Atlantic Attack rookies are literally going the distance

Atlantic Attack rookies Kirsti Mason and Ashley Hollis are making sacrifices to pursue a National Ringette League career as they cross their provincial borders just to attend games and practices. Mason from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia has competed in 22 games this season and has contributed for 9 goals and 27 assists (36 points). Defence Hollis from Stratford, Prince Edward Island recently scored her first NRL goal and chipped in 4 assists so far this season. The successful future of the Attack (based out of the Moncton area of New Brunswick) depends on the younger players coming up through the Atlantic Canadian ringette pool. Hollis and Mason are a testament that combining forces of these provinces leads to great results. We asked Mason and Hollis, who are very proud of where they are from, to tell us about their experiences in their rookie year.

                    

1. How have the Attack veterans helped with your transition to full-time playing time in the NRL?

MASON: I have been playing against these players for a majority of my ringette career. So, at the beginning of the season, I was a bit nervous for the transition. Fortunately, every member of the team has been very welcoming. It made the transition a breeze! They are all very fun, supportive and passionate about the game. They provide a positive atmosphere that I enjoy being a part of, and I am really looking forward to the rest of the season with them. 

HOLLIS: They have welcomed me fully as a rookie player and have extended all the patience required to help me gain knowledge of how the game of ringette is played at this level. The team has totally welcomed me into their ringette "family" not just on the ice but, off the ice as well. My teammates always make sure I have a place to stay since I am from out of town, and they provided me with any other supports that I may have needed in my first year. They never once patronized me because I grew up playing ringette in PEI and they also never assumed that I understood all the different plays and approaches to the game that most of the players were used to being from New Brunswick.

2. What were your impressions of the Atlantic Attack before you joined the team?

MASON: I was an affiliate player for the Atlantic Attack for a couple years, so I knew a bit about the team. From the few games I played with them, my impression was that they were a young, hard working team with a lot of grit. I knew that the Attack was a new team, but capable of competing with all teams in the league. The Attack have always played with a lot of passion and a will to win that I have always admired.

HOLLIS: In PEI, the NRL has a very high regard. Players are very aware that it is an extremely high level of ringette. Ringette NB, including the Atlantic Attack, have been very supportive of Ringette PEI. The Attack have come to play games in Charlottetown and the local people were able to see ringette played at that high of a level.
As I got older, and continued playing a high level of ringette, I started to plan on playing for the Attack. It was my goal for after the Canada Winter Games. Ringette PEI is a small community and all the players knew that Kendra O’Brien played for the Attack. Her name is one of the stronger names that have come from the PEI association. It greatly helped me having one player already calling PEI their home. It gave me the awareness that this was not just a team for NB but for ringette athletes from any of the Atlantic provinces. Kendra has been a great support and role model for me, and she has been positive and encouraged me this year. 

3. Being geographically located in a different provinces, what types of sacrifices have you made to play on the team this year?

MASON: I have had to make a few sacrifices to play on this team, but I can happily say that without a doubt, every sacrifice has been worth it. It can be difficult to be a full-time engineering student when playing in the NRL. Since the new year, I have been on a co-op work placement in Wolfville, which is about an hour away from my hometown. Every Friday, one of my family members drives down to pick me up to bring me back home, or to the airport. Every Saturday that we do not have games, I drive three hours to practice and three hours back, followed by another trip back to Wolfville. I am lucky to have a supportive family to lend me their cars, or join me for the drive when we get hit with a snow storm, or when I want to make use of the car ride to study. Even though I spend most of my weekends in a car, I would do any thing to achieve our team’s goal of making it to the Canadian Ringette Championships.

HOLLIS: First of all, it was my decision to remain on PEI and travel back and forth from the island (PEI). I don’t regret my decision. The calibre of teams in this league is amazing and I was not going to let the distance be the one obstacle keeping me from the opportunity to play with this team in such an elite league. Personally, for me, there are financial and time costs due to living in PEI. It is a 2 hour drive to our home games and our practices and I have to add on the cost of my mileage and cost of the Confederation bridge fee. 

4. What do people in your home province say about your participation in the Attack and how do they support you?

MASON: The support from Nova Scotia is incredible! I believe that being a Nova Scotian on a NRL team shows my home province that there is a possibility to continue playing elite ringette after U19 or Canada Winter Games. I have had many people from Nova Scotia say they have been following the games, they wish us the best of luck, and how they can’t wait to see how we finish off the season. Some people from my hometown are big Attack fans that even have our player cards and winter touques! It is nice to receive support from my home province and it inspires me to play for them. I have had a few interactions with Attack fans and have had the opportunity to lead some practices for a few Nova Scotia teams. Every team knows about the Atlantic Attack and love to hear about my time as an NRL player. It is great to know that Nova Scotians are more aware of the NRL and I believe the exposure to this level of ringette is a great way to promote the sport.

HOLLIS: Ringette PEI is very important to me and I will always try my best to stay connected with the Charlottetown Association as well as Ringette PEI. I maintain my contact by both coaching at the recreation level and refereeing at both recreation and provincial ringette levels for Ringette PEI. I have received a wealth of confidence throughout the ringette community, and there have been several articles in our local paper ‘The Guardian’ about the Atlantic Attack because Kendra O’Brien and I are both from PEI. Ringette PEI has also financially sponsored Kendra and I to play this season to cover some of the costs associated with playing. Ringette PEI considers the Attack their NRL team too.

5. Anything else at all you would like to say about your first full year in the league?

MASON: I am absolutely loving my first full year in the National Ringette League. Our team has bonded so well and worked so hard. I am eager to see what else we will achieve this season.

HOLLIS: As the regular season comes to an end, I realized how much I have learned. My team has embraced me so much. They have literally opened their homes to me. As well, they encouraged me to play at the best level I can. From the moment I came to tryouts for the first time in September, I have felt that this team was totally open to the possibility to having players from PEI and NS being able to join the Atlantic Attack family.