Her years of hard work has paid off, as Wellesley’s Tara Burke’s athletic ability is now recognized at an international level.
Burke was inducted into Ringette Canada Hall of Fame for her success in the 2017 junior national team, alongside teammate Sydney Nosal of St. Clements.
Burke said the honour came as a complete surprise to her.
“This came in the mail with a letter saying ‘congratulations!’ from Ringette Canada,” said Burke. “And I thought ‘oh, what are they saying congratulations for?’ And it said they put us in the Hall of Fame.”
Around this time last year, Burke and her 21 teammates of the junior squad emerged victorious from a game against Finland, securing the gold medal of the 2017 World Ringette Championship.
Among the moments that stood out to her, Burke said the jump from a small-town arena to the big-city Paramount Fine Food Centre sports complex in Mississauga, formerly known as the Hershey’s Centre, was exhilarating.
“Typically when we play ringette, we play in these little arenas, so it’s not huge. So when I stepped onto the ice, they had fog machines, lights, and everything, and it was insane,” said Burke. “I was sitting there for O Canada, and it was like, ‘how am I supposed to play in front of all these people?’”
Despite the initial nervousness, Burke went on to crush it in the tournament. Head coach Lorrie Horne was impressed with the young player both off and on the ice.
“She’s that type of young woman that I’d like my kids to be,” said Horne. “She’s level-headed, she does her work, she is so very well-spoken, she creates a great sense of rapport with all those that she interacts with. She, just like the rest of the athletes in the group, is a top-shelf kid.”
Her passion for ringette goes back over a decade. Beginning when she was just seven years old, Burke played for the Kitchener Wildcats, then the AA Waterloo Wildfire, followed by the National Ringette League, where she was scouted for Team Canada.
“I worked so much since I was in Grade 5 all the way up until now. It was basically hard work throughout my entire life and never giving up,” said Burke. “Obviously if I got cut from a team I’d go back and try out again next year. I’d keep working on ice and off-ice. Keep working until you actually make it.”
Before getting scouted for Team Canada, Burke practiced ringette for about an hour a day. Once she was introduced to the big leagues, the requirements became stricter – including workout plans and on-ice plans.
Horne noted the maturity of the team as a whole and highlighted the importance of ensuring every team member is on the same page.
“I spend a lot of time teaching them what it is to gain physical advantage and have a presence on the ice and set the pace,” said Horne. “Simple is best and less is more sometimes – when you’re looking at a short-term competition environment, everybody needs to be on the same page. So the execution of the basic system play consistently – that’s what really separates the good from the great.”
Burke is still playing on a ringette tournament team out of Elora/Fergus but is shifting her focus to her University of Waterloo health studies program. She plans to continue playing in the future and hopes to become a speech-language pathologist.