Technical Corner

Ringette on the Eve of Turning 60

May 2022

As ORFA celebrates our 75th anniversary, we look back at some of the highlights of how recreation facilities helped shape active healthy lives across the province and beyond.

Sam Jacks, a recreation director and sports enthusiast from North Bay, Ontario, invented ringette in 1963 when he saw the need for a winter team sport for girls. Interestingly enough, Sam Jacks was also responsible for the development and introduction of floor hockey in 1936. Mirl (Red) McCarthy was another key person in the development of the sport in its earliest days, he was responsible for organizing the very first ringette game ever played. Red wrote the first rules of ringette and was the individual to recommend stick colours to identify positions. Red worked for many years with the local association in his hometown of Espanola, Ontario. Red was a key figure in many sports and youth activities in Northern Ontario and was the Recreation Director for Espanola for 41 years.

While it is primarily a female sport, there are males playing ringette across the country. Internationally, ringette is played in a number of countries around the world, including Finland, Sweden, the United States, France, Slovakia, Russia, the Czech Republic, and United Arab Emerates. Ringette, like hockey, is played on ice with skates and sticks with six players per team on the ice at once. The objective is to score goals by shooting the object of play into the opposing team’s net at either end of the rink during stop-time periods of play. But this is where the comparisons between ringette and hockey really end. The stick is straight. The object being pursued by the players is a rubber ring, not a puck. There is no intentional body contact. And the rules of ringette make it a wide-open and dynamic sport. The emphasis is on playmaking and skating skills. Players cannot carry the ring across the blue lines on the ice. Only three players from each team, plus the defending goalie, are allowed in the end zones at the same time, which keeps the play open, puts a premium on sharp offensive moves, and requires defending players to skate close to their opponents. These features of the game demand the development of keen skating skills that give ringette players fantastic skating speed and agility. In 2000, a 30-second shot clock was introduced to make the game even faster.

Since 1990, a world ringette championship has been held on a regular basis, with Canada and Finland being the predominant challengers. Over the years, ringette in Canada has noted many achievements and accomplishments. These include the establishment of a Hall of Fame, which recognizes outstanding ringette achievements and contributions to the development of the sport; the introduction of a successful junior and senior National Team Program; the development of programs such as the National Coaching Certification Program and the National Officiating Certification Program; the development and implementation of a comprehensive Long Term Athlete Development model and a Come Try Ringette recruitment system; and an expanding National Ringette League. Ringette tournaments abound. There are local and regional invitational tournaments throughout the season. University teams play competitively across Canada. Most of the provincial and territorial associations hold an annual championship tournament. Ringette has had a presence at the Canada Winter Games since 1991. And the Canadian Ringette Championships have been held every year since 1979. [More

Those who provide ice sheet recreational opportunities in Ontario’s recreation facilities will be challenged to ensure that these facilities are scheduled to maximize their value and ensure a return on investment. For parents wanting a sport that limits physical contact at every level, ringette promotes a no-contact policy when it comes to the physical aspect of its game. Penalties are given when a player, makes excessive body contact with another player, checks a player too high on the stick, trips, hits or interferes another player. While players must wear a neck guard, elbow, knee, and shin pads and equipment that provides hip, and tailbone protection, and helmets with full-face mask are mandatory. The players masks must have triangular or tight horizontal bars to prevent the ringette stick from penetrating.

There are some additional ice markings requirements that make the game slightly different then traditional hockey [More]. Both Sam Jacks and Red McCarthy were active members in the Northern Ontario Recreation Directors Association that the Ontario Arenas Alumni Association past chair, Bud Stanley was also chair. 

Recreation facilities continue to play an important role in every community’s social network. Regardless how technology continues to evolve, the reality of the need and benefit of physical activity will always have a place in individual mental, social and physical well-being. ORFA shares our best wishes to Ringette on their “60th Anniversary” and know that our members look forward to working together for years to come.

Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Technical Director, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association

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