By Kristy Koehler, December 18 2018 —
Though Ringette is a truly Canadian game, it’s one many people haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy live. A winter team sport invented in Ontario in 1963, ringette is played on an ice surface with skates, a straight stick and a rubber ring.
Ringette is dubbed the fastest game on ice. Players have 30 seconds to take a shot on net — failure to do so results in the opposing team being awarded possession of the ring. Unlike hockey, there are no face-offs nor offsides, rendering game stoppages infrequent. Play action is virtually constant.
While it’s hard to avoid the comparisons to hockey, veteran Dinos ringette goaltender Emily Drake says it flows more like lacrosse.
“There’s more of a lateral and vertical flow component to the game,” she said. She also says trying to protect the net from a ring is much different than a puck.
“Pucks move faster so you have to be faster in how you react, but you can control your rebounds and where you want the puck to go more easily than you can a ring. Rings are more unpredictable,” Drake said.
Do the comparisons to hockey bother ringette athletes? Dinos ringette team captains, Sarah Brewin and Kairo Mair, say they’re used to it — just don’t suggest that hockey was the sport they should have played.
“It bothers me when people ask me, ‘Why didn’t you play hockey?’ ” Brewin said. “It’s such a different sport — it’s like asking a baseball player why he didn’t play soccer.”
All three athletes have played or have had the opportunity to play hockey. But each chose ringette for a variety of reasons, especially the team-centric nature of the sport. In a major departure from hockey rules, players are not allowed to carry the ring over the blue line. Instead, it must be passed, making sure multiple athletes are involved in every play.
“You really need to rely on your whole team being at a very high level,” Mair said. “I found it much faster to play. Ringette is a lot more creative in a way. It’s more of a read and react game.”
Mair says it bothers her when people say ringette isn’t a legitimate sport. Most of this criticism, she says, comes from people who haven’t even seen a game.
Alberta has a long history with the sport, considering Team Alberta won the first-ever World Ringette Championship in 1990. The sport is highly competitive, played at the Alberta Winter Games as well as the Canada Winter Games, in addition to the Western Canadian Ringette Championships, the Canadian Ringette Championships and the University Challenge Cup.
The Dinos have taken home nine gold medals at the UCC since the tournament’s inception in 1999. Most recently, the Dinos won the 2018 University Challenge Cup in Guelph, Ontario.
In addition to their yearly university play, the Dinos compete in the Open A division of the Calgary Open Ringette Association, a city-wide league. There’s an additional championship to be had at this level and it provides the Dinos an opportunity to get familiar with other styles of play — many of the athletes on city teams have played for Team Canada at the national level and playing against them gives the Dinos a leg up in the UCC.
“We get exposure to other teams which is a bit different of a style than the university competition,” Brewin said.
Last year, the Dinos finished in third place in the city division. The team’s 13–4–2 record propelled them to the provincial championships, a feat they hope to repeat this January after taking on the UCC. Dinos ringette schedules are available online at calgaryopenringette.com and on the Dinos website.