Haley Hill, left, and Arran Arthur are preparing for the World Ringette Championships in Burnaby. Photo supplied

Haley Hill, left, and Arran Arthur are preparing for the World Ringette Championships in Burnaby. Photo supplied

Two Comox Valley women off to ringette worlds

Two Comox Valley women will be participating in the World Ringette Championships, Nov. 25-Dec. 1 in Burnaby.

Arran Arthur will be playing for the team from the Czech Republic, while Haley Hill will serve as an assistant coach for the Americans.

Teams from Canada, Finland and Sweden will also compete in the junior and senior divisions. Canada is the defending junior champion and Finland the senior champion.

“As it grows internationally, hopefully there can be more competition,” Arthur said. “The tagline for ringette is always, ‘The fastest sport on ice.’ When you see it played at worlds, you can believe that.

“There’s such a flow to the game, without body contact. Because there’s a shot clock – you have 30 seconds to get it up the ice — it does really speed things up.”

Canada largely forms its teams from a national ringette league.

“We would be well over the age range, and well below the skill level that they’re looking for, for Canada,” Hill said.

Because she has family members born in the U.S., Hill was able to play with the American team four years ago at the world tournament in Helsinki.

Arthur, who has British citizenship and thus a passport to the EU, spent a few years in talks with the Czech team and the International Ringette Federation to secure a spot on her squad, which mostly comprises hockey players.

“They are very appreciative, I guess, of my 35 years of experience — don’t mind that that means I’m long in the tooth.

“I am so honoured to be playing with the Czech team. They have worked very hard to build the sport in their country and get to worlds. That is something I can relate to on a smaller scale.”

Hill and Arthur both play on a 30-plus masters team in the Comox Valley Ringette Association (CVRA), which consists of five teams.

“It will be very hard for me because Arran and I are teammates, and we have to play against her,” Hill said. “That’s going to be interesting.”

The CVRA started about a decade ago. Besides playing, Arthur and Hill both coach the sport.

“Locally, we have seen a huge jump in numbers this year,” said Arthur, noting a ringette association recently started in Victoria. “Having a team in Victoria is also wonderful because our teams always have to travel off-Island to play. That will make a big difference once Victoria gets going.”

Ringette is a Canadian sport, invented in 1963 in North Bay, Ont. by the late Sam Jacks. There are more than 30,000 players on nearly 2,000 teams across Canada.

Internationally, ringette is played in several countries. Though primarily a female sport, there are more than 700 men playing ringette in Canada.

In order to grow the sport, Arthur said it needs to start at the youth level.

“You need to get a lot of youth players out, so that takes time,” she said. “Once you get those kids starting at age five, and playing the sport all the way up, then you can get the world level players.”

Arthur and Hill both have GoFundMe pages to help offset expenses for worlds: bit.ly/31gtygr and bit.ly/2JzjnOf

They’re also raising funds at a beer and burger night/silent auction, 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Match Eatery & Public House in Courtenay. Tickets are $25, which includes a burger, fries, a drink and a credit at the slot machines. Veggie burgers are available.