Jan
28
2016
Volume
4-2

Ringette: For The Love of The Game

(2 votes)

Why play Ringette? It is, according to misconceived perceptions, a game for girls, or for softies, or both. It’s slow and easy, and nobody plays it. That’s what everybody knows, right?

Wrong!

Ringette was, it is true, a game originally created as an alternative to hockey, at a time in our collective history where standards of equality among men and women were non-existent. Out of this unhappy nexus Sam Jacks came up with a game where the emphasis is on skating skills, tactics, playmaking and speed.

Lots of speed, making Ringette the fastest team sport on ice in the world. It also has over 2,000 teams playing the sport in Canada alone, with a national championships and it is an important part of the Canada Winter Games. Oh and there’s a world championship as well played every two years.

If you search, on Google, for ‘Spectacular Ringette Goals’, Jessica Pepper’s top corner goal from the Winter Games comes up first on YouTube. Here’s the description: “Catching a pass in the air from a teammate who threw the ring from mid-ice, Pepper then goes on to score a top corner goal with a quick move.” The description doesn’t do the goal justice. It is an incredible goal and you are left wondering ‘How the hell did she do that?’

Lucky? Maybe a bit. But remember the line attributed to more famous sportsmen than you can shake a stick at. ‘The more we practice, the luckier we get.’

Don’t bother watching for more great Ringette goals though. You really have to dig for them. The next video up, based on popularity rankings, is the Top 10 hockey knockouts.

Why?

Why is Ringette, a demonstrably superior game, nowhere near as popular as hockey? 

Some of it is the history. Hockey fans look down on Ringette as a girl’s game, and the statistics back it up. Most players are female, yet many canny parents who wish their sons to have the best of all opportunities, register their boys in Ringette at a very early age so that they may learn to skate and pass more skilfully than hockey teaches.

Ringette boys, at least until they switch codes, also avoid the ultra-competitiveness of the ‘Canadian Roulette’ that craziness that drives parents to push their children to extremes, all for the infinitesimal chance of getting to the NHL. Ringette doesn’t have that. It is a new enough and young enough sport for the players to enjoy the game for the game’s sake.

Paula Kuzmic has played Ringette for most of her life, still in her teens, the second year Bachelor of Elementary Education student at Keyano College has been involved with the Fort McMurray Ringette Association for as long as she can remember. She’s now on the board of the FMRA, a position her Mother also used to hold. “Brenda was the kind of Mom who always got involved” said Paula. No wonder. In addition to 12 years of Ringette, Paula also played eight years of hockey and four years of football. Her younger brother Zach was similarly involved in sport so Brenda, like so many parents, helped out wherever she could. Most years she was the team manager; and sometimes it seemed like she lived at the rink, her children were there so much.

Paula’s parents gave her the chance to play as much as she wanted, which she loved. Yet when the time finally came to stick with one sport, Paula stayed with Ringette.

When asked why, she cites at first the skill levels involved. Ringette is more nuanced. Watch, if you will that goal mentioned earlier by Jessica Pepper. The player who passes it to her does so through the air and Ms. Pepper, with a stick not much wider than a pool cue, catches it in mid-air, controls it down to the ground, dummies the goalie and then does it again before scoring on the near side, all in less than two seconds.

It is an extraordinary bit of play.

Baseball, golf and cricket can probably all trace their history back to the first stick and the first roundish stone. It would seem obvious to use one to hit the other, everything else from then till now has been mere refinements of the rules. In the same way, the first time someone kicked a loose obstacle and didn’t yell ‘Ouch’ in Caveman the game of soccer was invented. Many years later William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it. This begat the two rugbys –Union and League – the NFL, the CFL, and other, odder, games played in Ireland and Australia. In each case, the new sport was tougher and more violent. It seemed as rules became more developed, the goals of the sport became less so.

In contrast, Ringette, evolving from a game of some skill and much violence, became a highly skilled sport with no real aggression in its DNA. You can’t beat someone off the ring, you have to win it by being better and more deft.

If, on an imaginary scale from 1-10, the skill and coordination levels of various sports are ranked, we might find race walking as a 1, running sports –  from the sprints to marathons – as a 2 or 3, ball-handling team sports (NFL, rugby) as 4’s or 5’s at the most, stick sports like hockey as a 7, maybe, and soccer, played without hands, as an 8.

Ringette is a 9, maybe a 9 and a half. Admittedly Jessica Pepper’s goal was something you do not see every day. It was a score of nearly unmatchable talent and skill, and like all great events there was that little bit of luck involved as well. Nobody makes that shot every time, it requires everything to work together at once. The perfect pass, positioning, eye-hand coordination, all working as one. But it is the possibility of the sublime that makes us choose to be involved in a certain sport. No one thought they would see such a goal that day. But people take part in Ringette, or they come down to watch it, because they know the sport, and they know that such bits of sporting magic are indeed possible.

Paula Kuzmic loves hockey as well and she won’t say anything bad against it, she played it for 8 years after all.

Pressed once more to articulate why she chose to stick with Ringette, she is unable to, until she hits on the word fun. She has fun at practice, fun playing and fun being with the team. Ringette has leagues, it’s true, and the games are very competitive. But the drive to win stops at some point. There’s no push towards the pro league or to make a living at the sport. There is no ‘Great One’ that every dad wants their child to emulate.

Ringette is played by Paula and her club-mates at the Fort McMurray Ringette Association for all the reasons we should want our children to go into sport. We want them to learn to work as a team and to get exercise so as to be healthy. It’s also nice that they are taught enhanced coordination, how to skate safely, and how to play nicely with each other.

Good sports teach kids how to strive for a goal, to keep at something they may not always feel like doing, and to learn to have fun while playing.

And that’s what Ringette is all about! 

Fort McMurray Ringette Association
If you want to know more, please contact the FMRA either at their Facebook page:
facebook.com/Fort-McMurray-Ringette-Association-113608412067729 or online at: mcmurrayringette.com


Photos:
The Fort McMurray Rush hit the ice!
The 2015 U19 team.
Paula Kuzmich and her Mother Brenda, back when they were starting out.

KEVIN THORNTON

Kevin has been writing for YMM since the first issue. Many of his articles have been pseudonymous, hidden behind the tags Keyano writer or YMM staff. Kevin has been a columnist for many years, working for some of the leading newspapers of the world, including the New York Times and the Devon Dispatch.

Website: theoldfortamusingfromtheoilsands.blogspot.ca/

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