The Flanders Cup, a biannual International Powerchair Hockey Tournament, is set to take place from May 27 to May 28 in Roeselare, Belgium. The sixth annual event will be hosted by the GIDOS Screamers, a team from West Flanders, Belgium made up of players from Belgium and the Netherlands. The Screamers play in the Belgian Super League where they have won the title 12 times, including a record 11 titles in a row.
The Flanders Cup was founded by the late Bryan Vantornhout, who played for the GIDOS Screamers and Belgian National Team, in 2014.
Hedwige Van Steen, one of Vantornhout’s former teammates, currently organizes the event with a team of six people.
“Currently I am a co-organizer of the Flanders Cup. Our organizing crew consists of Bryan’s mother, two people who knew him very well and two people who work for our sports club,” said Van Steen. “My personal connection with Bryan is that he was my teammate and mentor. Bryan passed in 2020. A week before his passing, he had allowed me to come to his home. Not to say goodbye but to discuss the Flanders Cup.”
“That visit and my prior knowledge really helped me to put the pieces together for the fifth edition in 2021,” Van Steen continued. “I did almost all the organizing alone that edition. It was very stressful, but worth it.”
After the 2021 edition of the tournament, Van Steen helped form a new group of six organizers, for which she serves as coordinator, organizing communications and logistics for the event.
This year’s tournament will feature ten teams from Belgium (GIDOS Screamers and SOMIVAL), Canada (Team Canada) , Denmark (Orient Red Bulls), Finland (Helsinki Outsiders), Germany (Bad Kreuznach Star Drivers), the Netherlands (Old But Gold, The First Ladies and The Wheelchair Hockey Gang), and Switzerland (Bern Rolling Thunder). The Wheelchair Hockey Gang are the two time defending champions.
The First Ladies are the first all women’s team to take part in The Flanders Cup.
Team Canada is also participating in the tournament for the first time. The Flanders Cup will be a tune up for the upcoming 2023 PowerHockey Canada Cup from July 6 to July 9 in Toronto. Player and PowerHockey Canada president Meghan Hines will be one of seven representatives for Team Canada.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to develop as a team and individually,” said Hines. “The international rules of powerchair hockey differ from our North American rules so it has been a learning curve for our team, especially as we don’t play by this style of rules regularly. As such, participating in international competitions such as the Flanders Cup will help us continue to build off our team’ current skillset. I’m also looking forward to seeing many of the players, coaches and supporters from other teams that I’ve gotten to know over the years as well as meeting new people. One of the best parts of tournaments is the friendships and relationships that are developed and continue well beyond the end of the tournament.”
Founded in the 1970s, Powerchair Hockey, also known as PowerHockey, is a relatively unknown sport. It is played by players with various disabilities who use electric wheelchairs. While the sport is nearly identical in Europe and North America, there are slight differences in the rules. Similar to ice hockey, teams are allowed five players on the floor at a time, including the goalie. In North America, Powerchair Hockey teams consist of 12 players, while in Europe teams consist of just ten. In North America the playing area is 15.25 meters (50 feet) by 30.5 meters (100 feet). The European floor size is 16 meters (52.5 feet) by 26 meters (85.3 feet). The goal also varies in size, with the North American version of the sport using smaller nets.
Powerchair hockey was originally popular in Germany and the Netherlands, where the first tournaments were held in the 1980s. Powerchair Hockey began to receive international attention in the 1990s, with the first World Games being held in Utrecht, Netherlands in 1998 featuring ten nations.
In August 2001 an international tournament was held for the first time outside Europe in Minneapolis with 11 teams from six countries taking part. This tournament was followed by the International Committee for Electric Wheelchair Hockey (ICEWH) being founded in 2002. The ICEWH was the first executive committee in the sport's history.
Following the merger of the ICEWH with the International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) in 2005, the ICEWH was changed to International Powerchair Hockey (IPCH) in 2015.
Despite the growth of Powerchair Hockey over the last 50 years, the IPCH is still fighting for official recognition. Today, the sport has official committees in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and USA. Several other countries currently compete in the sport without official committees including Austria, Estonia, India, Japan, Morocco, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
This year’s tournament can be watched on The Flanders Cup YouTube channel at https://youtube.com/@hevast.