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Community Matters

Ring ‘Em Up

August 28th, 2014

Photo Credit: Robert Bailey

By CaraLee Epp

“Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch” goes the sound of little hockey skates on the freshly cleared ice at the Casman Centre. Six year old, Madik Trottier cruises with ease around the pylons at ringette practice with the rest of the U8 team while her mom and coach, Christie, gets ready to lead them in the next drill. Madik started playing ringette two seasons ago when she was only four years old. “Every year that I play ringette, I learn more,” says Madik. One tweet of Coach Christie’s whistle, and fifteen little faces follow the noise and look up.

Looking up. In Fort McMurray we all do this routinely in the Fall and Spring, searching for the Northern Lights, a famous phenomenon of our region. These shining stars are familiar to us, quietly illuminating our skies in streaks of green and blue, while warming our hearts despite the brisk air.

U12 netminder Cameron Burke knows how to light up the arena in the same way, with the combination of her on ice moves and ear-to-ear smile. “I love playing in goal, because I love saving all the shots.” Cameron has a lot to look up to as ringette is in her blood. Her sister Brianna is a U14 goalie and her mom Jenni, who played ringette for 14 years as a young girl in Alberta, now coaches Cameron’s team. Glancing sweetly at her mom, Cameron says, “I want to play ringette forever.”

One Fort McMurrayite who is living that dream is Chantelle Reid. Chantelle says her ringette career began at age seven when a babysitter and a family friend’s dad encouraged her to give ringette a try instead of hockey. “We went out and watched provincials that year and I was inspired to try it. I liked it and just stuck with it. I never did play hockey.”

That babysitter’s dad, Neil Houlihan, has been a big part of ringette in Fort McMurray. After his own daughter left for college, Neil returned to the ice to coach Chantelle’s team. “He taught us how to play with our heads and our hearts. He was a great coach and mentor,” says Chantelle. “After several seasons together, we were like his daughters.”  In 2012, Neil was recognized by Ringette Alberta and awarded the honor of ‘Coach of the Year’.

Chantelle attributes her love of ringette to the years she spent with the Fort McMurray Ringette Association (FMRA).  Now thirteen years later she’s starting her second season on defence with the University of Alberta Pandas. Born and raised in Fort McMurray, Chantelle says that her best friends are still those she played ringette with her, in her hometown.

And in just a few short months, her hometown will have a lot to look forward to as some of the best and brightest ringette players will hit the ice in our region.

Wood Buffalo is set to host the 2015 Tim Horton’s Canadian Ringette Championship tournament, using all the indoor ice available from Anzac to Fort McKay. In March, over 900 female athletes - mostly in their teens - along with their coaches, will flow through our new Fort McMurray airport terminal and ignite our community for ten days of high caliber ringette play. These teams are of the most elite skill level in the country in divisions U16AA, U19AA and the National Ringette League (professionals). This tournament will not only feature the fastest and most intense ringette played anywhere in the world, it will also create a lasting legacy for local athletes, coaches and referees.

The event co-chairs, Tim Praught, FMRA president, and Jodie Mercier, director of sport and recreation for the Regional Recreation Corp., are thrilled to be hosting the 2015 nationals. “We are excited for the opportunity to grow our sport in this region, and the legacy this event will create for our athletes, coaches and refs is the best way to do that,” says Tim. Jodie adds, “That this event will be happening across the region, not just in Fort McMurray, makes it unique. We do community better than anyone, and we can’t wait to prove it.”

Madik, Cameron and Chantelle are just three of the many players that are looking forward to the nationals. Cameron is excited to be in the presence of these ringette stars. “I plan to attend as many games as I can,” she says, with a beaming smile. Chantelle plans to come home from Edmonton, watch a lot of games, and even volunteer for the event as much as possible. To find out how to sign up and help out, send an email to  CRCvolunteer@mcmurrayringette.com.

Ringette Facts:

  • Invented in 1963 in Ontario by Sam Jacks who also invented floor hockey

  • Ringette turned 50 years old last season – it’s older than the first oil sands mine

  • The U6 division takes kids as young as 5 years old

  • Several Canadian universities offer scholarships; three in Alberta have teams: U of A, U of C and Mount Royal

  • Professionals play for the National Ringette League across Canada

  • Ringette is also played internationally

  • Team Finland currently holds the World gold medal title

  • Players fondly call it “the fastest game on ice!”

CaraLee Epp has lived in Fort McMurray for the past four years with her husband and daughter – ringette coach and player for the last three seasons respectively. She volunteers for the Association’s executive board and the host committee for the 2015 national event.

Tags: boys, education, girls

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