Airdrie ringette product Kennedy Rice is living the dream at the moment, after successfully trying out for the Calgary RATH.
The 19-year-old W.H. Croxford High School alumna will play for the RATH in the National Ringette League (NRL) this upcoming season, which gets underway in October.
“I’ve watched that team for quite a few years – since I was younger – so I've known I wanted to try out ever since I was in U12,” said Rice. “When I was in U19 [last year], I got in contact with the coach and he gave me the chance to try out.
“It’s pretty incredible. I know a lot of the girls already, because some of them, I’ve even been coached by them. It’s crazy how different the game feels when you’re playing at that high of a level. It almost elevates you, so I think it’s going to be a few big improvement years for me.”
Rice grew up playing for the Airdrie Ringette Association, before progressing to Zone 2 (Big Country) – a AA ringette association for high-level players from Airdrie, Cochrane, Strathmore, and surrounding areas. She was a two-time national competitor for Zone 2, playing at the U16 AA ringette nationals in 2018 and 2019. Her performance at the 2019 tournament was good enough for her to be named to the tournament's all-star team.
The Airdrie native also competed on home ice as a member of the Zone 2 team during the Alberta Winter Games in February 2020, when Airdrie was the host city.
The NRL is the highest level of ringette in Canada, featuring senior women's teams from across the country. As a member of the RATH, Rice will mostly play against teams from Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg in the league's western conference. The league also boasts an eastern conference with teams from Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.
While she's travelled for ringette plenty of times in the past for her minor career, Rice said the NRL comes with even more travel.
“We practice out of Calgary and then our league games are called ‘hub’ weekends,” she explained. “Our first hub weekend is in B.C. Then we’ll play a couple of games in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan...There’s also a hub weekend in Edmonton and Calgary as well.”
She added she's looking forward to the bigger attendances that are associated with the NRL, and an added layer of professionalism.
“Personally, I like the pressure of having bigger crowds,” she said. “It’s not as much of a distraction as you’d think. I experienced that in nationals a few times – the stands get pretty packed. I think the energy is really great and think it really brings up the team and helps them play better when they can feed off the crowd.”
With her minor ringette career behind her, and now taking to the ice with and against some of the top senior ringette players in the country, Rice said her priority for her rookie NRL season is to continue developing as a player and getting accustomed to the faster pace of the national league.
“Definitely at the start of the season, I feel it might take a bit of getting used to the speed and the skill level,” she said. “There are girls I’m playing with who are nine, 10 years older than me. It’s a whole different ball game. I also just want to develop, especially for the first half of the season. I want to build off of what I learned in U19.”
In addition to her upcoming season with the RATH, Rice will be a member of Alberta's ringette team at the 2023 Canada Winter Games in P.E.I. next February.
Still living in Airdrie, she's also in her second year of a biology degree program at the University of Calgary.