Fun on the Ice

Ringette grows in popularity thanks to dedicated players with a love for the sport…

The World Community Film Festival has been bringing films from around the globe to Courtenay for the past 18 years. February 5 and 6, click 2010 sees the 19th annual festival launch yet another exciting weekend of documentary films showing in five venues in Downtown Courtenay.

“It seems that there’s an organic process that happens, remedy ” explains Wayne Bradley, one of the four committee members who chooses the films. “The films we receive for selection seem to reflect the issues we hear people talking about in our own community—how to live sustainably, global warming, healthcare, the economy, farming and finding common ground. Issues such as resource extraction, whether from the Canadian tar sands or Latin America, whether it’s for minerals, oil or exporting water, these are big issues that affect people all round the globe.”

It’s issues like this that many Valley residents and people from as far as Victoria come to find out about. They want to be informed and independent movie making is an excellent source for information. People also want to know about solutions to many problems we experience in our own towns. The festival is a showcase of stories of everyday heroes who have stepped forward to take action, responding to the challenges they see in their world. Those solutions can come from as far afield as Bogata, Columbia.

“To many of us, Columbia is a country filled with drug-running gangsters, and we don’t know of the huge strides being made in its capital city,” Bradley says. “The film, Bogotá: Building a Sustainable City, shows how the mayor of Bogata had a vision for his city. In Bogotá they have an enviable transportation system with bikes and walking being an integral part of it; parks and green spaces are proliferating—it’s marvellous. These people are creating a sustainable city, it’s an inspiration.”

The Film Festival is a vital conduit for information from unusual and alternative sources. Solutions to common problems are being found around the planet and their films share the information and knowledge with us.

Choosing the films is a long process that begins months before opening night. Films make the rounds of the four committee members—Bradley, Janet Fairbanks, Heather Wilkinson and Gordon Darby. Each participant rates their opinion on the cover before sending it on. All the films are chosen by concensus. This is a time-consuming labour of love with the potential to be overwhelming—there are films on many topics most of us don’t want to know about. The committee has to do a fine juggling act between information that is helpful or that they think ought to be more widely known, yet not have the viewers leave with a feeling of helplessness and that the world is a vile place.

“The aims are to unite people and let us see we are facing the same problems, and that there is power in protest, raising one’s voice, getting involved politically, whether it’s writing letters or running for office.

“We’ve never had such a huge choice before,” Bradley says. “With the recent strides in affordable technology, anyone can make a film now. One of our selections comes from Burma and was made by Burmese people with cell phone cameras, or little cameras held at waist-height, during the recent uprisings there. Brave people—and it’s totally riveting!”
Another film entitled Garbage Dreams, was filmed over four years and has won multiple international awards, including being short listed for an Academy Award. Garbage Dreams follows three teenage boys born into the trash trade in the world’s largest garbage village, a ghetto on the outskirts of Cairo and the decisions they are forced to make when globalization threatens their livelihood.

“In these times of wars, financial collapse, and environmental devastation, people everywhere are wondering, is change possible? When you find out what people are doing around the world to help make a positive change, it’s inspiring. Gandhi called it ‘soul force,’ and Martin Luther King called it ‘love in action’—it’s discovering the fierce light of compassionate activism, which awakens the human heart while simultaneously transforming the world.”

Tickets for the festival will be available at the Sid Williams Theatre mid-December, just in time for Christmas. $28/weekend pass and $18 Saturday only. Low-income tickets $12 for the weekend and $8 Saturday; youth under 20 can attend for $3. When not viewing films, festival-goers can browse through the Bazaar, held Saturday in the Upper Florence Filberg Centre, to find info about community groups and have a snack. For a list of films see the program guide at

The Comox Valley masters ringette team takes a break before a recent practice.

The Comox Valley masters ringette team takes a break before a recent practice.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

The air is crisp and the sound of skate blades cutting through ice resonates around the rink as the players rush into the offensive zone. Terry Berger passes to Haley Humphrey, misbirth
who pivots left, viagra sale
cutting around the defender, and shoots, aiming for the top left corner of the net. The goalie slides across the crease and pops up her hand, but she can’t catch the ring before it catches the net.

The players on this inaugural masters’ team come from all athletic backgrounds and they are here to be a part of one of Canada’s heritage sports: ringette.Ringette is a Canadian game that was first introduced in 1963 in North Bay, Ontario by Mr. Sam Jacks. Originally developed for girls as an alternative to hockey, ringette is a fast-paced team sport on ice in which players use a straight stick to pass, carry, and shoot a rubber ring to score goals.

The rules vary slightly from hockey and some of the key differences are that players must pass over the blue lines, body checking is not allowed, and there are only three players from each team allowed in the offensive and defensive zones.

