The Waterloo Wildfire of the National Ringette League kicks off it’s 6th season this weekend with games Saturday in Whitby (1st year expansion team) and Sunday in Richmond Hill.
The Eastern Conference of the NRL has been restructured this season as the result of new teams in Whitby and Gatineau.
The Wildfire and Cambridge Turbos are in the Southern Ontario Division with Richmond Hill and Whitby. The Montreal Division has teams in BLL, Lac St-Louis, Montreal and Rive Sud while tha Capital Division includes Ottawa, Gloucester, Gatineau and Quebec City.
Teams will play a 31-game schedule with 5 games against each team in their own division and a home and away game with each of the other 8 teams.
There are also 6 teams in the Western Conference with teams in the 4 western provinces.
Each division will be hosting a tournament-style weekend again this year after a successful trial last year. Waterloo will be hosting the other teams in the Southern Ontario division as well as the 4 teams from the Montreal Division the weekend of January 16 -18 during the annual Waterloo Winterfest Ringette Tournament. Each Southern Ontario team will play each of their Montreal Division opponents in a 4-game weekend for each of the 8 teams.
Waterloo expects to qualify for the playoffs this season, relying on 11 returnees and 4 rookies including rookie centre Bryanna Kelly from the Hamilton Belle AA’s, the first pick overall in this summer’s S. Ont draft and a second year student at Laurier. The Wildfire also expect to be stronger in goal, having as their second draft pick, goalie Amanda Voisin of Elora to back up veteran backstop Lisa Malanka. Voisin was the team Ontario backup goalie at the last Canada Winter games.
Kelly also has Kitchener connections as her mother, Bonnie (nee Wilfong), a new assistant coach with the Wildfire, grew up and played her minor ringette with the Kitchener Ringette Association.
The Waterloo squad will have one more road game next weekend with a Sunday clash in Cambridge before opning their home season the following weekend on Saturday November 1 at 7:30 pm at Moses Springer Arena in Waterloo in a return match with their Waterloo Region rivals, Cambridge Turbos.