Ultimate dodgeball: O’Houlihan’s Heroes bounce to Vegas after victory in Surrey

Local guys pay homage to Rip Torn character in the 2004 movie

Members of the O’Houlihan’s Heroes ultimate dodgeball team celebrate after winning a world-championship regional qualifying tournament held at Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Surrey.

SURREY — In the riotous 2004 flick “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” aging legend Patches O’Houlihan (played by Rip Torn) advises, “If you’re going to become true dodgeballers, then you’ve got to learn the five D’s of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge!”

That’s all fine and good, but when you’re talking ultimate dodgeball, you can add a few more verbs – like bounce and flip and soar. Ultimate dodgeball, you see, is played in an environment made completely of trampolines. Not just the floor, mind you, but the walls too.

And it’s insane.

At Sky Zone Trampoline Park in North Surrey, they played ultimate dodgeball for keeps on Saturday, June 11. The occasion was the regional qualifier for this year’s world championship, to be held in Las Vegas from Aug. 4 to 7.

By 1 p.m. at Sky Zone, two teams remained in the tourney and the final began.

Getting a feel for the sport is pretty easy. Just imagine regular dodgeball with the added element of hyper-bouncy horizontal and vertical surfaces. Add a gaggle of athletic types who know how to take advantage of their wacky surroundings, and it’s no surprise the action can border on the ridiculous. Let’s just say it’s not uncommon to see players seemingly suspended in mid-air – five or six feet above their counterparts – as they attempt to evade and/or throw that little rubber ball.

In the end, the final – a best-of-five match consisting of three-minute games – was won quite handily by a bunch of young Surrey dudes paying homage to the Rip Torn character. They called themselves “O’Houlihan’s Heroes.”

Curiously, none of them was an experienced dodgeballer or even a trampoline expert. Indeed, they’d formed their team just a week prior to the tournament. How then did they so easily trounce the competition? Because virtually every one of them is a hardcore athlete.

(PICTURED from left to right: Brent Chreptyk, Matt Cox, Quinn Lenihan, Evan Kite, Nick Rutckyj, Brayden Bouchey, and Trevor Cox.)

Team captain Evan Kite played hockey all his life, most recently with the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League; next year he’ll play for the Vikes at the University of Victoria. He first heard about the tournament a few weeks back via Facebook. And he went to work.

“I assembled the best team I could find,” Kite said, adding that most are his best buddies.

It was an obvious bonus that he happened to grow up with a collection of kids who excelled at their chosen sports.

Teammate Nick Rutckyj currently plays baseball for Cuesta College, located just north of San Luis Obispo, California. Another teammate, Trevor Cox, spent last year amassing 53 points with a not-so-great Vancouver Giants team before moving up to pro hockey in the East Coast Hockey League with the Quad City Mallards.

And then there’s 20-year-old Brayden Boucher, a heckuva baseball pitcher who had spent time locally with both the White Rock Tritons and Langley Blaze before chucking for University of Louisiana-Monroe.

By day’s end, Bouchey was not only a regional ultimate dodgeball champ, but also a draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

The call came during Saturday’s final.

Surreal? You betcha.

“It hasn’t even sunk in yet,” Bouchey said after the game. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve worked on this for my entire life. To see it come true, it’s a one-of-a-kind moment. There’s nothing I can ever do to forget this moment right now.”

Bouchey is a realist. He understands that a late-round draft doesn’t necessarily mean a star-studded career tossing in the big league. He says his immediate goal is to make the roster of the Blue Jays’ Single-A affiliate Vancouver Canadians and play in front of family and friends. From there, who knows?

Kite wasn’t quite so lucky. Halfway through Saturday’s championship tilt, he dropped to his knees, clutched his lower leg and was clearly in a ton of pain. Turns out he’d torn ligaments in his ankle. He finished the game watching from the sideline and was later fitted with a walking boot.

Now, they’re planning a trip to Vegas.

“Yeah, we’re serious,” Kite said. “All but two of the guys can make it, and we’ll have tryouts for the last two spots.”

Knowing the competition in Vegas will involve top-notch ultimate dodgeball veterans only adds to the urgency. “We want to get together and practice as much as we can.”

And then there’s the matter of airfare and hotel cost. Sky Zone awarded $800 to the regional champs. But “O’Houlihan’s Heroes” will undoubtedly need more. Sponsorship is welcome, as are two more potential team members. For more info, visit Gofundme.com/surreydodgeball and/or contact the team captain at Facebook.com/evankite1.

Goble@shaw.ca

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