Another season of the fast-paced sport of ringette is under way this fall in the Central Okanagan.
Within the Kelowna Ringette Assocation, there are currently more than 185 players registered, from the ages of five to 20.
There are also well-established associations in the interior in West Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm.
For those not entirely familiar with the sport or for those who would just like a refresher, the Capital News today offers a detailed look at the sport of ringette.
KRA president Lesley Driscoll and vice-president Sheldon Bank provide some insights into the sport’s background, the rules, and it’s popularity locally, nationally and around the globe.
“Ringette is a Canadian game that was originally developed for girls but is now being played by both boys and girls around the world,” says Driscoll.
“Called the ‘fastest game on ice,’ ringette is a fast-paced team sport played on a hockey rink in which players use a straight stick to pass, carry and shoot a rubber ring to score goals.”
Ringette is now played in many countries around the world, including Finland, Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic and the United States. It’s estimated that there are more than 50,000 participants in Canada alone who play ringette, an official sport of the Canada Winter Games.
Driscoll calls ringette a very “competitive sport” which has produced its share of winners right here in Kelowna.
“While it is considered a non-contact sport, it is certainly fast-paced and competitive,” she said. “Kelowna Ringette was proud to be represent Team B.C. at the Western Canadian championships last season at both U16A and U19A levels, where the U19A team brought home gold.”
In 2016, the KRA will host the 27th annual Sweetheart Tournament, one of the biggest events of its kind in Canada, from Feb. 10 to 12 in arenas throughout the Central Okanagan.
“We proudly welcome more than 80 teams and over 1,000 athletes from across Western Canada to our annual Sweetheart Tournament,” Driscoll said. “It is considered the second largest tournament in Western Canada and this year will be the 27th annual.”
For those who are not clear on all the rules of ringette, Sheldon Bank offers a breakdown of the basics.
“Ringette, like hockey, is played on ice with skates and sticks with six players per team on the ice at once,” Bank explains. “The objective is to score goals by shooting the object of play into the opposing team’s net at either end of the rink during stop-time periods of play. But this is where the comparisons between ringette and hockey really end.
“The stick is straight. The object being pursued by the players is a rubber ring, not a puck. There is no intentional body contact. And the rules of ringette make it a wide-open and dynamic sport. The emphasis is on play-making and skating skills. Players cannot carry the ring across the blue lines on the ice. Only three players from each team, plus the defending goalie, are allowed in the end zones at the same time, which keeps the play open, puts a premium on sharp offensive moves, and requires defending players to skate close to their opponents.”
Since 1990, a world ringette championship has been held on a regular basis, with Canada and Finland being the predominant challengers. There are also professional leagues in Canada and Finland.
University teams also play competitively across Canada.
Most of the provincial and territorial associations hold an annual championship tournament. Ringette has had a presence at the Canada Winter Games since 1991. And the Canadian Ringette Championships have been held every year since 1979.
For more information on the Kelowna Ringette Association, go to kelownaringette.com