers in the tenth round, and started playing for their American Hockey League affiliate, the Maine Mariners in 1982.

Standing just 5’5″ during an era where size and physicality were over-valued, Tsujiura never got the chance to play in the NHL despite scoring 482 points in 538 games across 8 AHL seasons. He won the T. Hunt Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in 1986.

In 1989, Tsujiura signed with an Italian team before later transferring to HC Lugano in the Swiss league (NLA) to help win a NLA Championship in 1990. He then spent four seasons in Switzerland with EHC Bülach and HC Davos.

After being awarded the 1998 Winter Olympics, Japan recruited overseas players of Japanese descent to boost their national team. As one of the “Seven Samurai,” Tsujiura spent four seasons playing for Kokudo in the Japanese League to become eligible to play for the Japanese national team.

After the 1998 Olympics, Tsujiura jumped straight into coaching, serving as the Head Coach of the Japanese national team for four seasons. He also spent a year coaching the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League in the 2000-2001 season.