A closer look at Richmond Hill Lightning’s Brianna Thompson

Brianna Thompson
Richmond Hill Lightning
Forward #9

How old were you when you started playing ringette?

I started playing ringette in 1991 at the age of 4. After 2 years of figure skating, I decided it wasn’t for me. Both my brothers were hockey players so my mom thought ringette would be a good fit for me. She was right!

Where did you play – name of association?

I began my ringette journey in my home association of Upper Ottawa Valley. Since then, I have played for Ottawa, Gloucester, Nova Scotia, Atlantic Sixers, and Waterloo all before becoming a Bolt.

Ringette memories?

I have been lucky to be a part of many successful teams over the years. Most of my childhood memories are ringette related. I’ve never been good at remembering details of the game or how I played. My memories tend to be the good times with the girls who, for that season, are your second family.

My most significant ringette memory was my 2004/2005 season with the Ottawa Ice. It was my third season with this team. In 2002/2003, we won a silver medal at nationals in Waterloo. To date, I would have to say that was the biggest game I’ve ever played. It was a back and forth battle with Manitoba. The next year, we missed our chance at Nationals with a tough loss in the Provincial finals. We were excited to redeem ourselves the next year at Provincials which took place in Ottawa. All of my family was there to watch, even my grandparents. It also happened to be my 18th birthday. It was the outcome we all wanted that year. We won the gold in front of all of our friends and family. For me, that win was extra special; that was the last time my dad would ever see me play. He was one of my biggest fans. Nationals would be in Winnipeg that year and my dad was taking me. Our travel plans were made and I was so excited to get another chance at a CRC gold. April 2nd, 2005, one week before Nationals and just a few weeks after I won gold at Provincials, I lost my dad suddenly.

Looking back now, I’m so thankful I was a part of that team at that time. Each player made the trip to Pembroke to show their support at my dad’s wake. Going to Nationals a week later was hard, especially alone. My team flew my mom and brother out to be with me. My team had patches put on our Team Ontario jerseys with my number and my dad’s initials. They were an amazing group of people that helped me through the worst time of my life. We won bronze that year.

What was your greatest accomplishment on the ice?

My silver medal at CRCs in Waterloo in 2003. It was the most exciting game I’ve ever played. I’d love to bump it down a notch by winning a gold!

In my rookie year as a member of Waterloo Wildfire, I won rookie of the year for the Eastern conference.

What is your greatest accomplishment off ice?

My education. I’m one of those people that would stay in school forever if they’d pay me. I’m a life-long learner and a perfectionist. Ringette has taught me time management. It’s counter-intuitive, but I believe my academic achievements are largely a result of the countless hours I’ve put into ringette. When all of your weekends are accounted for, you learn to make better use of your time.

What do you do for a living? What did you have to sacrifice to achieve your career goals and your ringette goals?

I’m about to finish my second University degree after 8 years of post-secondary studies. In the spring, I will be a Registered Midwife. Midwifery is the most demanding thing I’ve ever done. Being on call 24/7 is not easy, but catching babies and watching women become mothers is incredibly rewarding. During my first degree, at St. Francis Xavier University NS, I was able to be a part of Team Nova Scotia and then the Atlantic Sixers. This meant driving a 5 hour round trip to Halifax every weekend. It was a lot of sacrifice but I think all ringette players make sacrifices to play. When you love it, it doesn’t really feel like sacrifice. Or at least it feels worth it.

Working as a midwife is not conducive to hobbies in general but I’ve managed to make it work. I have 96h of off call time per month and it all goes to ringette. You don’t get to control when babies are born and they seem to love to come at night, so the biggest sacrifice I’m making at the moment would be sleep. There are games where I’m coming straight from a birth and I’ve been awake for 2 days straight, but I don’t mind. I go to bed happy those nights because that day I got to do my 2 favourite things.

Did you choose to be a forward or did the position choose you?

I’m certainly not a defender! I’m a checker in my bones and it takes everything I have not to just go get the ring when I’m in the triangle. I have always played centre or forward. I guess that position chose me. I can’t remember it any other way.

What other sports did you play at school? on City organized clubs? If you achieved an elite level in another sport, what was it?

In high school I played everything – hockey, soccer, volleyball, basketball, badminton, tennis, golf. As a female athlete, you’re a hot commodity for every team in high school where I’m from. I’m certainly not gifted in all of those sports but the opportunity to be on that many teams is something you can really only do in high school so I took as much advantage as possible.

As far as elite sport, my other passion was soccer. I "played" my first "game" when I was just 2 in a Lollipop League in my birthplace, Brockville ON. The way my mom tells it, it sounds like I spent most of my time picking flowers in my first season. But like everything else my brothers did, I wanted to do it too, so I got better. I think soccer is the perfect way to spend the off-season. I played competitive soccer as the only girl on an all boys team for most of my life. When I was 16, my town put together a girls team. I had always intended to play in University, but realized I’d finally have to choose between ringette and Varsity soccer. I chose ringette.

Why the NRL?

Because I’m just not ready to hang up my skates. The midwives think I’m crazy but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I come to work Mondays covered in bruises and I love it.

If you could change one ringette rule, what would it be?

I’d love to get rid of "move it or lose it." As a player who loves to check, I’m not a fan. The skill of checking is going to go downhill when all you need to is pin someone. I love the battles more than anything. I want to go into the corner and come out with it. I hate the early whistle!

Did you have a mentor growing up who made ringette special for you?

Coming from a small association, I didn’t have a player I looked up to but my family is who made ringette special for me. Even at the age of 26, it’s rare for me to look up in the stands and not see at least one family member. They’re my biggest supporters in all my endeavours. Without a mom who was willing to drive me all over the province and two older brothers who’d shovel off our backyard rink and play ringette with me even to this day, I don’t think ringette would be what it is to me. Playing ringette isn’t a hobby; it’s a lifestyle when you’ve been doing it this long. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who understood and supported that.