I can remember in 2003 (my first season as an Open AA player) the year before the NRL was created. With enough players to make a roster, but not enough to make formal cuts, the team moved ahead. I felt young and was inflated with a false sense of maturity coming off a Canada Games season and three years in Belle. Nonetheless- I was playing with some of the best the game had ever seen- Lisa Brown, Jodi Jensen (Gach), Stacey McNichol, Jody Black (Nouwen), and Jenny Cook. These women who used to coach me at the Oval Ringette School in the 90’s, were now my teammates. I remember thinking at the time- I’ll only be playing for a few more years- I will never be around as long as some of these women.
The following season I began coaching bunnies full time while playing with Calgary RATH in the first season of the NRL. I still couldn’t believe Lisa Brown was playing (Lisa, if you’re reading this- I love that you are STILL playing!). Two more seasons followed and I got a phone call asking if I would be interested in coaching Tween AA. I thought to myself at the time- “I am not qualified to coach kids over 6 years old! What advice to have to offer them about a game that I am likely not going to play for much longer?”
I joined the team after returning from a semester abroad. I was so excited to be back in the arena, back on the ice- and I had a captive audience in this group of 12 year olds who would listen to me. I remember telling these girls about National Championships, Canada Winter Games, and now, the National Ringette League. All of these platforms for a sport which I was beginning to fall in love with again while watching the young ladies I coached discover their passion for this game.
I realized then, that ringette was so much more than something I had done for years on end since I was 6 years old. It was the place I met my best friends. It was the place that taught me to be committed. It was the place that I learned that sometimes even the best teams aren’t successful. It was the place I learned that girls need role models. And more than anything, I realized that I would be just like those women I played with my first year in Open AA- I would be playing until I couldn’t any more.
What is special about Calgary RATH this season, for me personally, is that it is the culmination of everything ringette has ever provided to me. Amelia Hradsky and I met playing in South Calgary in 1990; we have won two National Championships together. Abbey Van Roekel has been my Captain every year since I was drafted as a Tween AA in 1996. Jodi Gach and Trina Janssens coached me to a National Championship in 2001 in Moncton, NB- a year that Jodi and Trina won a gold medal as athletes as well with the Calgary Intermediate AA Extreme. Robyn Fraser and I won a bronze medal together as teammates on Team USA at the 2002 World Ringette Championships. Victoria Russell and I represented Team Alberta together at the 2003 Canada Winter Games in Bathurst-Campbellton, NB. Alex Saizew, Carolina Romeo, Christianne Varty, Emily Webb and Shaundra Bruvall were all there that year I realized what ringette meant to me- I coached them as Tween’s in 2005. I won my first Provincial Gold and Western Canadian Silver as a Coach with Nadia Izzo, Nicole Prokop, Lindsey Kee and Shaundra Bruvall in 2007. In 2009, Dallas Robbins and I became business partners, doing what we love- coaching ringette with BILT RT. In 2010 Bobbi Mattson and Brea Beck came into my life as the most dynamic goaltending duo I have ever had the pleasure to play in front of, and taught me the value of my ringette family.
Calgary RATH holds a special place in my heart this season. It is everything that ringette has provided to me as a person, and to be on a team where every woman has had an instrumental part of my ringette journey is a phenomenal feeling. Ten years ago I would have never dreamed of this moment, but now that I am here, I know it’s where I am supposed to be.