When I started playing ringette in the small town of St. Benedict, SK at the age of eight, I never would have imagined that I would be playing for Team Canada one day. Seventeen years later I am proud to say that I have played alongside the best ringette players in Canada and am now a World silver medalist. This is a story about my journey to the World Championships and my amazing experience at this event.
My adventure began in September of 2006 when I attended a regional camp in Winnipeg. The next camp took place in January of 2007, followed by a camp in May at which the final 22-player roster was selected. I was ecstatic to find out that my name was on that list. I had incurred a knee injury at Nationals in April; therefore my first goal was to work hard to recover so that I could start training. By the middle of June I was ready to take on the training program full force. What followed was four months of intense work-outs that at times I thought were going to be the death of me, but the thought of having a gold medal placed around my neck always gave me the drive to push myself to the limit. When the middle of October rolled around and I was on my way to Montreal for centralization, I felt ready – an entire year of preparation and the time had finally come to put it into action.
Centralization took place during the week prior to the World Championships. It was great to see the team and there was a lot of excitement in the air. The week consisted of practices and inter-squad games, and culminated with an exhibition game against our main rivals – Finland. Our team wore pink jerseys and gloves for the game, which were auctioned online in order to raise funds for breast cancer research. Pink has never really been my colour, but I was proud to be supporting such a great cause. The game did not end in our favour as we lost 7-4, but the energy in the rink was amazing and it gave me a taste of what was to come at Worlds.
After the exhibition game we headed to Ottawa, and that was when it hit me that the event I had been preparing for, and always seemed so far away, was finally here. From the day we arrived we were treated like professional athletes and the way we were embraced by the ringette community was incredible. The streets surrounding the Civic Centre were lined with banners of each player’s picture; the ice was ringette-specific (i.e., any lines that didn’t pertain to ringette were removed); there was a lot of media exposure, including TV and radio interviews; and at every one of our games we were greeted by numerous enthusiastic young players asking for our autographs. I felt like a rock star. We were all rock stars. The love and support we received from the fans is something I will never forget. I was also fortunate to have my parents attend the event and I was very grateful to have my biggest fans there to give me a hug after each game.
My routine for game days was as follows: morning skate (where we were free to work on whatever we wanted), lunch, team meeting to go over strategies, afternoon nap, dinner, then off to the Civic Centre for the game. After settling in we did an off-ice warm-up as a team and then we got dressed and hit the ice for the on-ice warm-up. It almost felt surreal to be stepping onto such a big ice surface in front of so many people. We went back into the dressing room after warm-up where the coaches gave us a pep talk and went over the basics, and our mental skills trainer guided us through mental imagery accompanied by Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best.” After that we did a team cheer, and then it was go time! The games were exciting and intense and I enjoyed every moment of them, both on the bench and on the ice. This was the big show and I was living the dream.
The final game was the moment I had been waiting for and I couldn’t wait to hit the ice. The game was action-packed and definitely a crowd pleaser. I remember glancing at the crowd during a stoppage in play to witness 5,500 ringette fans doing the wave, and it sent chills up and down my spine. The atmosphere was electric! We were up by one goal with just over a minute left but couldn’t quite hold on and Finland scored to tie the game up. Overtime. As the buzzer sounded to end the game I couldn’t believe it. Going into overtime in a big game was something I had seen on TV but had never expected to experience for myself. As most know, this story ends with a heartbreaking overtime goal that gave Finland the World title, but I could not have been more proud of our team regardless of the colour of our medals. As we skated around the ice saluting our fans, I realized that the journey was over and that it did not end with the much-desired gold medal. However, as I skated off the ice amidst the sound of 5,500 cheering fans, I knew in my heart that win or lose, it was a good day for ringette in Canada.