Troy Takasaki found himself with more than a gold medal soon after his team’s big win at the U19 Western Canadian Championships in Saskatoon last March.
The longtime Richmond Ringette coach and Ladner native was standing in the arena lobby when he was offered the head coaching position with the BC Thunder of the National Ringette League. Months later, Takasaki has guided the Thunder to a solid 8-5-1 record in the Western Division — heading into this weekend’s series with the first place Edmonton WAM!
The four games will appropriately be showcased as part of Richmond Ringette’s 24th annual West Coast Classic. The 60-plus team tournament features divisions ranging from U10 all the way up to Masters. Action gets underway tonight and concludes on Sunday.
The Thunder and WAM will square off in a doubleheader on Saturday at noon and 6 p.m. in the Richmond Ice Centre’s forum rink. Two more games are slated for Sunday at 8:15 a.m. before the teams wrap up the series on Sunday afternoon at the Ladner Leisure Centre.
Edmonton comes to town with a 13-1 record but that one loss happened to be to BC — an 8-6 result back in November in the Alberta capital. The Thunder also hung tough in the other meeting, dropping a 4-3 decision.
“I’m sure they are coming in here (ticked) off that we are the only team to beat them and will be trying to prove a point,” said Takasaki. “The top two teams in our division get automatic berths to nationals. Unless we can sweep second place Calgary (9-3) at home next month, it’s going to come down to us and (fourth place) Manitoba for the wild card spot.”
The Thunder happen to close out their regular season schedule in early March with a three-game series in Winnipeg.
It takes more than just BC talent to compete in the NRL.
The Thunder’s roster ranges from 18 to 42 years of age and includes a pair of Finnish imports — Salla Naakka and Petra Ojranta — along with additional players from Manitoba and Ontario.
Two rookies in the B.C. line-up include Takasaki’s 19-year-old daughter Hailey who had leading role in Richmond’s win at 2018 Westerns, along with Emma Paradis. Hailey and three of her teammates will be suiting up for Team BC at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer in late February.
“She is holding her own,” said Takasaki of his daughter. “She was dominant in U19 but this is a huge jump. The speed of the game is such a big adjustment and you are going up against mostly older players too.”
For Lower Mainland based players, practices are twice a week at the RIC and Langley Events Centre. The others train on their own and hopefully get a session with their team prior to the start of a weekend series.
Takasaki praised the efforts of his assistant coaches who have helped him immensely as a first-year NRL coach. They included one-time Thunder associate head coach Gino Pastro and former Richmond Ringette standout Nicole (Castor) Tjepkema who looks after the defence. Rounding out the staff is goaltender coach Sasha Campbell-Mongeon.