Three local athletes are competing at the World Ringette championships in Mississauga, taking part in a best-of-three series against Finland as part of the Team Canada Junior squad.
Rookies to the team Tara Burke, 20, and Erin Markle, 19, join second time program member Sydney Nosal, 20, where they set out to defend their reigning title on the Junior Team Canada Ringette squad in the under-21 junior champions this week, having swept the 2016 championship in Helsinki against Finland.
Having been selected in May, the team of women under 21 from all across the country have only met a handful of times prior to meeting at the Worlds last Friday. However, Nosal doesn’t see that stopping the Canadians from meshing and ultimately repeating as champs. The squad had two practices over the summer, the first in Alberta and second in Mississauga prior to meeting at Worlds.
“When it comes down to it, our team just is really good at coming together and supporting each other. At the end of the day that is what separates us from them,” she said of their predicted advantage over the Finns.
“It is crazy how we all come from different provinces and a lot of the girls compete against each other during the regular season, but then as we get together on the same team and all feuds go and we just all come together.”
That’s true even for the three girls, who all play in the National Ringette League, Burke and Markle play for the Waterloo Wildfire, while Nosal calls the Cambridge Turbos her home team.
For the girls playing in the Worlds at home, they hope it will help the sport and drive young players to thrive in ringette – like watching did for them.
“I just never really thought that this would be me when I was younger,” said Burke, reminiscing about the time she went to watch in London.
“I remember going with my team. We all went to go and watch, and I was just always looking up to all of these girls who were playing on Team Canada. [I] just felt like it was so far away from what I was able to accomplish, and then now that I have actually accomplished it, it just seems so surreal. Now all of those younger girls are looking up to us; it used to be us looking up to these people and now we are the role models.”
“For those little girls, being close gives them the opportunity to really see what they can do in the sport,” Markle added. “Being close to home, it really shows the younger generation of ringette players the opportunities that they have.”
They also realize this is potentially a one-time experience for the two rookies to compete at home.
“A lot of us, this is our first year in junior and we won’t get another chance to play junior,” explained Markle. “Knowing the amount of talent that the senior team has to pick out of, so for us being on the junior team, it very well could be a like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Excited to play in front of their family and friends, the young athletes see it as a point of pride to play well on home ice.
“It’s just an incredible experience to be able to wear the maple leaf on our chest,” said Nosal. “Not only am I representing my country, but we are doing it with our closest friends by our side.
“They get to see us play some of the best ringette in the world.”
The Team Canada Junior team won their first exhibition game against Sweden on Tuesday at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga and played another against Finland on Wednesday before playing their first of the best-of-three title defense against Finland today (Thursday). Game two is set for Saturday. If needed, game three goes on Sunday.