The sport is growing, boasting more than 50,000 participants in less than 50 years. And, according to Ringette Canada, the growth “has continued internationally with the formation of associations in the US, Finland, Sweden, Russia, and France, as well as demonstrations in the Netherlands, Switzerland, West Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.”

The love of this sport began at age 15 for Haley Humphrey, one of the founders of the Comox Valley Ringette Association. “I lived in Burns Lake, way up north by Prince George,” Humphrey says. “The ironic thing was that it was a brand new association too. I was playing on a team with 11-15 year olds and I was the oldest player, so we had to compete at a higher age group.”

It isn’t an easy thing starting or playing with a new league in a small town and Humphrey’s dad, Doug Hill, played a big part in her young ringette life. A concerned look passes over Humphrey’s face as she recalls her dad’s efforts. “The closest team was Fraser Lake, which was an hour away. You can imagine the road conditions. It was pitch black every time we went to a game and the roads were icy and snowy. My dad would drive me to every game and we would lose every game but it didn’t matter. We would even go to Prince George, which was a three hour drive away.”

At that time, ringette rules dictated that players use colored sticks relating to their position. Defence players used red sticks, forwards used blue sticks and centres used white sticks. This meant that ‘red sticks’ could never go into the offensive zone and vice versa for the blue sticks. The rules have since been changed to speed up the play and players may go anywhere on the ice as long as they do not exceed three players in the offensive and defensive zones. Humphrey recalls the “good ol’ days” with a chuckle. “I started when the sticks were colored and I got the red stick, and I wasn’t allowed to go and shoot. That’s probably why I like playing forward so much now. I played for two years in Burns Lake and then I was too old to play on the team so that was it for awhile.”

Humphrey moved to Alberta in her 20s and started her family. Between her second and third child she found a masters team in Hinton and started playing again. “I just loved it,” she says, “and then after my third child was born I started playing full time and competed with the masters team there for eight years.” Before moving to the Island she got her dad to look around for a teams and “it probably would have changed where we moved if I had known that the closest team was an hour and a half away. I was in Comox and the rink was an hour and a half away in Nanaimo.”

Her dedication to the sport prevailed though, and she made the drive down Island once a week for eight years. She was thrilled two years ago when a few of her hockey teammates started playing ringette and she had company for the drive down. Humphrey wasn’t fazed by rain, wind or snow and her face lights up as she explains that “it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, when you love a sport this much you will do anything to get to the rink.”

But it wasn’t enough, and the same thought kept coming up: “I wish I could play in my home town!” Humphrey knew it wasn’t something she could take on herself, though. Jane Mowry, the woman in Nanaimo who started their association, kept encouraging Humphrey to start an association in the Comox Valley, but it wasn’t until she met Ed Harding that Humphrey thought it was possible. “When I met Ed,” she says, “and I knew he was retired but had a passion for the sport too, I thought, ‘Hmmm, this could work.’ We started talking and I told him that I would be right behind him if he wanted to go ahead and work on it.”

Ed Harding discovered Ringette 30 years ago when a Kinsmen buddy in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta asked him to help coach his daughter’s Ringette team.  “I had played, coached and officiated a lot of hockey growing up in Quebec,” Harding says, “so getting back on the ice was a welcome opportunity.”

Ringette was new to Fort Saskatchewan and the previous season, Harding’s daughter was the only girl on a Mite hockey team. Although she gained the respect of her teammates, she was physically way over her head.  Ringette was the perfect alternative. Harding became a ringette official and only stopped coaching his daughter “about the same time all teenage girls seem to drift toward young men. Then I coached my wife’s team for a few years.  My daughter and wife each played for about 15 years.”

The choice to get involved and stay involved with this fine sport has always been an easy one for Harding. “Ringette has offered me the opportunity to remain physically active on the ice as an official without having to deal with the aggressive violence and constant animosity that drove me away from hockey.  Off the ice, I’ve made many friends across western Canada through my involvement in officiating and administration at the local, zone and provincial levels.”

Harding’s ringette “resume” includes officiating, evaluating and instructing qualifications. Three years ago, Humphrey contacted him about possibly coaching and officiating in the annual Masters’ Tournament hosted by the Nanaimo Association (the only registered association on the Island at that time).  He was impressed with the number of other master ringette players who were regularly commuting to Parksville and Nanaimo to practice and play on what was then, the only Island team.

In discussing the differences between ringette and hockey with Harding and Humphrey, it is clear to see that ringette is the preferred sport every time. When I ask Humphrey (who plays both sports) which she prefers, she emphatically replies: “Ringette! There really is no comparison.”

She prefers the age groupings in ringette and the maturity level of the over 30 masters’ team, and finds hockey frustrating at times because even after years of playing she hasn’t seen huge improvements in her technique. Humphrey categorically states that she plays hockey for the ice time and for her skating. “If I could play ringette three times a week instead of once and drop hockey, I would in an instant.”

