Ringette is headed toward the 2023 final buzzer with speed.
The Quesnel Ringette Association is climbing back from the COVID downturn that affected almost every sport. A number of players from this city have earned spots on the region’s rep teams, and a set of provincial championship tournaments are about to take place.
Despite an uncomfortable couple of years, the organization is in a good position for growth, said Quesnel’s representative on the Northern Ringette League’s board as well as vice-president of the local association. Robyn Cassidy is also the mother of two players.
One of them, 16-year-old Avery Cassidy, is on the Zone 8 team with fellow Quesnel player Ivy Sinkinson, 17. They are practicing in earnest for the biggest biennial ringette tournament of them all, in British Columbia, the BC Winter Games.
Quesnel is hosting the 2024 BCWGs, but there is a 2023 edition as well, happening in Vernon from March 23-26. The age rules were suspended, just this once.
“They made the team last year, and because they postponed the Winter Games, they got to keep their spots if they elected to play,” Cassidy said. The rest of the Zone 8 team comes from Prince George.
Apart from the BCWGs, there are Zone 8 Northern Lights rep teams for the U19 and U16 age brackets gearing up for their own provincial tournaments.
“There are three Quesnel girls on those teams, as well,” Cassidy said. They are Taylor McGillivary on U19 squad and the U16s have Tesa Rorke and Elyse Anderson.
“They go to provincials the first weekend in March. The club kids, who don’t play zone-level, have their provincials on the 17th of March.”
Quesnel is part of the Northern League comprised also of Terrace, Houston and Prince George. Jen Wheeler of Prince George was selected to the ringette coaching staff of Team BC going to the Canada Winter Games, which is an indication, said Cassidy, that the whole region is doing well with the sport.
“There is real talent in Quesnel, and the north,” she said. “The kids have worked hard and taken advantage of the opportunities.”
She feels that a strong group of adults to lead the organization is going to soak into better and better player numbers.
“We have an absolutely amazing board. Our volunteers are awesome, we just need more of them. We need to get more kids to come out to try it, because once they do, they’re hooked,” she said, remembering how Avery and younger sister Grace ate it up. “We did a come-try-it and the kids came off the ice saying yes, they wanted to play. We never thought we would be rink parents. We weren’t looking for that. By the time we were two tournaments deep, that’s it, we knew we were going to really like this, and it’s been great, for years, now. That’s what we do. It’s pretty awesome.”
It’s hard to argue with the value, she said. For about $150, a kid gets two ice times per week for seven months. Equipment can be sourced for those with financial constraints. It leaves room in a lot of budgets for travelling, because there are tournaments almost every weekend, depending on how ambitious the player and family.
“It’s a late entry sport, for getting in and learning. You can join ringette at U14 and play competitively within that season. In hockey, you don’t typically start at that age and if you do it’s hard to make it to the rep level quickly. We’ve seen kids join up at U16, U19 and they’re hooked and they have success. We don’t care what your skating skill is; we will teach you how to skate, and we will teach you the sport of ringette. It’s something you can pick up.”
It’s one more way to enjoy the ice, and it might just be the sport that ignites your child. Veteran players will tell you about the lifelong friendships, travel opportunities, personal fitness and social connections.
There is even a group that plays adult ringette on Tuesdays.
“I think one of the challenges is, Quesnel doesn’t realize we’re there, and then they don’t realize it’s a completely different sport than hockey,” Cassidy said. “It’s a great opportunity, and there is also a great community around it, so much support within ringette.”
There is still time to try ringette out, this year. There will also be try-it opportunities in the off-season. Typically, there’s an area at Billy Barker Days reserved for those who want to fire a few rings to see how you can make them fly.
The ringette association’s website and Facebook page can tell you more.