Napoleon once said: A leader is a dealer in hope. If this statement holds true, the three captains of the Atlantic Attack have dealt ‘hope’ very successfully this season. With an average age of 23 and a half years, Natacha Bordage, Josée Doiron and Gabrielle Cormier assisted and led an entire team of NRL rookies to achieving all of their goals, while still being rookies themselves. However, you can be sure of one thing, they are just getting started. As the regular season has come to an end and with the playoffs fast approaching, it was due time to catch-up with the remarkable three players who quietly and humbly went about their extra duties and responsibilities as team captains of the Atlantic Attack. Natacha, Josée, and Gabrielle willingly sat down to reflect on their dream season thus far and this is what they had to say:
1. What do you all believe has been the secret to the Atlantic Attack’s success this season?
NB: The team’s determination to prove that we belong in this league and that we can in fact compete with all of the teams in the NRL. One of the biggest qualities we have as a team is the fact that each player truly plays with their heart, which is something that makes a big difference in our games.
JD: I believe our secret is simply being a new team in a league that is very competitive, and very organized. For many of us on the team, that was a first. It was a dream come true for a lot of us to finally have the chance to play in the NRL.
GC: I would say our heart and determination. We did not give up, and even against the best teams we put our game faces on and never gave any team an easy game. When losing, the team pushed until the last minute. At times in the season, the whole team could go through a rough patch, but we helped each other to get back up and fight. Through it all, we stuck together, played with our hearts, and gave it everything we had.
2. What do you hope is the mark that this team has left on the ringette community in Atlantic Canada this season, and what are your goals for the future?
NB: The mark that I hope that this team has left is how ringette truly is one of the fastest games on ice, and that it is an amazing sport to watch and play. I hope that we have inspired girls to play this great sport and have inspired them to dream big and play hard in hopes that one day, they will also be playing in the NRL. Our goals for the future are to continue to inspire girls to play ringette and to help other teams in order to improve ringette all across Atlantic Canada.
JD: I hope this team helped change the mindset that we are no longer "just a team from Atlantic Canada", but that we can compete in this league. We are also a team who never quits until the end of the game. I’ve actually heard other teams call us the ‘work horse’ team. Our goals for the future are to improve our season record every year, and to win a medal at CRC’s. Hopefully, this happens on home ice next year in Fredericton.
GC: I hope we have inspired ringette players in Atlantic Canada to never give up and if you love ringette, you should push and fight for it. I hope we have showed them that anything is possible; look at us competing against the best teams and now going to the playoffs with them! I hope we have opened a door for many ringette players because playing in the NRL is a dream come true.
3. At what point in the season did you realize that the Attack were achieving major success both on and off the ice?
NB: I realized that the Attack were achieving success on the ice when we were all watching a game between two other NRL teams on a road trip, and we were saying how good and fast both teams were. I was thinking to myself, “wow, are we actually fast and skilled like that?” That’s when it really hit me that not only are we as fast and as skilled as others teams in the NRL, but we also ended up being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
JD: I realized the Attack were achieving major success on the ice after our home game weekend in Shediac/Cap-Pele. It was basically mid-season and we realized that if we continued to work hard, we would have a chance for a playoff spot. In January, we really began to focus on our team bonding and that focus off the ice really helped our game on the ice.
GC: There are many times when our success actually hit me. The first time was playing in our home province. I looked at the crowd and saw our fans, our families, and our friends cheering and supporting us. The second time was when I saw all the little girls waiting in line to get our autographs and one girl actually had a poster she had made to show her support for us. These were definitely moments of awe, but the reality of our on-ice success hit me on the 18th or February in Ottawa. We watching two NRL teams playing before our game. In the stands, it seemed as if I was watching two extremely skilled professional ringette teams competing against one another. But, then it dawned on me: This is OUR league, we are here WITH them, and competing AGAINST these players!
4. As leaders of an NRL team, what is the biggest thing to keep in mind to stay competitive through thirty games, and how is playing in the NRL different than playing in other leagues?
NB: The biggest thing to keep in mind through thirty games is to give 100% in all of our practices, all of our gym sessions, and all of our games. We have to remember to take one game at a time and concentrate on what we need to do for this game in order to accomplish great results. Playing in the NRL is different than playing in other leagues because we always need to bring our ‘A-game’. All of the games in the NRL count in deciding where we will stand at the end of the season, and in deciding if we have a chance at competing at CRC’s.
JD: To stay competitive through thirty games, you need a goal. At the start of the year, we set a team goal to win 50% of our games, and to win a playoff spot. Playing in the NRL is different than playing in other leagues because it’s more intense, you need to keep in shape if you want to compete with the other teams, and you need to play with determination.
GC: I can honestly say that this year was HUGE for us. Every game was as important as the last and we had to keep pushing and never give up. In the NRL, I find that it didn’t matter whether the team you were playing against was at the bottom or the top of the conference, and it always came down to who wanted the win the most. This being said, before every game we had to want it. This was hard at times, because some games we thought we ‘should’ have won, but it doesn’t work like that in the NRL, you have to give all of your effort to win. If you don’t play with heart in this league, your opponents definitely will! Finally, the difference in the NRL is the competition. The ringette players we played against this season are relentless and have so much experience, they gave us no choice but to give it our all.
5. What was the biggest surprise for each of you that you couldn’t have predicted in being a new team in the NRL?
NB: The biggest surprise was the amount of fans that we had, and their reaction after watching our games. I loved hearing how people came to watch our games and were amazed at how fast ringette really was, and how good our team is. The fan support has been awesome!
JD: The biggest surprise to me is the amount of games we actually won. To be honest, at the start of the year I wasn’t expecting to be able to compete with some of these other teams, and actually be in the playoffs.
GC: The biggest surprise for me is being where we are now, getting ready for playoffs. It is surreal because every year that I have ever played ringette and gone to Nationals we left being happy to play, but sad for our standings. Now it feels different. We are happy to play the sport we love, but also are so incredibly PROUD of our standings and proud of each other! At the beginning of the year, I knew we were going to have a big year, but it’s still unreal for me to think how HUGE this year really was. This is not only due to the players’ determination, but the support and the help this team had throughout our journey!
6. As you are team captains preparing for your first playoff run, what things can you do to ensure the team will be ready to go on March 10th?
NB: In preparing for our first playoff run, things we can do to ensure that the team will be ready to go on March 10th is to ensure that all of the players stay focused on their training and on our end goal, which is going to Nationals. We can also ensure that the team atmosphere is always positive and that we stay united.
JD: We can ensure that we continue to make more goals. Our ultimate end goal is the NRL playoffs in Burnaby, BC. To get there, we need to make sure every player stays focused and works hard during the next few weeks on and off the ice. The team needs to buy into this VISION and MISSION and if we do, we will be a threat come March 10th.
GC: I think we need to keep the players motivated as much as possible. I think our practices will surely help to get us ready because we work on our plays, our fitness, and our skills as a team. As we are getting closer to playoff time, I think the girls are realizing how this is huge and they will be battle ready!