Young players and their parents flocked to the Mark Messier Arena on Sunday with a line-up snaking out the door of the building as parents were excited to get their kids on the ice to try out ringette.
The crowd arrived at the rink for a Try-It event hosted by the St. Albert Ringette Association that encouraged kids to give the sport a test run. From all accounts, this large line-up was a sign of how much the sport has grown in the community in the past few years.
Association vice-president Jenn Tosto said they usually expect around a dozen kids on the ice for try-it events such as this, but they smashed that estimation this time around.
“We have almost 45 kids on the ice and usually we expect around 10 to 18,” said Tosto. “We’ve had a fantastic response.”
Tosto thinks the enthusiasm for the event is due to people anxious to get back to normal and have their kids play again after more than a year of the pandemic.
“I think they are excited to get back on the ice and parents want to get their kids active and into team activities,” said Tosto.
Colleen Caldwell, association president, said the sport is on a steady rise in the community.
“Ringette in our community has really grown over the last number of years,” said Caldwell. “Kids see their friends and other girls in the school talk about it and wearing the jackets and the sweatshirts ... some schools even offer it in their gym programs as units.”
She said people in the community are starting to open up to the idea of ringette as an alternative to more physical sports such as hockey and football. While injuries in those sports are commonplace, ringette offers a contactless way to get active and to be part of a team.
Adam Evoy, who has a daughter in the sport, said ringette has a rich history and it is a perfect fit for young girls who don’t necessarily want to go into sports with contact.
“It was initially developed by Sam Jacks to get girls active in sports, which is very important,” said Evoy. “A lot of sports are male-dominated, so if you have a daughter, what sports are available for them?
“This is an ice sport where the players play with a stick, it’s non-contact, it’s very fast — faster than hockey — and it has a huge community.”
While ringette's initial creation focused on getting young girls involved in sports, Caldwell said it has evolved to include everyone.
“Ringette has a higher percentage of girls than boys, but the sport is open to everyone,” said Caldwell. “It offers an alternative to the traditional hockey that not everybody may be interested in.”
Tosto gave credit to event organizers, and said he hopes it will draw in more players before the season gets underway this October.
“It has been fantastic. Our volunteers have been amazing [and] without them we couldn't do something like this,” said Tosto. “They helped it go off without a hitch and hopefully we get some registrations out of it.”
Registration is open for the upcoming season and closes on Sept. 7.