Ringette was developed in 1963 in North Bay, Ontario, by the late Mr. Sam Jacks. Originally designed to be a unique winter team sport for girls and an alternative to hockey, Ringette has evolved into a fast paced, exciting sport that combines the speed of hockey with the strategy of basketball and lacrosse. The first game played in Espanola, Ontario, was nothing like the sport of today.
Ringette is played on a standard rink. Five skaters and one goalie are on the ice for each team, unless of course, there are penalties being served. The object is to score goals on the net of your opponent. How you do that, however, is where ringette becomes unique. A straight stick, similar to a hockey stick with no blade, is used to pass an 8" hollow rubber ring between teammates.
Play is started by a "free pass", similar to the start of a soccer game. The ring is placed in the half of the center ice free pass circle closest to the visitors' goal. On the referee's whistle, the player taking the free pass has five seconds to pass the ring to a teammate...and the game is on! Any stops in play will result in a free pass to re-start the game, usually in the nearest free pass circle. Some defensive free passes are replaced by a goalie ring, again, like a soccer goalie throwing the ball.
Rules restrict any one player from carrying the ring the full length of the ice (no ring hogs). The ring must be passed over each blue line to another player which means more players are involved in setting up goals. Free play lines define restricted areas in the deep offensive and defensive zones. Teams are allowed no more than 3 skaters at a time in these areas, so over-crowding is minimal. A wall of 5 skaters surrounding their goalie would make for little offensive opportunity, don't you think? There are exceptions to this rule, but only when two or more penalties are being served by one team, or if the goalie has been pulled for an extra skater. Ringette also utilizes a 30 second shot clock to ensure the game is played at a fast pace.
There is no intentional contact allowed in ringette and when it does occur a penalty is assessed. The most common are Body Contact, Tripping and Interference. These are usually unintentional as players focus on checking the ring from an opponent's stick or skating to get to a loose ring first. Most penalties are 2 minutes, but a 4 minute major is assessed for actions that are deemed intentional or particularly rough.
Ringette has become one of Canada's favorite activities for females, with over 50,000 participants, including players, coaches and officals. More than 7,000 certified ringette coaches are registered in the National Coaching Certification Program, and 1,724 registered referees trained under Ringette Canada's National Officiating Program. In addition, there are thousands of volunteers who administer clubs, leagues, and tournaments across Canada.
The growth of ringette at the university level in Canada has been explosive. In the past decade more than 24 universities in Canada have added ringette as a new varsity sport. Annually, the University Challenge Cup determines the best university ringette team in Canada. For more details about university ringette in Canada refer to www.CanadianUniversityRingette.ca
The growth of ringette is continuing internationally with the formation and growth of associations in the U.S.A., Finland, Sweden, Russia, and France. In addition, Canadian ringette athletes have been instrumental in demonstrating the game in the Netherlands, Switzerland, West Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.