girl playing ringette

Imagine if you could make the game of hockey less threatening...you might use a stick with no blade, and instead of a hard puck you might use a rubber ring. If you did that, and changed the rules a bit, you'd have Ringette.

Like hockey, ringette is played on a hockey rink with 6 on a side: One center, two forwards, two defenders, and a goalie. The stick is straight and tipped with rubber, and hockey skates must be worn. Players wear gear similar to hockey, although the face mask is specially configured to prevent the straight stick from poking through. Penalties are also similar to hockey, in that teams are forced to play shorthanded while the penalty is served.

The biggest difference? Ringette is predominantly a womens sport. Girls begin play in grade school, and some boys also play at the "Bunny level." Organization at the adult level is solely for women. Virtually every sizable country in the northern hemisphere participates in some form, some with national teams, some with professional leagues and a national team.

ringette ring

Game play

Rather than a face-off, the visiting team starts with the ring. They have a five seconds to pass the ring or must forfeit control to the opposing team. Once the ring is passed, skaters must attempt to take control of the ring by "stabbing" through the ring with their stick. They then slide the ring on the ice, leaning heavily on their sticks to prevent opposing players from stealing the ring.

Key to the game is the rule that the ring may only be moved across either of the blue lines by passing. A player may send the ring across the blue line, and move with it, but may not touch the ring until another player touches it first. This encourages players to keep moving, and keep passing, and work together as a team. In addition, rules require that only three players from the offensive team are allowed past the Free Play Line, which is the line at the "top" of hockey's defensive circles. The defensive team is allowed three players plus a goalie. Furthermore, the defensive team must always have at least one player out of the free play area. So if the defending team is short multiple players because of multiple players, they can find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. In older leagues there is a shot clock, and very specific rules concerning the crease and goalie "throws". All of these rule combine to make ringette vastly different from hockey in the overall feel and tempo of the game.

USA, Canada, Internationally

Like hockey, ringette (also spelled ringuette) is mastered by Canadians and Scandinavian countries, with Russia, the Czech Republic, and the USA also promoting league play and national teams. Interestingly, ringette gained a toehold in the USA when a small group of Minnesota high schools began league play in 1991, but a push for womens hockey soon eclipsed it.

Key Links...

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Ringette photo public domain. Masthead photos used by permission:
Ralf Roletschek
Creative Commons
US Army/public domain
Erik Charlton.