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Revisiting the Glory days of the Rivulettes

Drayton production tells the winning story of the Preston women’s hockey team that went on to great acclaim

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An upcoming production will shine a light on the inspiring journey of a Waterloo Region hockey team whose efforts landed them in the Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame.

Drayton Entertainment’s Glory, set in 1933, tells the story of four friends on the Preston Rivulettes hockey team, who overcome challenge after challenge, from discrimination to the Great Depression, to attain a win ratio of 95 per cent – a record unmatched in the history of women’s hockey.

Katie Ryerson is taking on the role of Hilda Ranscombe, the captain of the Preston Rivulettes, for the second time.

“We don’t have enough coverage of female sports, and so therefore we don’t have enough coverage of those who were really spectacular in those sports. There is, of course, some written materials about Hilda and the Rivulettes, but it’s definitely not mainstream knowledge,” said Ryerson.

“I didn’t know about the team before I started researching the play – I had no idea. Then you find out that this was one of Canada’s most successful hockey teams in history, regardless of gender. They won almost all of their games that they ever played – they were incredible.”

Two sets of sisters, including Ranscombe and her sister Nellie (Morgan Yamada), along with Helen (Kate Dion-Richard) and Marm Schmuck (Advah Soudack), round out the main cast, all based on the real players. Andrew Wheeler takes on the role of Rivulettes coach Herb Fach, who eventually grows more and more supportive of the team even though he does not necessarily start that way.

There was plenty of physical training involved for the actors to effectively convey the electrifying swing dance choreography, as well as researching the back story of each character and how they fit into the team. Ryerson noted that as there are very few other Glory plays out there; she put her original spin on the character, rather than looking to different interpretations.

“When you work on a new Canadian play, as opposed to a play that’s already been established, there are a lot of moving parts, and there’s a lot of things changing and in flux, and I would actually say one of the most challenging parts was integrating everything,” said Ryerson. “So the choreography, yes it’s challenging, but there are lots of other challenging things about putting a new play together. So integrating that can be really exciting. And it really helps make the piece the best it can be.”

The Ranscombe and Schmuck sisters played softball together during the summer in 1930 and were looking for a winter sport to play. They reached out to a prominent sports journalist for assistance, and eventually had their first practice as an ice hockey team in January 1931 with 10 players.

The team played Ontario cities including Kitchener, Toronto, Stratford, London, Hamilton, Guelph and Port Dover. The Rivulettes played an estimated 350 games between 1930 and 1940, winning most while posting just two losses and three ties. They won the Bobby Rosenfeld Trophy (given to Ontario champions) for the entire decade of the 1930s. They also won the Elmer Doust cup and were six-time winners of the Eastern Canadian championship.

“It tells a really inspiring story of these two sisters that form the core of this team and the trials and tribulations they go through,” said Ryerson. “It’s a really engaging piece to watch; it’s a great story to tell young women, it’s a great story to tell young boys, it’s a really inspiring message about embrace what you’re good at, and don’t let anyone stop you. And just keep going.”

Glory will run from July 10-19 at the Drayton Festival Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at the box office or by calling (519) 747-7788 or toll free at 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866)

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