From the Canadian curling championship in January to the sledge hockey nationals in February, Woolwich Township seems to have become a popular destination for the country’s winter sports – and now another can be added to the list. This month,the Woolwich Memorial Centre will be the battleground for the 2019 University Challenge Cup (UCC) in ringette, drawing in teams from across the country.
While the games will be held at the Elmira arenas, the UCC itself is actually being hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University, which will be icing its own team at the event. The university will be renting out the Woolwich facilities over three days at the standard rate.
“It came down to really a couple of factors. One was having the availability of the ice,” explained Brian Breckles, WLU ringette coach and chairperson for the upcoming UCC. “And second was having a really good facility. And the facilities that were available here, in Kitchener and KW, are nowhere close to the facilities that the Woolwich Memorial Centre offers us.
“It’s a beautiful facility to host a high-calibre event like this in,” he added.
A total of 60 games are scheduled over three days at the WMC arenas, from December 27 to 30, offering a dizzying amount of kinetic action to watch while the Sugar Kings are away, all open to the public and entirely free to attend.
Moreover,the event will include a number of events specifically geared to raising awareness and interest amongst female athletes in the sport.
“We’re actually doing what’s called a ‘come try ringette’ event, incorporated into one of the hours on Sunday the 30th, at 4:30 p.m,” said Breckles. “And the whole idea is for us to be giving back to the community. So [we’ve] got a group of trained leaders that will take care of the on ice segments.”
Ringette is a fairly young, though distinctly Canadian sport, having been invented in 1963 in North Bay. Played with straight sticks and a ring instead of a puck,the sport shares similarities to basketball (incidentally, another sport invented by a Canadian), Breckles notes.
“It’s going to sound a little bizarre, [but it’s] somewhat similar to basketball in the way that there is a shot clock,” he said.
There’s also a substantial team component, with players required to pass to move the ring up the ice. The ring, meanwhile, still moves at speeds comparable to a puck in hockey,
Beyond promoting the sport, Breckles is hoping to encourage more girls in sports across the board, and to that end has partnered with not-for-profit Fast and Female to host a Power Hour during the cup games. Attendees will be able to participate in leadership-building activities and meet with positive female role models in sports.
“The other part that we’re doing, and it’s really unique, and its focused on young female athletes ages 12 to 16,” said Breckles. “It’s a professional development seminar … and again we incorporated that into being part of the event as an opportunity to give back to female athletes in the community.”
The 2019 UCC games will be held between December 27 to December 30, with games starting as early as 7:30 a.m., and running for most of the day. Thirteen universities will be participating, including McMaster, Western in Ontario, as well as several out of province like Dalhousie and Calgary.
WLU will also play host again for the 2020 UCC, next year. Whether that means the Cup will be returning to the Woolwich facilities next year, however, remains to be seen.