Ringette, a girl’s ice sport

This post describes a little bit what a ringette team is all about. I talk about why we chose to let our young daughter try and play ringette, how it differs (slightly) from hockey, and why we think it’s a great sport for girls (although boys are allowed to join a ringette team up to the age of 10 in our league).

If you have a girl who likes to skate but is a little uncomfortable with joining a boy’s hockey team, or even play hockey on a girl’s team, this post is for you.

Ringette will teach each player how to skate (or improve her skating), how to play the game and follow its rules, how to compete in a relatively relaxed atmosphere, and most importantly, how to have fun with other, like-minded girls of similar age.

In addition, I elaborate each section below with a little bit of a personal perspective, and added some pictures of our own daughter in action. I do hope that it is useful to you.

So please, read on, and let me know if you have anything you might like to contribute.

* * * * *

What is ringette?

Ringette is similar to hockey in that it is an ice sport, but there are a few rules that make it a little bit more inclusive a game than hockey. In hockey, the fastest, most talented player has the puck and often keeps the puck (unless coached to pass the puck). In ringette, passing is one of the rules. Allow me to explain:

When a player has the ring, she can move freely to a point. Depending on her position (centre, forward or defense), she has some restrictions, or none. A defense player cannot skate beyond a certain part of the opponent’s side, for example. Contrary to a centre player, who is free to cover the entire ice, including behind either net. Forwards (wingers) also have some restrictions in how far they can move. But the main point that is different from hockey is that the ring must be passed to another player over the blue lines.

If you cross over the blue line with your ring, you get a whistle. The ring gets picked up by the ref and placed into the non-error making team zone and the game begins anew.

This little rule somehow makes the ringette team work together better. I see the difference clearly because our 11 year old son is in competitive hockey. Hockey players have to learn over many years that passing the puck is essential to the game, yet not everyone learns this skill simultaneously. The coaches spend a lot of time teaching the youngsters to ‘see the ice’ and ‘look up to watch for other players to pass the puck to’.

In ringette, that action is a little more automatic. Once the player arrives at the blue line with her ring, she has to pass it over to another player. It is obviously better to pass it to one of her team mates rather than an opponent. By default, all the players must keep an eye on the player with the ring and move into position to receive a pass over the blue line.

Switching from hockey to try ringette

For our girl, who did play hockey for a year, switching to ringette has been a very good move. She liked the passing rules, and the fact that most of the team was girls similar to her own age.

Almost immediately after starting a couple of years ago, she developed a knack for skating and merged into centre position, where she can skate anywhere without restriction. Stealing the ring from the opponent is her trademark, and the opponent team members notice quickly that this tiny girl is a very fast skater and getting the ring back is going to be a challenge!

The wingers on her line know this about her, and are usually quick to get into position to receive the ring over the blue line.

Let me tell you, my girl gets a lot of heart-beating, sweat-inducing exercise during a ringette game!

Learning ringette in house leagues

Initially, all the girls begin in house leagues (boys are allowed to play on the girls team up to age 10. There are several boys who play on the U10 teams.). During the house league games, the emphasis is to learn the rules, and learn to skate.

In the first part of the season, the coaches remain on the ice with the kids and explain rules to them as they make mistakes. It’s all very relaxed, and the players get a chance to get a feel for the ice, the ring, the players, the positions. Scores are kept, but a differential of 5 goals is maintained (so if one team is a lot stronger than another team, the score board does not show 14-4, rather it would show 9-4, and then 10-5 as the weaker team learns how to score).

As the year progresses and the players become better skaters and gain an improved understanding of the rules, the games take on a more competitive slant. The coaches remain on the benches and teach the kids from there. The crowds in the stands cheer them on and the kids seem enticed by this. It’s fun, and exciting, for both the players and us watching.

Competitive, or select ringette

At the select level, which is competitive, things are even more exciting. The rules are better understood by the players, the skating is much improved and faster, and the battle is on. For our girl, this is her second year in U10 and boy, did she ever have a fantastic time this season!

Chanting, and team spirit

The other difference between the hockey and the ringette is the chanting. Although my son’s team has a hockey chant which they sing on the way to the rink entrance, the girls on the ringette team chant a lot more, and they have different songs too. Plus, immediately before the game starts, each team skates to the opposing side of the rink, and they do a special beginners chant by banging their sticks against the boards. They make a lot of noise and that gets the crowds going, which increases the team spirit. I cannot tell you how fun those chants are to listen to!

This chant below they sing while waiting to hit the ice. One girl (typically mine) starts off with the first line and the team repeats it after her (most teams know this chant, our hockey boy also uses it, replacing it with his team’s name):

Everywhere we gooo
everywhere we gooo
People always ask us
people always ask us
Whooo we aaare
So we tell them
We are the Stingers!
The mighty, mighty Stingers
And if you caaaan’t hear us
We’ll sing a little loooouuuder!


How girls-teams handle losses

It may be interesting to note that girls handle wins (and losses) similarly to the (boy) hockey players. Just like with my son’s team, if there’s a hard loss, there can be (and often are) tears. Sometimes, interpretations made by referees affect the players, both with ringette and hockey teams. What I’m saying is, there can be just as much drama in ringette as in hockey.

But unlike hockey, how the end of the game is handled is different in our organization. The ringette team that wins the game will head to their own dressing room, take off their helmets and gloves, and the march over to the other team’s dressing room. They do a little chant to ‘make them feel better’ (as explained by my own girl-child). It’s kind of a bitter sweet experience, but most teams we play against are more or less equal, meaning that each team has experience some loss(es). This means that all the teams have been the visitors to the other team’s dressing room to ‘make them feel better’ with a chant.

Away tournaments for select teams

The tournament we just completed was held in Niagara Falls. The weather was crappy and cold, so we didn’t venture out much at all, but the girls didn’t care. When we weren’t at the rink, they were in the hotel pool. We had access to a hospitality room where the girls made a banner, and socialized together. We ate meals together, played games together, and had chats with other parents together when the gaggle of girls disappeared into each others’ rooms for movies, or whatever it is that 9 year olds do when they hang together.

Bonus was we made the medal round. We achieved silver, and the discrepancy was only one goal. Needless to say it was a VERY exciting playoff, final game!

(Yes, there was a little crying, but a treat by our amazing coach for some frozen yogurt dried up the tears quickly!)

So why not try ringette with your daughter?

Ringette is a perfect sport for girls who want to learn or get better at skating, and who want to be able to participate in a team-oriented, organized sport. Unlike hockey, ringette gives each player a better opportunity to catch that ring, as passing is a rule and required. The house league schedules are relaxed, and fun, with buzzers signaling equal turns for all players. I recommend this activity to anyone who thinks they might want to be a part of a rink-type sport.

For us, there are two more competitive games (U10) left in the season, as well as two more house league games. Then, we’re off to Regionals in April and that will mark the end of the season. Of course, a banquet to celebrate the achievements will crown off the end of rink time, as the weather gets warmer and kids gear up to play baseball, soccer and tennis.

Do you think your daughter might be interested in ringette? Check out your local teams and drop into an arena when the games are on, so you can get a feel for the atmosphere. If you’re in my ‘hood, drop me a line and I’ll send you our schedule for the remainder of March.




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