Ringette is a fast-paced game played on ice, with two teams of players using straight sticks to pass and carry a rubber ring, then shoot it to score goals, similar to ice hockey. The game was originally developed in 1963 by Sam Jacks, for girls in North Bay, Ontario. Ringette was played regularly in Ontario and Quebec for more than 10 years, and then began spreading quickly to other areas, and is now played everywhere in all 10 Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territories.
Ringette is one of the most popular sports for women in Canada, with more than 50,000 ringette participants―players, coaches, officials, and volunteers. The sport has enjoyed a remarkable growth rate in recent years, especially for a game that was created so recently. There are more than 7,000 certified coaches in the National Coaching Certification Program. There are more than 1,700 registered referees who have been trained via Ringette Canada's National Officiating Program, and thousands of volunteers administer leagues, clubs, and tournaments in all the Canadian provinces.
In addition to its growing popularity in Canada, ringette is becoming popular around the world, with associations formed in the United States, Sweden, France, Finland, and Russia. Ringette Canada has also been successfully demonstrating the game in Switzerland, the Netherlands, West Germany, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Each team has five players―two defense, two forwards, and a center―and a goalie. Players wear protective gear similar to ice hockey uniforms, because there is a danger of being hurt through contact with other players or equipment. Instead of the hard black puck used in ice hockey, the ringette 'puck' is a blue ring.
The levels of skill in ringette begin with the Bunnies, a program where players learn to skate. The levels then are grouped into formal teams placed in categories of C, B, A, AA, and occasionally Regional AAA teams. Communities may offer all four of the skill levels, or may break down the first of the skill levels into three recreational levels, and the second skill level into two recreational levels, thereby creating a place for every skill level and every age of player. Smaller communities that do not have neighboring communities with which to play in a league may have only some of these skill breakdowns.
Tournaments are held throughout the season all across Canada, with championship tournaments being the highlight at the end of the season. Every year, each province selects teams at the Junior, Belle, and Open divisions, and sends them to play in the Canadian championships.