TWISTERS T I L L S O N B U R G Ringette emphasizes strong skating and teamwork

V isit the Tillsonburg Commu- nity Centre on any given week- end, and you’ll likely see dozens of young people packing gear in and out of the arena. While most of the kids undoubtedly dream of becom- ing the next Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, some have their eyes fixed on a different prize: a ring. “Thirty years ago there was no such thing as girls’ hockey,” says Tillsonburg Ringette Association President, Jenny Ratter. “If you were a girl and wanted to be on the ice, you either signed up for figure skat- ing or you played ringette. Those were your options.” Today, the gender divide has largely been erased, prompting some people to predict the demise of the 53-year old sport. “We’ve lost a few kids to the hock- ey program in recent years,” admits Ratter. “But with more than 30,000 ringette players in Canada, I think there’s still a lot of passion for the game in our region.” At first blush, ringette looks like hockey played with bladeless sticks and rings in lieu of traditional pucks. However, unlike hockey, there is no intentional body contact and play- ers cannot carry the ring across the blue lines. Instead, they must pass

the ring to a teammate, or shoot it into the zone. At the higher levels, a shot clock ensures that players think and act quickly. The result is a sport that emphasizes teamwork over in- dividual stardom. “I think the focus on team play is really important,” says Kristen Cadotte, whose two daughters play on the U7 Bunny Team. “Learning to work with other people is an essential life skill,” says Cadotte. “I also think playing a team sport like ringette helps keep kids out of trouble as they navigate the teen years.”

Cadotte, who was among the first skaters in Tillsonburg to try the game back in the 1980s, recalls fondly the sense of accomplishment she felt when she went on to win a provincial A championship with Waterloo in 2008. And while she admits her age may be catching up with her, she’s determined to keep playing ringette as long as she can. “I’m an old lady player now,” she laughs. “But we have a great time and it’s a good workout.” For Kristen, the decision to put her children in ringette was an easy one.

Photo: Darwin Kent


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