It’s significantly short on registration figures compared to other ice sports. It’s virtually non-existent at the Winter Olympics. Compared to Canada’s most popular sport, hockey it stands on a much smaller scale in terms of the number of tournaments, revenue and professional opportunities.
But individuals involved with ringette hope to see it grow.
Here in Prince George the coaches, volunteers and executive involved with the Prince George Ringette Association (PGRA) are using the upcoming Western Canadian ringette championships March 26-29 to raise the profile of the sport. They hope the result can be an increase in PGRA registration figures for the 2008-09 season.
“And it will,” said Keith Sullivan, head coach of the Prince George junior Inferno ringette squad. “We held the nationals here in 2000 and the next year we gained about 60 kids, and the city doesn’t realize how much money this will bring into the city.”
Sullivan said the competition will feature four teams in three divisions for a total of 12. The tournament features teams from the four western provinces – B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The organizing committee is also trying to bring in university teams as part of the festivities, Sullivan noted.
Tournaments like Western Canadian championships give players the opportunity to play at a high level. As the hosts, Prince George gets the opportunity to ice players from the zone in the competition. Even for players not eligible to play in that competition, ringette offers its average registered player more opportunities to play in provincial and national competitions than the average hockey player since there’s less teams around.
“The other winter sports per say, like hockey or whatever, very few will ever get that opportunity where here everybody does,” Sullivan said. “We in ringette especially believe in the fair play policy. I had 18 girls on that bench [at the 2007 Joy Hoffman Tournament last weekend], and everyone played lots.”
Megan Ingham, a 14-year-old forward on the Inferno who plays soccer in the spring and summer months, enjoys ringette for its speed.
“I just love it because it’s really fast,” she said. “I love the people I play with too and my coaches.”
Sullivan, a coach for about 20 years, said registration in PGRA has remained relatively stable for the past 10 years. He said there’s generally between 120 and 140 registered participants. This season there’s about PGRA teams hitting the ice.
Sullivan said the speed and intensity level of the game has increased during his tenure as a coach.
“The kids are in much better condition. The sticks [are more advanced], they can shoot so much harder.”
To find out more about PGRA, including information on the upcoming Western Canadian ringette championships, visit the league’s website at www.pgringette.ca.