Ringette may not enjoy the profile of its on-ice cousin, hockey, but five local girls have worked hard during the past few months to put it on the map.
They joined the U19 Team Canada East after tryouts in May and along with many other players from all over Eastern Canada, set to prepare for the World Junior Ringette Championships in London, Ontario.
“A lot of people think that ringette is a dying sport but it really is a growing sport; our numbers this year have been higher that they ever have been,” said Sam Nosal of St. Clements.
Nosal, 19, and her sister Paige, 18, have been playing on the St. Clements ringette team from a young age and had a chance to shine at the championships. Both girls ended up being called to the first all-star lineup at the end of the tournament but that was not their only claim to fame as the entire team did what many before them failed to do:“It hasn’t been since 2002 that Canada has beat Finland in an international competition. This is the first time in a decade that we have beaten Finland, so it was a pretty big deal,” Sam said.
Competition consisted of six teams: Team Canada East and Team Canada West – which are split into two teams at a Junior level due to an overwhelming amount of eligible players – Team France, Team Russia, Team USA and the previously undefeated Team Finland.
While the majority of players from other teams lived in close proximity from each other, players from Team Canada East had some long roads ahead of them: meeting at three different training camps in the span of eight months to practice together before the tournament.
The World Juniors take place every three years and this was the only chance the two sisters had to try out, Paige explained.
“This team is the highest level you can play at this age – you can’t really get any higher – so that was a whole other experience, actually playing with girls not from your region but from outside of the province. Just kind of compiling all different styles of ringette: Ontario ringette can be different from Quebec ringette,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges, they both agree, was finding the right balance on the ice. With so many players exhibiting diverse styles of ringette it was difficult to find good chemistry, they said.
“Paige plays defence so for her it was finding a good defence partner with whom you have good chemistry on the ice. For me, centre and two forwards who I play well with, that was the most difficult part, but we seemed to pull it together at the world championships,” Sam said.
This wasn’t the first big competition for the St. Clements players but it was definitely the most memorable. The sisters flew to Finland earlier in the year for the World Club Championships in Finland but came home empty handed, making their latest accomplishments even more exceptional.
“The next step would be to make the national team,” Paige said.
“It’s making that decision because it is a lot of commitment which I’m completely willing to do but it’s just considering everything else between school.”
Tryouts for the Senior national team championships is coming up soon, but the girls say they will likely hold off on that goal until later.
Travel and other commitments are something to consider right now as are the costs of extensive travel even despite local sponsorship from organizations and businesses.
The sport may not get much outside exposure – even the world championships were not televised – but ringette players all over the world are far from hanging up their jerseys, Sam said.
“Our goal is to help promote the sport and to help it grow more because I’ve never talked to anyone who has watched a high level ringette game and said they haven’t loved it.”