The Curious Case of Captain Tsubasa Sato

Japanese reality show “Terrace House: Opening New Doors” gives an inside look at the life of one hockey player

One of the many things, men’s hockey has gotten a lot of is behind the scenes coverage. In shows like 24-7 Road to the Winter Classic, Road to the Playoffs, or the new training camp series NHL network did, fans get to see the players with their families, what playing for the team they play for does to and for their lives. We get to see coaches lose their famous tempers, or the cucumbers still being cool.

It’s something, for many reasons, women’s hockey hasn’t gotten much, if at any of.

At least, until now. In a manner of speaking.

“Terrace House: Opening New Doors” (Netflix) is the most recent version of a Japanese franchise reality show. It’s based on a concept as old as reality shows are. Three men and three women live in a house together. Their hope is to find love, and exposure. Or both at the same time.

Even the most cursory Google searches will tell you about the show. More specifically, about the excitement anybody who watches it feels about what became the central romantic pairing. Many articles have been written about the male model and his love interest, and how adorable they are. And although that is true, there’s another arc that impacts this couple.

Ice Hockey. More specifically Women’s Ice Hockey. And even more specifically, one of the most difficult decisions a player faces.

The female half of the central romantic couple is a forward named Tsubasa Sato. By the time she arrives in Terrace House, she’s the captain of a local team named the Karuizawa Fairies. She’s been with the organization since she was young, and as a result, she feels a tremendous degree of loyalty to the organization. She works hard, and she’s admired for that.

The cameras follow her as she practices. At her first match, the cameras and her housemates are there. It is very clear that Tsubasa is the best player on this team, scoring multiple goals … and yet despite everything, the team does not win.

In footages from games, practices, and inside the locker room, viewers are quick to discover that Tsubasa Sato is the heart of this team. One episode finds her sobbing in front of her coach, because of how much this team means to her. And how she feels she’s letting them down.

It is at this point where fans of the show who are also fans of the sport start to dream. Dream and hope for a day where Tsubasa Sato would get to play on a team with players of her caliber, like former Metropolitan Riveter and Japanese Olympian Nana Fujimoto, for example.

As the show progresses, viewers learn that the hockey establishment in Japan is thankfully not unaware of Tsubasa’s skills. After the Japanese national competition (where the Karuizawa Fairies are shown losing in the second round of competition), Tsubasa receives a tryout offer from at least two other out of town teams.

And now we have the decision. Should Tsubasa stay a Karuizawa Fairy or leave the team in search of a national championship?

This becomes the crux of the other arc, the parallel to her romance. Tsubasa’s crush turned boyfriend is a model and his devotion to her, and the sport she plays is simply inspirational. He cheers her on at games, buys her religious charms of good luck, and assures her that he’s not going anywhere regardless of what she decides. He’s proud of her, proud to watch her, and proud to be able to be in her corner. The same group of fans hoping she’d get to play with a former Riveter, suddenly begin to dream of days where Tsubasa Sato could be an *actual* Riveter, following her boyfriend as he goes to model in the US and taking her dreams to play professional hockey with her.

So what will happen? I don’t want to give spoilers, but you’ll discover a satisfying story on multiple levels.