An initiative to reintroduce the sport of ringette to the NWT has made a stop in Hay River.
Learn to Play Ringette clinics were held in the community for training sessions on March 30 and 31, and skills competitions on April 2.
“It has been out of the territories for many, many years,” said Thorsten Gohl of Fort Providence, who organized the clinics for Ringette Canada.
That absence is estimated to be 25 years or more.
Gohl said the national sports organization received federal funding to bring ringette back to the territories with an initial focus on the Deh Cho region.
“There’s a two-year plan in place where the first one is just to bring clinics in and see who’s interested, maybe find some volunteers,” he said, adding the next step would be maybe setting up a territorial sports organization or a league.
Christy Schwartz, a volunteer who helped out at the clinics in Hay River, said a good number of people in the NWT have never heard of ringette.
Lot like hockey
She explained it’s a lot like hockey, but with some major differences.
“You’re on the ice. You’re skating. The same equipment,” she said. “There’s a lot of different rules. There’s no offside. There’s no icing. There’s different rules in place to kind of take the place of those.”
Most notably, ringette is played with bladeless sticks and a ring instead of a puck.
Schwartz, who played ringette 25 years ago in Alberta, said she enjoyed pretty much everything about the game
“But obviously the team camaraderie was big for me, and just love of the sport,” she said. “Getting out and playing every week, and the competition.”
The game, which was invented in Canada, is primarily played by females, and is popular in several parts of the country, including Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces.
The clinics in Hay River attracted interest from both girls and boys.
Schwartz would like to see a ringette league in Hay River.
“That would be super cool,” she said.
The clinics in Hay River and elsewhere were guided by Laurence St. Denis, a player and coach from Montreal.
“It’s quite big,” she said of the game in Quebec. “We play ringette a lot and we have ringette in the Canada Games.”
St. Denis said she is excited to introduce the sport to people in the NWT, both children and their parents, and they seemed to like it a lot.
“Everyone was really happy to play a new sport and try something new,” she said. “And they were really happy to have me here.”
St. Denis said she focused on stick handling with the ring, passing and shooting.
“But skating is 100 per cent the base of ringette,” she said.
Gohl noted that the clinics in Hay River attracted about 30 participants, ranging in age from under nine to under 19.
The week before the clinics, ringette was also played with some minor hockey teams and the women’s hockey team.
Gohl said ringette clinics have also been presented in the Deh Cho communities of Fort Providence, Nahanni Butte, Kakisa, Sambaa K’e, Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Fort Liard and Jean Marie River.