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Getting Ready For Ringette By Caralee Epp

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In a town where hockey is as much a part of our winters as the snow on the ground, a lot of kids in the Wood Buffalo region are drawn to the ice. Chantelle Reid also felt that pull, but it wasn’t hockey that would become her passion.

“I was thinking about starting hockey when my dad’s friend said I should try ringette instead.” After attending provincials as a seven year old spectator, Chantelle was motivated to try it. “I liked it and just stuck with it. I never did play hockey,” she laughs.

That’s how the story began for her and continues today. Thirteen years of ringette play later, Chantelle is gearing up for a second season with the University of Alberta Pandas. And that friend of her father’s, met through a chance encounter many years ago, became her best coach. So good in fact, that he was named Coach of the Year in 2012 by Ringette Alberta. “Neil Houlihan taught us how to play with our heads and our hearts. He was an amazing coach and mentor,” says Chantelle.

Ringette coaches have a tremendous impact on players and translate their love of the sport to their team. Most start out in the traditional sense; getting familiar with the game and taking coaching programs because they are a parent of a player. For others, their love of ringette is part of their DNA.

Jenni Burke is one of those players turned coach. She played as a young girl in Alberta for fourteen years, and now coaches her daughters Brianna (U14) and Cameron (U12), both of whom have opted to play goalie in their divisions. Cameron says she loves “saving all the shots” and she plans to play ringette “forever” to which Jenni beams with pride.

Coaching the up and coming U8 and U6 levels has special rewards all its own. When those bright young faces get excited to skate around the pylons and score goals, U6 coaches Trevor and Charlene Boe both know the influence they have on these little skaters. Their son Grayson has been on skates since he was 15 months old, and playing both ringette and hockey since he was four years old. And he has an advantage - his mom Charlene played for many years right here in Fort McMurray. She was part of the first team to form here in the mid 1980’s, one could say, a local ringette pioneer.

Coaches and players of the Fort McMurray Ringette Association have a big year on the horizon. Some of the best and brightest ringette players will hit the ice in our region come March. Wood Buffalo is set to host the 2015 Tim Horton’s Canadian Ringette Championship tournament using all the indoor ice available from Anzac to Fort McKay. Over 900 female athletes – mostly in their teens – along with their coaches, will flow through our new Fort McMurray airport terminal and ignite our community for ten days of high caliber ringette play. These teams are the most elite skill level in the country in divisions U16AA, U19AA and the professional National Ringette League. The tournament will not only feature the fastest and most intense ringette played anywhere in the world, it will also create a lasting legacy for local players, coaches and referees.

Neil, Jenni, Trevor and Charlene are just four of the many coaches looking forward to nationals, for two reasons: the opportunity for the current roster to see some of the best ringette players on ice and the chance to profile the sport to recruit others. “This event will showcase our entire region and grow our sport in a grassroots way,” says Trevor, who also sits on the host committee organizing the big event. He adds, “I’m excited to know that ringette nationals will engage not just Fort McMurray, but also the communities of Fort McKay and Anzac with their newer arenas.” To find out how to sign up and help out, send an email to


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