Last year Maggie Wang joined the St. Clements Junior A ringette team after some coaxing from the coach. Already a talented hockey goalie, she discovered she enjoyed ringette, made some good friends and helped the team win the provincial championship.
Her ringette career might be over after that one season, thanks to rules about where girls can play.
The Ontario Ringette Association dictates that if a player’s home ringette association doesn’t have a team at her level, she has to go to the closest centre with a team. In Wang’s case, Woolwich doesn’t have a Junior A team and the closest centre is Waterloo.
However, playing for Waterloo isn’t an option for her; she wants to play with her friends, and she also relies on getting rides from her teammates’ parents, as her parents, with nine kids in sports, don’t have time to take her.
Waterloo Ringette has declined to release her, and unless they release her or cut her from their team, she can’t play.
“I just don’t think it’s fair that other people can decide where you play,” Wang said.
She wasn’t planning to play ringette at all last year; she was recruited by the team’s coach, Terry Nosal, when their goalie quit. Wang played hockey with Nosal’s son, and she agreed to join the team.
Sheri Markle, past president of Waterloo Ringette, said last year was a special circumstance and they should have made that clear to her at the time.
“In this case, we should have told her last year, ‘it’s a one year thing, it’s a unique situation, but the boundary rules are this and you should come to Waterloo next year.’”
Markle said Waterloo Ringette isn’t trying to target Wang, but rather avoid setting a precedent of making special exemptions for players.
“The rules are there and we’re just trying to stick with them as best we can.”
Markle acknowledged that having played against Wang and seen how talented she is in goal, Waterloo was eager to have her try out for their team.
“She was released last year without us even seeing her.”
The decision leaves St. Clements without a goalie – the goalies who were cut from Waterloo don’t want to travel to St. Clements. If they can’t get Wang back on the team, Nosal will be combing rinks again, trying to recruit another hockey goalie.
Nosal understands the urge to get a competitive edge, but feels that things are being taken too far in this case.
“There’s nothing wrong with being competitive, but at whose expense and at what cost?”
They do have the option to appeal Waterloo’s decision at the regional and then provincial levels, and plan to do just that, although it is a costly process.
If she can’t sway the decision makers into releasing her, Wang won’t be playing ringette at all. Leaving aside the issue of getting rides, it’s the social aspect of ringette that she loves.
“It’s just not worth going through a sport without your friends.”