Byron Green (right) is a stalwart with the Canadian men's national wheelchair rugby team.

Byron Green (right) is a stalwart with the Canadian men's national wheelchair rugby team.

Byron Green has Canada on a roll

Merville athlete wins Parapan Games gold medal in wheelchair rugby

 

 

What’s the hardest-hitting sports rivalry between Canada and the United States?

Some might say ice hockey. Those who play wheelchair rugby know otherwise.

One of those who play wheelchair rugby, Merville’s Byron Green, definitely knows otherwise. And he should. He is one of the top players in the world in his sport and has been with the Canadian national team that has battled the U.S. in high-calibre competitions over the last decade.

The nations’ latest clash was in the final of the 2015 Parapan American Games Aug. 14 in Toronto, where Canada maintained its world #2 ranking by defeating the #3 Americans 57-54 in the gold medal game. It was one of the crowning moments in Green’s career to date (Canada won silver at the 2014 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships) but the best may be yet to come. The win in Toronto qualified Canada for the 2016 Rio Paralympics, where Canada and the U.S. will be looking to knock off world #1 Australia.

“The Parapans in Toronto was a pretty awesome experience,” Green said from his home in Vancouver. “The team was definitely training hard leading up to it. It was great to see it all pay off.”

Next up for the Canadian team is an October tournament in London, England that coincides with the able-bodied rugby World Cup. Green said the team is looking forward to playing in the Copper Box Arena, which was built for the 2012 Olympics. “They’re selling quite a few tickets so it’s going to be another great crowd, just like Toronto. That was definitely the biggest crowd I ever played in front of,” Green said of the 5,000-seat Hershey Centre hockey arena in Mississauga.

Canada finished second in the round-robin at the six-team Parapans, beating Brazil in the semis then taking out the U.S. in the final. Any extra nerves playing in front of the hometown crowd? “Not too bad actually,” the 31-year-old Green said. “I was thinking I was going to be feeling definitely a bit more nervous than normal, but I felt really comfortable actually.”

Green went to G.P. Vanier and after high school went to Vancouver to study civil engineering at UBC. Which is where he became involved in wheelchair rugby. “In Grade 12 I was mountain biking in Cumberland and took a nasty fall. I did my rehab at G.F. Strong in Vancouver. My rec therapist was Duncan Campbell, who introduced me to wheelchair rugby. He’s one of the inventors of the sport. It was pretty amazing, your rec therapist introducing you to the sport he helped invent.”

Green notes Campbell (who became his neighbour about a year ago) is responsible for recruiting most of the players on the B.C. provincial wheelchair rugby team. “I didn’t really get into it until I moved back (to Vancouver) for university. He got in touch with me and got me to come out. I’ve been hooked ever since (2004).”

Wheelchair rugby is played with four players per team on the court. “We don’t really play positions. We have point values, and four players can only add up to eight points. Each player is assigned a point value based on the level of injury, how much function they have, anywhere from .5 to 3.5 – the most disabled athlete to the least disabled.

“I’m a .5, kind of low ranking athlete on the totem pole. But I still have a very important role to play out on the court. We set a lot of picks, help our high pointers get the ball in, move up the floor, get across half court, you only have 12 seconds to get across the half court zone and 40 seconds to score. We’re setting the blocks and screens.”

Points are scored by having control of the ball and putting two wheels over the baseline between two cones set up on the baseline.

“It’s a pretty physical sport,” Green said. “When the sport was first invented (1976) it was actually called Murderball. It became a Paralympic sport in 2000 and they decided they better change the name,” Green laughed.

“There’s a lot of contact, a lot of physicality. I think that’s what really draws in a lot of people to watch the sport and play the sport.”

The age range on the Canadian team is roughly 21 to 45, and Green notes that is the norm for disabled sports. “An athlete might not be injured until they’re 25 or 26, then it takes a little while of playing the sport before you get to the national team.”

Again, Green knows of which he speaks.

“Making the national team takes a lot of hard work. Every year the team gets more and more competitive and harder and harder to retain your spot. It took me quite a long time to make the team. I’d been playing for about eight years before I finally made it to the team. It takes a lot of hard work.”

But hard work is what Green is all about. Hugh MacKinnon, who taught at G.P. Vanier when Green was there, recalls, “Byron was a typical, bright, hard-working, popular student who had a life-changing mountain bike accident when he was 16.  His true character showed itself after the accident embracing this lifestyle and personal change.

“His positive outlook, fierce determination and character are what I remember.  I have lots of admiration for this lad and I understand from the wheelchair rugby community he has become a legendary role model,” MacKinnon said.

Green says the national team was “in the back of his mind” when he took up the sport, but once he finished his civil engineering course at UBC, “I really got serious about it and started devoting my time towards that goal.”

That seriousness sees the B.C. members of the National team currently training six days a week at the Richmond Olympic Oval, a first-class facility that has been extremely accommodating to the players.

Green says his family has been extremely supportive of him, and gives a shout out to them all. “Especially my wife Alana,” who he met at Vanier.

Knowing what wheelchair rugby has done for him has made Green determined to give back so others will benefit. “(The sport has) benefited me hugely in my every day life. I think sport is important for everybody, but it’s super important for disabled people to get involved in a sport – it will have a tremendous positive, impact on your quality of life – in terms of physical  health, and also meeting new people, hanging out and having a good time.

“Now that I’ve been part of the sport for a while it’s important to give back and encourage people to join up and enjoy wheelchair rugby. As part of that I help run a program out of G.F. Strong, an intro to wheelchair rugby.”

For his willingness to go above and beyond to help new athletes, Green was awarded the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association’s 2013 Stan Stronge Award, given to an athlete with a strong sense of fairplay and a dedication to excellence.

“(Bryon) has earned a reputation as an intelligent, hard-working athlete who is the first to get to practice and the last to leave,” the CWSA notes.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Valley woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

First in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Comox woman on fence books vaccine due to brother’s death

Leela Harrop says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Most categories of crime held steady from year to year in Cumberland. File photo
Cumberland crime numbers hold steady year to year

A few categories had notable changes but many were similar to 2019

The colourful Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly has been reintroduced on Hornby Island, BC. Photo courtesy the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project.
Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project releases more caterpillars on Hornby Island

Chris Junck Special to Black Press The number of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies… Continue reading

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Most Read