Special to the Record
Fifty years ago, in the fall of 1963, history was made. The very first game of ringette was played in Espanola, Ont., between girls of the local high school.
This on-ice game was developed by Samuel Perry Jacks of North Bay, Ont. He had three boys that played hockey and recognized the problem of limited girls winter recreation programs – he believed girls should also be able to play an ice skating team sport, and a new game was born.
In 1964-65 the first-ever ringette league was formed in Sudbury, Ont. This first league comprised four teams, and the first invitational tournament, the Northern Ontario and Quebec Championships, was played March 5, 1966 in Temiscaming, Que.
And, as they say, the rest is history.
This sport has come a long way with provincial, national and world championships. Ringette is now played in Finland, Sweden, the U.S., Czech Republic and Russia to name just a few. Canadian teams have travelled to Japan, Australia and New Zealand to demonstrate the sport, and promotions of the sport will soon take place in Norway, Slovakia and South Korea.
Like hockey, ringette is played in a hockey rink and each team is allowed six players on the ice. The lineup is the same as hockey with one centre, two forwards, two defenders and a goalie, and like hockey, the goalie can be pulled to add another attacker. Teams score goals on one another but instead of a hockey stick and puck, ringette is played with a straight stick and a rubber ring.
Ringette is less physical then hockey and two-minute minor penalties are called for boarding, charging, elbowing, cross checking, hooking, tripping, body contact, slashing, interference, delay of game and unsportsmanlike conduct. Major penalties of four minutes are called for slashing, charging, body contact or boarding or anytime the referee believes there was the intent to injure. These penalties last for the full four minutes even if a goal is scored.
Unlike hockey there is no off side. The player is not allowed to carry the ring across the blue line. To advance the ring, the player passes it to another teammate who is already on the other side of the blue line.
Also, unlike hockey, at the competitive level there is a “shot clock.” Thie team in possession has 30 seconds to pass or shoot the ring. If they fail to do so, possession of the ring goes to the other team.
The emphasis of this game is passing and skating skills and team work. There are several levels of play in ringette, starting at under six years of age and going to adult and master (over 35 years of age).
Ringette is a fast paced and intense team sport, especially at the national and international levels. This year the World Ringette Championships will take place on Dec. 29 to Jan. 4. It seems fitting that in this 50th anniversary year, the championship takes place at the birthplace of ringette, North Bay. The winner will take home the Sam Jacks Cup, named after its inventor and strong advocate.
Although they have not been going for 50 years, for the last seven years, the Comox Valley Ringette Association and its dedicated volunteers and enthusiastic players have been enjoying and promoting this sport.
There are two youth teams, the U10 and U14 Comets, and a Masters team, the Cougars. Both teams have ongoing registration and the youth team are open to both boys and girls. As one organizer stated, “Ability to skate not required, ability to have fun required.” Skaters of all abilities are welcome and you can find information for all the teams and contact info at http://www.comoxvalleyringette.com/index.htm
This coming weekend of Dec. 6, the Cougars will be playing in the eighth annual Michelle Vandale Memorial Spirit of Winter Tournament, and on Jan. 10-12, 2014 the Cougars and Comets will be playing in the West Coast Classic tournament on the mainland. In late February 2014, the U14 team will be representing the Island zone in the BC Winter Games in Mission.
This may not be the world championship, and there will be no Sam Jacks Cup, but our local teams will play with heart and integrity, and I’m sure they would make Jacks proud.