There is plenty of ringette action in Airdrie for fans to check out this winter.
The Airdrie Ringette Association (ARA) is in the midst of a busy 2019-20 calendar, with four marquee tournaments taking place in Airdrie.
“It’s going to be a good year,” said Liz Kusler, ARA’s public relations representative and the head coach of the Airdrie Sting U16A team. “We have a lot of things going on.”
Most recently, ARA hosted its 33rd semi-annual Ring of Fire tournament over the Remembrance Day weekend. The three-day tourney featured 649 players from 49 teams for the U12, U14 and U16 age groups from across Alberta.
The hosting Airdrie Sting had a strong showing at the event, with Kusler’s U16A team earning bronze and both the U12B and U14A teams nabbing silver
“They’re a team that has all first-year players, except for one,” Kusler said of the U14 team. “For them to do that well was really impressive.”
A yearly highlight of the Ring of Fire is when the Ron Ebbesen Arena hosts a National Ringette League (NRL) game featuring the Calgary Rath. Due to so many ringette teams being in town for the tournament, the professional showcase game is always played in front of a big crowd.
This year, the Rath – the defending NRL champion and current leader of the western conference – overcame the British Columbia Thunder 5-3 in front of 250 fans.
Hosting the NRL fixture is an important part of Ring of Fire, according to Kusler, as it provides the young players the chance to watch high-level ringette up close.
“The sport, in general, has been growing,” said Kusler, who has played for more than 35 years. “People thought that once hockey was in the Olympics for females, that ringette would die off, but it actually hasn’t, and it’s been getting stronger all across Canada.”
Airdrie will host the 2020 Alberta Winter Games over the February long weekend, and the games’ U17 ringette tournament will feature lots of local talent. According to Kusler, 10 of the 15 players on the Zone 2 (Big Country) team are either from the city, or play for a local team.
Following the Alberta Winter Games, the second Ring of Fire tournament will be held in Airdrie March 13 to 15. That tourney will feature players under the age of 10.
“We’ve split [the Ring of Fire] up in recent years, because it was getting too big to handle at once,” Kusler said.
The same weekend, Airdrie will host the U14A provincial championships to cap off the busy 2019-20 schedule.
For more information on local ringette, visit airdrieringette.ca