All posts by Chris Cruthers

Japan Wins the 2017 Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament!

Japan played fantastically at the tournament, winning every one of their five games. They faced stiff competition on Sunday, facing off against a powerhouse Team Ontario for the final match of the tournament. Ontario held them to a 2 point lead through much of the 1st half, and pressured Japan to make mistakes in their own end. By the end of the 3rd, however, Japan showed the strength of their longer bench and forced a series of pass interceptions that Ontario was unable to recover from. Head coach Kevin Orr was beaming as Yukinobu Ike andMasayuki Haga headed up to collect the coveted trophy.

Team Ontario likely has no regrets about leaving this competition with a second place finish. Under the direction of Team Canada Asssistant Coach and former national team athlete Dave Willsie, they outmanoeuvred tough clubs like the Seattle Slam and the Portland Pounders on their way to the finals. They should head home proud.

In the bronze medal match, the Seattle Slam made quick work of the Portland Pounders. After a closely contested (55-53) win over the Pounders on Friday, they set the tone early by playing aggressively and intercepting a lot of Portland’s inbound passes. Paul Walston and Daisuke Ikezaki were largely responsible for this, and Portland’s defence struggled to contain them.

We’ve had a wonderful time with you ladies and gentlemen over the past three days, and were able to engage many of you here, through our Instagram feed, our Facebook page, and of course, on our website.

As you can imagine, putting on a tournament of this calibre is a real challenge, and we rely on our awesome sponsors to keep things running smoothly. We’d like to acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia. We’d also like to thank Postmark Brewing for keeping the crowds in good spirit and Superstore, Pomme Natural Market, PriceSmart Richmond, Safeway, and Save-On Foods for providing meals to our athletes and volunteers. Thanks so much!

We’d also like to thank Richmond Sport Hosting, Murphy Battista, ViaSport, the Sheraton Hotel, Chair Stuff, Run Inn, Wildwood Landscape, & Maintenance, and Addaday. We couldn’t do this without sponsors like you. Thanks for being part of our team.

See you all next year!

Last Day at the 2017 Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament!

And what a tournament it’s been.

We definitely saw the pack separate a bit in the 2nd day of the Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament, with both Seattle and Ontario obtaining losses. Seattle has looked like the better club, especially with the heavy minutes being put up by Daisuke Ikezaki (of the Japanese national team) who has been playing with his training club. Ontario managed to defeat them 56-46 in their final match of the day, using a deeper lineup with five Canadian national team members including Mike Whitehead, Patrice Dagenais, and and Travis Murao. With the win, Ontario will face off against Team Japan in the gold medal match at 1 PM.

These two clubs have already met; they faced off in an early afternoon match on Saturday, and Japan took a nine point spread for a commanding win. Japan has been dominant throughout the tournament, and is the only team to go undefeated throughout the tournament. Yukibobu Ike, who has played heavy minutes for Japan, was offered some rest by Team Japan yesterday. Head coach Kevin Orr was quick to relieve his starter, as Japan rolled over Portland 61-45.

Portland will face off against Seattle in the bronze medal match. Seattle narrowly defeated Portland on Friday – this battle of American clubs will be one worth watching.  Seattle has only lost once in the tournament; they fell to Team Ontario in their final match yesterday.

Haven’t been out yet? This is the last day to watch some really great teams playing right in Vancouver’s backyard. Come join us! Admission is by donation.

As you can imagine, putting on a tournament of this calibre isn’t easy, and we rely on our awesome sponsors to keep things running smoothly. We’d like to thank Postmark Brewing for keeping the crowds in good spirit and Superstore, Pomme Natural Market, PriceSmart Richmond, Safeway, and Save-On Foods for providing meals to our athletes and volunteers. Thanks guys!

Volunteers Saskia and Kim are still learning how to eat.

Vancouver Invitational – Friday

Friday was a divisive day at the Vancouver Invitational, as we’ve already started to see which teams have the moxy for medals. Japan, Ontario, and Seattle all went undefeated in the opening day of the tournament. Seattle arguably had the best test of the day, narrowly defeating Portland 55-53 in a midday thriller.

Crowd attendance was solid, with even the American & Japanese clubs drawing significant support. The Seattle-Portland game was so loud, I had to turn my head and look for The Wheedle himself.

The 12:00 matches today will both be a lot of fun. On Court A, Team BC will face off against Canada’s development squad. Both clubs lost their matches yesterday, and will have something to prove in front of the “home” crowd. On Court B, both of the clubs with split (1-1) records yesterday will face off. Expect Fabien Lavoie of Team Quebec to play heavy minutes – he was quarterbacking a short bench yesterday.

