by Stephen Dafoe

In the spring of 2014, a Morinville couple had a dream of seeing ringette played on the ice in Morinville. Three years later, and ringette has wrapped up its third successful and growing season.

Morinville residents Andre and Lisa Houle held a Come Try Ringette Event at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre in 2014 and are still parents actively volunteering in the program. In its inaugural season, the 10 to 13 players the Houle family hoped for turned into 20 players. In its second season, that number grew larger, and the third season, which wrapped up with an invitational tournament Mar. 4, saw 23 players on the ice for weekly practices.

“It’s been really good,” Andre Houle said of the third season, noting some players joined and a few left. “We’ve been able to have a very fun year. A lot of the girls we have playing now are coming in and learning a lot. We’re keeping in touch with a lot of the other teams. We don’t have a division, but we do a lot of exhibition games to get local teams within a half hour drive.”

Houle said the ability to play close to home minimizes the commitment time for parents and players. Additionally, practice is only the one day each week.

The program received a two-hour ice slot, allowing volunteer organizers to split the time between older and younger players.

“We’re able to compete at a level with a lot of the other teams around us in other towns,” Houle said. “We have a lot of fun. We emphasize that.”

Capping off the year is the annual Timbits Tournament. The Mar. 4 event brought together ringette players from Morinville, Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan and Spruce Grove to wrap up for Morinville’s 2016-2017 season.

Ringette was invented in Ontario in 1963 and is played throughout the country today. Players carry straight hollow sticks to control a blue plastic ring that is shot into the opponent’s net. The game is similar to hockey in that respect but is more focused on passing than hockey.

Teams consist of 16 to 18 players, and the fledgling sport already has 20 children registered to play, 19 of whom came out to the opening day at the arena.

Looking forward to the 2017-2018 season, Houle and fellow volunteers will be continuing the double block weekly practice slots and providing as many opportunities for exhibition play as possible.

It will be up to parents to decide if and when ringette moves into the Ringette Alberta fold.“Right now we’re really enjoying the program we have and making sure the girls enjoy the time they have,” he said.

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