A girl and her ring

By Gary Ahuja – Langley Times – January 25, 2008

The first time she watched a game of ringette, Kim Bailey was immediately attracted to the sport.

“It just seemed like a fast, finesse kind of game,” she said.

“I was really drawn to that.”

Bailey was a seven-year-old and the only female hockey player in Vernon when she received her introduction to the game.

“So that is pretty tough when you are seven years old,” she said.

“You get picked on a little bit from the boys so (ringette) was a big attraction for me.”

The push was on to increase the profile of ringette in B.C. so a tour group was going town to town to show what the game offered.

“I was basically hooked right away,” she said.

And the decision to go from hockey to ringette has proved the right one.

Since taking up the game, Bailey has attended 11 national championships at various different levels, winning the bronze medal on three different occasions (1998, 2000 and 2002).

After wrapping up a stellar career at the minor level, Bailey left Vernon for the Lower Mainland in 2001 to further advance her ringette.

She came to Langley one year ago and works as the club co-ordinator for the Langley Boys & Girls Club.

The 25-year-old also remains focused on ringette as she now plays defence for the B.C. Reign of the National Ringette League.

“It has been such a phenomenal opportunity for elite athletes,” Bailey said about the NRL.

“We had really been hitting a ceiling, not being able to get steady competition all throughout the year.”

The problem was especially bad for ringette players in British Columbia who were constantly seeking high-level competition to push themselves.

The NRL can offer that.

The league is split into three divisions — Western (in addition to the Reign, there are six teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), Ontario and Quebec.

The teams only play within their division and the top four from each qualify for the national championships.

The Reign sit sixth in the standings at 3-12 with nine games remaining.

Bailey serves as the team’s captain.

“Kim is a true leader who respects her teammates, their strengths and weaknesses,” said her coach with the Reign, Greg Crowe. He has coached her three of the past five seasons.

He described her as strong-willed, dedicated, intelligent and out-spoken and the type who leads by example.

“Sometimes it can be difficult,” Bailey admitted about the pressures of wearing the ‘C’.

Instead of simply focusing on on-ice play, a captain has much more on their plate. Not that Bailey would trade away her captaincy.

“It can be demanding at times but it is nice to know that you have the respect of the coaches and players,” she said.

Asked to rate herself as a captain, Bailey said her experience helps.

“I think I have strong leadership skills on and off the ice,” she said. “(And) I do have quite a bit of experience having been to so many national championships and having a lot of high-level competition.”

But just because they have a league to play in, does not mean everything is smooth sailing.

For one thing, the players spend a lot of time away from home to play their league games. And with road games comes travel costs.

“It is very difficult especially because there is quite a financial responsibility on each athlete to play,” Bailey said.

Lots of the players are in university and have tuition to pay or are just fresh out of school.

Others also have families, which requires time away.

“He is very understanding,” Bailey said with a laugh about her husband.

“(But) he played junior hockey and lacrosse so he knows what it is all about.”

Bailey could potentially get some help to offset her costs.

She was one of six Langley athletes announced as recipients of the new Growing Champions program (see side story).

“It is such an amazing opportunity to be a part of this,” she said about the program.

“(The funding) will be a huge support to an already demanding season financially.”

Bailey knows that her years in the game are approaching the end, especially once she and her husband start having kids and raising a family.

And while that may signal the end of the playing chapter in her life, it will certainly not be the end of Bailey’s involvement with ringette.

“I am going to be involved in the game for the rest of my life,” she said.

“It is a part of me.”

Coaching is next on the horizon, she explained, either at a high-level or at the grassroots level.

“Kim will make an excellent coach,” Crowe said.

“Her vast experience, high level of skill and passion for the sport will propel her to the top of the coaching ranks very quickly.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Langley’s Kim Bailey, captain of the B.C. Reign of the National Ringette League, is one of six local recipients of the Growing Champions program. The program provides financial assistance to athletes aspiring to compete at the international level. Photo by: Colleen FLANAGAN/Langley Times