If you’ve yet to see a wheelchair rugby game, the Vancouver Invitational is your best opportunity watch high calibre clubs in BC this year. Come check it out!

As you can imagine, putting on a tournament of this calibre isn’t easy, and we rely on our awesome sponsors to keep things running smoothly. We’d like to thank Postmark Brewing for keeping the crowds in good spirit and Superstore, Pomme Natural Market, PriceSmart Richmond, Safeway, and Save-On Foods for providing meals to our athletes and volunteers. Thanks guys!

We go through a lot of bananas.


Ah, Team BC

With only a day before the Vancouver Invitational begins, we need to shine a little light on our own provincial club, Team BC. Did we mention we’re only a day away? We’re so excited.

Wheelchair rugby in British Columbia is blossoming. With popular clubs in Victoria, Kelowna, Kamloops, and Vancouver, our province is continuing to develop into a hotbed for the sport. Last year, several athletes banded together to create the Vancouver Wheelchair Rugby League. Playing against each other once a month, the league has served to help Vancouver develop and recruit players across the province.

Members of the Canadian national team Byron Green and Ian Chan will be on hand to lead relative newcomers Joel Ewert and Ben Hamilton. Both players have a track record with BC Wheelchair Basketball, and were featured players for the BC club when they faced off at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George. In January, Ewert was welcomed to compete at the Wheelchair Rugby Prospects Camp in Toronto where he impressed his way into a spot on the provincial club. You may have noticed him as a highlight of our 2016 winter donations campaign. Look for great things from this hard working athlete.

Also on Team BC will be some longstanding players including Rick Hansen Foundation schools ambassador Jessica Kruger, May 2016 Richmond Oval Athlete of the Month Peter Isherwood,  Andrew Davis, Cody Fournie, Ross Macdonald…this team is deep.

Dailyhive just listed us as one of the best things to do in Richmond this month! See you all soon.

Team Japan Returns

Team Japan stunned wheelchair rugby fans across the country when they upset the #1 ranked Team Canada at the 2016 Canada Cup. Their victory was the first sign of a changing tide for the Canadian squad, who, by the conclusion of the tournament, had relinquished their International Wheelchair Rugby Federation standing and found themselves as sudden underdogs going into the Rio Paralympics.

Japan never looked back. They played well enough in the Paralympics to go home with their first Paralympic medal in the sport; a bronze.  Not bad for a country that first entered Paralympic competition in 2004.

The Vancouver Invitational will mark Japan’s first return to Canada, and they’ll be looking to make the most of it. They’ve hired former Team USA & Team Canada head coach Kevin Orr to guide the ship. He’s known for his fiery disposition on the court, and was a good offseason pickup for the club.

He yells. A lot.

Despite not playing with Daisuke Ikezaki (he’s with the Seattle Slam, his training club) Team Japan is still coming in strong with guys like Yukinobu Ike, Masayuki Haga, and Shin Nakazato. They’ve also added some new faces, like low-point player Kae Kurahashi. Japan tends to run a fast game, forcing opponents into wide coverage (at the risk of interceptions.) It’ll be interesting to see how Orr utilizes the strengths of Japan’s offence.

We’re only two days away! Can’t wait to see you there.

Team Ontario

Team Ontario will be an arrangement of familiar faces. They have five players that competed at the Rio Paralympics. Five. With all that sweet Canadian paralympian talent on the roster, they’ll be looking to rank well. Garrett Hickling and player/coach Dave Willsie both have five Paralympics under their belts and will not be prone to many mistakes. While they’re no longer the speedy transitional pair that Canada relied on the 2000s, their accolades speak volumes for their commitment to the game. Don’t expect them to let any team off easy.

Also in their ranks is veteran player Mike Whitehead. Now 41 years old, he shows little signs of slowing down. This 3.0 player plays aggressively and moves quickly. He’s often a favoured choice for photographers; his bulking frame is often responsible for the hard hits fans like to see. Travis Murao, Paralympian and a former Team BC player, will also be representing Team Ontario this year. A fan favourite in British Columbia, he was well-regarded for his Youtube series with fellow Paralympian Trevor Hirschfield. Click here to watch a very old segment with Team BC coach Adam Frost.

Keep an eye when Team Ontario faces off against Team Japan on Saturday @ 1:30. Japan’s Head Coach Kevin Orr will be facing off for the first time largely against the team he led to the Paralympics in 2008, 2012, and 2016. It might get weird.

