RICHMOND, B.C. – With the world championships set for Australia in August, Canada’s national wheelchair rugby team faces a serious test this week with the six-country Canada Cup at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
Round-robin play runs from June 14-16 with the tournament finals taking place on June 17. Games will be live streamed at https://www.canadacupwcrugby.com/
‘’It’s always a fun tournament because it is the last one before a major competition,’’ said Trevor Hirschfield, Canada’s team captain from Vancouver. ‘’We’ll get an opportunity to see the teams we’ll be playing against at the worlds.
‘’This is a good measuring stick.’’
Canada faces arch-rivals Australia – the reigning Paralympic and world champions – and the USA – five-time Canada Cup champions, as well as Sweden, Denmark and Japan.
Since its fourth place finish at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Canada has some new additions to the team. Veteran stars Garett Hickling and David Willsie (now an assistant coach with Team Canada) have retired while its best player Zac Maddell is currently focused on his studies and won’t play this season.
Still there is a strong veteran presence with seven players with Paralympic Games experience. Besides Hirschfield there is Cody Caldwell (Peterborough, Ont.), Patrice Dagenais, (Embrun, Ont.), Fabien Lavoie (Québec City), Travis Murao (Toronto), Patrice Simard (Quebec City) and Mike Whitehead (Windsor, Ont.).
The newcomers are Matt Debly (Windsor), Anthony Létourneau (Boisbriand, Que.) Eric Rodrigues (Mississauga, Ont.), Shayne Smith (Toronto) and Branden Troutman (Edmonton).
‘’This team is a lot of fun,’’ said Hirschfield. ‘’As a veteran you’re excited for the players making their debut at a big tournament like this. You feed off all that and it makes it fresh for the veterans again.’’
This will also be the first major tournament for Patrick Côté, named the head coach of Team Canada in February 2017.
‘’We saw some of these teams last year so we’ll definitely get an idea of how our progression is going with our squad and our young players,’’ said Côté. ‘’But definitely with these challenges we want to make sure we follow the right procedures to develop our new players for 2020.’’
The action gets underway on Thursday June 14, with third-ranked Team Canada taking on Sweden at 5 p.m. (local time). On June 15, Canada plays twice facing Denmark at 9:30 a.m. and Japan at 7:30 p.m. There are two more games June 16 against the U.S. at 11 a.m. and Australia at 5 p.m. The medal matches are on Sunday at noon and 2 p.m.
Event website: https://www.canadacupwcrugby.com/