This 2016-2017 season, the Calgary RATH are excited to welcome not one or two, but six rookie players to their roster. Tori George, Madison Bonsel, Ellen Hoban, Rickey-Lee Devries, Terese Mazurkewich, and Leah Wells have joined the RATH this season, bringing with them years of ringette experience, a desire to learn, and a tenacious drive to compete in the NRL.
These players have all played at least 10 years, and in one case a new rookie brings 22 years of experience to the table. When asked if they had always known they wanted to play for the RATH, most of the players replied that they have wanted to play for the RATH as long as they have been playing at the AA level in Calgary. An exception to the rule, Rickey Devries commented that the desire to play in the NRL was a more recent development. “I was having fun playing for the University of Calgary, and I bounced around a few other times in the A league,” she said of her seasons before joining the RATH. Terese Mazurkewich, on the other hand, is no stranger to the NRL, having watched her cousin, Christianne Varty, play in the league before her. “I’ve known I’ve wanted to play RATH for the past couple of years,” she shared. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching my cousin, Christianne, and her friends play for RATH. Watching this team play at this level, and hearing stories of how much fun they have off and on the ice, has made me want to be part of this team.”
The transition from U19 AA and the Open A leagues to the NRL level is not easy or instantaneous though, and each rookie player had their own ideas of what presents the biggest challenge. Leah Wells told us that her biggest adjustment was the technicality required to play in the NRL. “Thinking body positioning, angles of cuts, and anticipating the play better than I have before. My style has become a lot more strategic.” Defenders Tori George and Madison Bonsel, as well as goaltender Ellen Hoban, all commented on the speed of the game, and the quickness with which the ring is moved around the ice. Madison also added that the attentiveness required, especially as a defender, is a big adjustment from the U19 division.
While each player has faced off against teams from all over Canada, the teams in the National Ringette League represent the best of each city, region, and province. We asked these players if there were any teams in particular they were looking forward to playing against, and true to their diverse backgrounds, their answers were equally varied. Rickey Devries told us that she was excited to play teams from outside of Alberta, who would provide more diverse competition than her recent seasons. Leah Wells expressed a desire to play teams from the Eastern Conference, stating, “from my time playing AA for Calgary, I have noticed the teams out East have a slightly different style of play. I’m excited to see how NRL has developed their play even further.” Madison Bonsel shared, “I’m excited to play all the teams in the West, but WAM! games are ones that I really get excited for.” Tori George told us she is looking forward to playing against Manitoba Intact. “They’re a fresh face in the league this year and no one has played them. I’m excited to see what they’re made of.”
Lastly, we asked each rookie what playing for the RATH, and in the National Ringette League, meant to them. Leah Wells and Terese Mazurkewich both felt that joining the RATH’s roster this season meant that a lot of their hard work over the past few months, even years, had indeed paid off. As Leah Wells told us, “my hard work does pay off… may not be in the moment, but in the end, it all worked out.” Ellen Hoban sees it as an opportunity to learn from the best and improve her game, while Tori George views it also as an opportunity to be a role model for younger girls playing our sport.
The six rookie players joining the RATH this year will no doubt add a lot to the team’s energy, and Bobbi Mattson, long-time RATH veteran, put it into these words: “This is my 10th year with the Calgary RATH and I have played with a lot of outstanding rookies. But there is something special about this rookie group. There seems to be no quit in them. They just seem to grind every practice, every game and make the most of every opportunity. It’s a contagious energy among our team. And I’m excited to see them grow throughout the season.”
We could not agree more, and as the RATH gear up for a front-loaded first half to their season, we are excited to welcome these new players to the team, and cannot wait to see them grow, compete, and succeed.