Canada’s Development Squad

Branden Troutman will be marking his return to the Vancouver Invitational this year. He’s a 3.5 from Edmonton, Alberta with a history in wheelchair basketball. Last year, he was invited to the wheelchair rugby prospects camp with fellow wheelchair basketball alum Joel Ewert. Ewert is also a 3.5 and will be playing for Team BC. Look for some intensity when Canada’s development squad plays BC Saturday at noon. Also, keep your eyes out for Kristen Cameron. She made major headlines  a couple of years ago when she declared her intent to make the National squad and head to the Paralympics ASAP. Britt Meyer and Faisal Burale have deserved nods on this roster as well; their home province Saskatchewan is missing from this year’s tournament.

You may have noticed that not all of these players are not what most would consider to be “development.” If Jared Funk isn’t fully developed, I don’t know when he’ll ever be ready.

Jared Funk, you beast.

He broke on the National team in 2002 and boasts 2 silver and 1 bronze Paralympic medals as a former member of the National squad. He’ll be playing alongside Paralympian Miranda Biletski and longtime veteran Cory Harrower.

Keep an eye on this (mostly) young group. I think they might surprise some teams.


We are looking for volunteers! This is an awesome opportunity to get involved in the parasport community. You’ll be able to get right in the action taking donations at the front door, setting up courts, meeting the athletes, or even serving as a table official.

The tournament will be running from March 10th through the 12th . Join us at the Richmond Olympic Oval, only a few blocks from Lansdowne skytrain station. We have eight exciting squads coming out this year featuring high performance athletes from around the world. Getting down here is a cinch, so what are you waiting for?

We are, of course, indebted to our awesome volunteer community. Our volunteers are a wonderful set of people; and most of them return year after year to be part of our network. You’ll meet new people, learn some new things, and maybe even make a friend or two.

Click here to sign up; there are a bunch of different experiences for you to select from. See you soon.

*Table officials are, of course, the real deal. If you’d like to train up to become a volunteer table official, we ask that you attend a training seminar at the Raycam Cooperative Centre on Tuesday, February 28th from 5:45-8:15pm. Please email Lisa Myers to register.

USQRA at the Vancouver Invitational

We are exactly three weeks away from the opening day of the Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament! Things have started to heat up, as all clubs have submitted their rosters (with the notable exception of Team Canada’s development squad; did they get maple syrup lodged in their keyboards again? Tsk tsk, peeps.)

Today we’re going to look at some of the American clubs coming. Team USA, as a national entity, has rebounded considerably, boasting a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Last year, USQRA brought an absolutely stacked lineup playing under the moniker USA Stripes, a composite club of veterans and invitees to their national development squad. Their composite club this year features  Jeff Butler of the Texas Stampede, Joe Jackson, a regular for the Phoenix Heat, and Talbot Kennedy, of the Shepherd Smash. All three men were invited to USQRA’s national selection camp in January (though I can’t yet find who made the cut).

We also saw strong performances by both the Seattle Slam and the Portland Pounders. Keep an eye, in particular, on the Seattle Slam. The Slam play hard and bring a good crowd out with them. They’re the ones in blue & green hoodies cheering loudly from the sidelines, even during the early games.

The Seattle Slam are often favoured to win the Vancouver Invitational. The club will feature Daisuke Ikezaki once again. He’s one of the best high point players in the world; he transitions well in his own end and is practically error-free on his passing game. When he’s not training with the Seattle Slam, he can be found quarterbacking the Japanese national team, who have made gains over the past few years . They’ve improved their Paralympic standing every year since they entered the fray in 2004, and took their first medal (a bronze) in 2016.

See you in three weeks!

Vancouver Invitational Returns for 2017

We’re back! The Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby Tournament is returning to the Vancouver Oval in March. It’s been a long break since the end of the 2016 Paralympics, and we’re excited to get back into the mix.

We’re already set to see the Seattle Slam, the Portland Pounders, Team BC, two clubs from Japan, and an Ontario club make an appearance. Registrations aren’t closed yet, so stay tuned, as a bunch of clubs are expected to sign on shortly.

If you haven’t seen wheelchair rugby yet, you can always go catch a game at the Richmond Oval. The Vancouver Wheelchair Rugby League hosts public games from time to time; they’re an awesome watch to watch some of the best athletes in the world for free.

Got any questions about wheelchair rugby? Hit me up in the comments!