When Kendra O’Brien joined her first ringette team at age 8 in Canada’s smallest province, there was definitely not 600+ players competing province-wide. In fact, ringette is now so popular that PEI alongside only Saskatchewan and Manitoba, experienced the highest player growth increases in 2014. Finally, after a four year wait, O’Brien and her National Ringette League team; the Atlantic Attack will be visiting this ringette hot bed January 17 and 18th.
Ringette in PEI developed Kendra O’Brien into the ringette role model she is today. When Kendra takes a break from her own competition and training schedule, she often returns to PEI to assist with local practices and development camps. She is even recognized as a ringette star by young admirers outside the rink as they tell their parents who she is. And why should they not recognize her? O’Brien has played ringette from grade 3 to grade 12 in her local house leagues in both Souris and Montague. She has competed in both Atlantic Championships and National Championships. In 2003, she competed in the Canada Winter Games representing PEI in Bathurst, NB. Since beginning university in Fredericton, NB she has played with the UNB Ringette team and also suited up for Team NB at Nationals. She has also attended Nationals as a member of the Nova Scotia open team. In 2004 and 2007, she was an affiliate player with Team Canada. She has competed for the Attack in three out of four seasons in the National Ringette League as a defensive specialist that also has the ability to chip in offensively. With a ringette resume spanning all levels, Kendra will never forget her time growing up playing ringette in PEI. Some of her lifelong friendships came from playing ringette at home. Although, at the time, her province did not fair well in the standings when she competed provincially she says, the heart and determination that they displayed on the ice will always stick with her for the remainder of her career.
It was the people of Prince Edward Island who helped shaped her into the ringette player she is today- lightning quick on her feet, responsible in both the offensive and defensive end, and an all around team player. Particularly, she vividly remembers the influences of former coach Phillip MacIntyre, mentor Marion Clark, and her parents. Phillip was her house league coach during her younger years and Kendra recollects that 25-30 minutes of every ice time would be spent working on skating skills without the ring. She mostly remembers a lot of crossovers around the circles, which at the time likely seemed dull, but now she knows what all of that hard work doing drills did for her skating ability. When Marion joined her Canada Winter Games coaching staff it was a star struck moment for Kendra to be coached by a player who played for Team Canada. Marion taught Kendra many beneficial ringette skills that she still uses today. When Kendra herself made Team Canada she looked to Marion for support. Lastly, Kendra’s parents, Eleanor and Wilfred have been her #1 fans. They have always encouraged her to train harder and push herself outside of her comfort zone when trying out for competitive teams. Both parents have spent countless hours in the arenas and always reinforced team play.
Next weekend, when Kendra and the Attack will compete for a playoff spot vs Le Royal de Bourassa, it will hold a special meaning to her. She has witnessed the growth of ringette in her home province and she has seen some of the local players reach the highest calibre of ringette to date. She has seen PEI become able to compete with the bigger provinces. Kendra hopes the young ringette players on the island next weekend are inspired to work hard and stick with their ringette skills so they too can play in the NRL someday. Maybe soon, Kendra herself will be skating on a line with the Atlantic Attack alongside a fellow Island ringette player who is following in her footsteps!