While ice hockey generally takes centre stage in Airdrie’s arenas all winter, another sport will have its turn in the spotlight Nov. 9 to 11, when 465 ringette players will converge in the city for the 32nd semi-annual Ring of Fire tournament.
Put on by the Airdrie Ringette Association (ARA), the tournament will feature 35 ringette teams from across Alberta and Saskatchewan for the U12, U14 and U16 age groups.
Airdrie will not only host the tournament, but will also provide eight of the teams – multiple squads from the ARA’s Airdrie Sting will compete in each age group, according to tournament director Clara Leblond.
“It’s our home tournament, so every home team in that age category will be playing,” she said.
The tournament will kick off early morning Nov. 9, and the final fixture will take place at 3 p.m. Nov. 11. Games will be held at either the Ron Ebbesen Arena, Genesis Place Recreation Centre or the Plainsmen Arena.
As per usual, the tournament will include a showcase game featuring the Calgary Rath of the National Ringette League (NRL). As part of its league schedule, the Rath will take on the B.C. Thunder Nov. 10, with a start time of 12:15 p.m. at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
Leblond said hosting the NRL fixture is an important part of the Ring of Fire tournament, as it provides the young players the chance to watch high-level ringette up close.
“These girls are the ones our kids look up to,” she said. “It’s these athletes – these professionals – that our girls grow up and strive to be, in the sport.”
Admission to the NRL game is free, according to Leblond, but attendees are asked to bring a perishable food item to be donated to the Airdrie Food Bank. Attendees are also encouraged to wear whatever sports jerseys they have hanging in their closet, she added.
Following the NRL game, Leblond said, the ARA’s youngest members will also get their turn on the ice.
“When the game is done, the Rath bring on our Active Start players, which are the little ones who are four or five years old,” she said. “They play some fun games, do some skating drills with them and show them what ringette is all about.”
The ARA also hosts a Ring of Fire tournament every March, Leblond said, which features teams for the U10 age group and younger.