Other key reasons include her confidence and experience as a ringette player and the fact that once you have the ring on your stick you can go with it. “With hockey it takes my total concentration to keep the puck on the stick, but I know for other players it is second nature. Also, hockey is so much rougher, so much more physical. I like the strategy and the thinking of ringette and the team play. In hockey there are players that skate from one end to the other, shoot, score and no one else touches it. They can play as an individual. With ringette you can’t play it as an individual. You have to play it as a team and I love that.”

Ringette mom and master player, Terry Berger couldn’t agree more. “I love that ringette truly is a team sport. Yes, there are great skaters and shooters, but they can’t do it by themselves because they have to pass over the blue lines and abide by the rules of the zone play.”

Berger’s daughter, Michelle, started playing ringette six years ago in Thunder Bay. She hadn’t skated before, but was intrigued when she saw the game being played at a local arena. She flashes a huge smile and admits that “I didn’t know what the sport was. I couldn’t skate or anything, but it was so much fun! My mom signed me up and my coach taught me how to skate, how to play, what the rules were.” After moving to the Valley, her first opportunity to play was with the regional team put together for the BC Winter Games in 2008.

Humphrey’s daughter, Kyra also had to wait to play again until two years ago when Humphrey decided to put together a team for the BC Winter Games. Humphrey recalls that winter as the “winter of driving” for her practices and her daughter’s in Nanaimo. “That was a crazy winter but we got the team together and went to the Winter Games. Our goal was to score at least one goal but we didn’t do that. The hardest part to prepare for was just to have the kids mentally ready to be beat like that. Most of the teams at the Winter Games had been playing together for 10 years. Our girls had only been playing together for four months!

“We had a figure skater and a few hockey players so they could skate, but it doesn’t make up for the difference of playing the game and playing together. But, we had a great time and we focused on the other fun things happening at the Winter Games.”

Berger, Humphrey and Harding all have the same dreams for the future of the Comox Valley Ringette Association—more ice time, more players and more teams on the Island. Berger passionately explains what ringette and its future means to her and her family: “I believe that team sports build character and gives a sense of self worth.  We need something for our girls besides coed hockey.  Ringette is the perfect alternative.  We are really excited about the sport being available in the Valley and hope it will open up to more age groups in the future.”

Harding agrees. “My dream would be to see vibrant associations formed in more communities in the Island Zone, like Campbell River, Duncan, Oceanside, Port Alberni, and Powell River, so that we could have regular competitions with Victoria and Nanaimo, without the need to travel to the Lower Mainland.  The market for ringette is out there—we just need to do a better job of promoting ourselves.”

Humphrey is also happy the sport is growing, but sees the need for more ice time and players here, if the girls are to do well in tryouts for the next Winter Games team. “The teams in Victoria play at least once a week while our team only gets to practice once every three weeks.”

She is coaching the Winter Games team for the event in March and looking for ways to help the team after that as well. One of the ways the association is promoting the sport and making it more accessible is a floor ringette league starting in the spring. Humphrey emphatically states that her daughter Kyra’s game improved 100-fold after playing floor ringette. “Because there was no skating she could get checking and get in to the ring as fast as everybody else. Everyone notices such a difference this year and it is so good to see that it is all clicking.”

This spring, Humphrey would like to do a youth and an adult floor ringette league.

The interview is winding down and Humphrey is starting to put her gear on for practice. The gear is mostly hockey equipment, although there are lighter alternatives available, specifically for ringette players, and the sticks and face masks have to be approved ringette pieces.

As she laces up her hockey skates, Humphrey explains her vision of the future. “I would love to see players in every age group, from the five-year-olds all the way up to the 65-year-olds. I would love to play until I am that old and I would love to see the young kids be able to join at five.” After a thoughtful pause she adds, “The only way to sustain an association is to get them to fall in love with the sport at that age so that you don’t lose them to hockey.”

The players hop out on to the ice, full of excitement and chatter. There is a tournament this weekend and the newer players are still learning the rules. The convert hockey players are learning to pay attention to those blue lines and the goalie crease—which Ringette players aren’t allowed to cross. It is “Ringette Night” in the Comox Valley and the association is hoping that more players will “tune in and turn up.”

The youth league is open to 7 to 12 year olds and practices on Tuesdays from 3:30-4:30pm at the Comox Valley Sports Centre, Arena #1.  The Masters team is for players 30 and older and practices are Mondays from 10-11pm at the Glacier Gardens Arena.  Both divisions have ongoing registration and are open to girls and boys.

For more information visit

If you are interested in sponsoring a team, the association is always grateful for sponsorship funds. Please contact Ed Harding at [email protected]