BY MARK CARDWELL
LIKE MANY Canadian kids, Costco member Sarah Worthen played ice hockey
when she was growing up. But the Guelph,
Ontario, native says playing Canada’s
national winter sport has never given her
the same thrill she gets from ringette.
“Ringette has a finesse and speed
that hockey doesn’t,” says Worthen, a
post-graduate student who played ringette
at both the recreational and competitive
levels from age ; to ;;, when she left home
for university. “I love it,” she says. “It’s the
best sport in the world.”
Invented as a winter team sport for
girls in the early ;;;;s by Sam Jacks, a
Scottish-born sports enthusiast and director of parks and recreation in North Bay,
Ontario (Jacks also invented ;oor hockey),
ringette has developed into a mainstream
and increasingly popular game across
Canada and beyond.
According to the latest numbers
from Ringette Canada ( ringette.ca)—the
Ottawa-based national body that governs
and promotes the sport—there are more
than ;;,;;; registered players on nearly
;,;;; teams in eight age categories across
the country. Though the vast majority of
players are women and girls (including
one woman in her mid-;;s in Ottawa),
some ;;; men and boys also play.
How to play
Like hockey, ringette is played on
skates and features referees, nets, sticks
and six players, including a goalie, on each
team who try to outscore their opponents.
However, the similarities end there.
Unlike hockey, ringette players wear
long padded pants, girdles to protect hips
and thighs and a special helmet/mask
combo that provides increased protection
against the tips of the bladeless sticks that
are used to catch, carry and shoot the rubber ring that is used instead of a puck—and
that gives the sport its name.
Other distinctions include a ;;-second shot clock (as in basketball), no intentional body contact, the requirement that
players must pass—not carry—the ring
over an opponent’s blue line and a limit of
three players per team, plus the defending
goalie, in the end zone (a marked area near
the nets) at the same time.
“People like to compare ringette to
hockey, but the only real similarity is that
both sports are played on ice,” says Costco
member Natasha Johnston, Ringette
Canada’s executive director. “The nature
of the rules and the strategy of game play
are very di;erent.”
According to Johnston, a ;;-year-ring-
ette veteran who still plays once a week in
an over-;; league, ringette puts a premium
on speed, ring possession and passes
“It’s very much a team sport, because
one player can’t go down the ice without
their teammates,” she says. Because ringette players pick up and control the ring
solidly on the point of their sticks—as
opposed to the tricky nature of receiving
FOR YOUR HEALTH
and handling a puck on a blade—she says
ringette also features more deking and
edging. “Players have to develop keen skating skills so they can deke and pivot at high
speed. When done right, it’s beautiful and
exciting to watch,” she adds.
A growing following
Johnston credits both the speed of the
game and the agility of the players for the
sport’s growing popularity among athletes
and spectators alike. In addition to recreational and competitive leagues in every
province, there are national championships in several age categories.
The sport’s pinnacle in Canada is the
National Ringette League, which features
an annual eight-team championship tournament in March or April.
Internationally, ringette is played in a
half-dozen countries, including Finland,
which has become Canada’s arch-rival at
the World Ringette Championships.
In addition to the fun and thrill of
competition, says Costco member Lynn
Girardin, a former ringette player who
coached Team Manitoba’s U;; team to a
gold medal at the ;;;; national championships in Winnipeg, ringette o;ers kids
a chance to learn and grow. “Like all team
sports it helps prepare them for life,” says
Girardin, who used to coach her daughters,
Caroline and Nicole. “They learn about
;tness and time management and making sacri;ces. And they make friends and
memories that last forever.” C
Mark Cardwell is a freelance journalist and
writer in the Quebec City area.
The growing popularity of a nearly 60-year-old sport
Members can score hockey tape, nets,
bags and a variety of sports equipment
in warehouses and on Costco.ca.