Well, this is year number ten for the NRL. There have been ups and downs, but we have had more ups, more often. This summer was arguably the roughest in league history with the loss of BC Thunder, Prairie Fire and Cyclones de Quebec, but one from which the league can more than recover. Also, the condensed West means that more crossovers between East to West will create more interesting matchups all winter long.
Other than the interesting season long battle to get to Regina and the NRL Championship, there is the small matter of the World Championship in mid season. Canada will be hungry and ready to face the Finns to bring back the Jacks trophy – back to Canada and back to North Bay. Every decision, every action and every analysis of this NRL season will be filtered through “how does this affect worlds?” from now right through the end of the gold medal series at the North Bay Memorial Centre.
So, on to the Ten Things that we think we think as this NRL season gets into full swing:
1. I think that ten years is a long time. In the ten years since the NRL was formed, the following leagues have come and gone (not a full list!):
● The Xtreme Soccer League (someone actually thought Xtreme soccer would be awesom-er than non Xtreme soccer, I guess)
Starting a league is….. hard. And ten years in the work is not getting lighter, it is still hard, but the fact that we still have an elite league for our best players to play, really says something about ringette.
2. I think that these are my all-decade players. I also think you will probably disagree with me. I also also think you might be right when you do so. Think up your own list. Tweet it, share it, camp out below an underpass and mutter it to yourself. If you have been following closely enough for these ten years to form a strong opinion you are A-OK in my books!
3. I think the all-decade goalie is Keely Brown of the Edmonton WAM! She won big games over and over for that team. When the team was really strong (like the juggernaut in 2004) she made timely saves. When the team was a surprising contender (like in 2010 and 11) she stole games. Either way, she was always there.
4. I think the roster of defenders is tough to pick. If the NRL had started five or so years earlier, I would for sure pick Alexis Snowdon, but she had a limited time in the league before retiring. We are also facing the Jackie Gaudet conundrum. Is she D, F or C, or all of them? I just don’t know. So, with that problem acknowledged, I think the all-decade defenders are Colleen Hagan of the Gloucester Devils who has been an untiring force for the Devils, not only in the NRL, but since she was a Bunny. Also, Dallas Robbins of the Calgary RATH who has been the rock that the RATH have leaned on through ups and downs, and most recently, ups.
5. I think that the forwards get even tougher. But here is an easy one, Catherine Cartier. She has scored, and scored, and scored and scored. There is just no end to the goals she has produced as an NRL player over years. She has scored a mind blowing 486 goals (which means, based on her career average, she should score goal number 500 on November 3, versus Cambridge. The goal should come about the 1:00 mark of the second quarter for those who are into ridiculously precise predictions!). Cartier’s centre, Julie Blanchette also needs to be a member of this group. Finally, I think that Jackie Gaudet goes here too. She has been dominant in the league, in more than one position, and has been at times the best player in the world.
6. I think that this pre-season article reminds me of this gem on the NRL website in 2005. Comparing the WAM to the Yankees was prescient, don’t you think? (Also, the WayBackMachine is just a super cool thing).
7. I think that the best game (I saw) in NRL history was at the 2005 championships in Winnipeg. The day was weird. A leaky roof at one rink and an over-zealous zamboni driver at another had left the tournament with zero playable rinks for a good part of the day (long story). So, the Edmonton WAM! vs Edmonton Edge games started at about 11:30pm. When all was said and done, and Megan Todd had scored in overtime (after a goal very late to tie it) the WAM! had dodged a bullet, it was 12:45 in the morning and everyone at the rink was grateful for the chance to have seen such an incredible game.
8. I think that there have been so very many unsung heroines and heroes that have made the NRL a reality. Jim Dawson, George McKenzie, Steve Hutchison, Will Hoes, Harry Todd, Brian Timmerman, Linda Lugg, Glen Gaudet, Maurice Jean, France Levert, there are too many to list (and I’ve certainly left off more than a few) and they have all done incredible things behind the scenes to make the NRL all that it has become.
9. I think that there has been a lot to be proud of in the NRL. One thing we could do over again? I think it would be the name Hix with Stix; the worst team name in the history of teams or names.
10. I think that future issues of the Ten Things will look forward more than back. Hope you enjoyed the walk down memory lane as much as I did.
These are my non-NRL thoughts:
a. I think the fact that a Volkswagen Touareg is travelling across the country to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ringette is absolutely epic. If you get the chance, make sure you check out one of the roadshow stops near you: www.ringette50.ca/#!road-show/c1g94
b. I think the host committee for the World Ringette Championship in North Bay is doing an amazing job getting people hyped for the event. For example, check out this video of the Sam Jacks trophy arriving in North Bay http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJDstSZDO7o&feature=youtu.be or the one with the Three Amigos at the local Farmer’s Market discussing ringette: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSx8C58au4Q Also, if you take a glance on their website, you will see some really great media coverage about Team Canada and the event: http://worldringettechampionship2013.com/media.php
c. I think it was amazing to see Catriona LeMay Doan participate in the Legends Game http://www.ringette50.ca/#!legends-game/c1kla in late September. Catriona is a world-class athlete and says ringette gave her a great start to her speed-skating career and also believes ringette is a sport for life. You can check out some pictures from the game here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ringettecanada/sets/72157636052215903/