#WhyRingette - From Bunnies to Coaching

Sep. 06, 2023

#WhyRingette? If you had time to sit down and think about your WHY, what would it be? Is it the friends you have made? Is it the opportunities the sport has provided you? What is your WHY?

Ringette Ontario is proud to mark September 21st every year as #WhyRingette/ #ChooseRingette Day. This year, September 21, 2023, will mark our second annual #WhyRingette Day, where we hope to bring awareness to our sport of ringette. We will do this through the power of human connection, thanks to Heather Hills. With Heather’s help we are putting that human connection to our sport. We can showcase our sport in its true light making it more than just what happens on the ice.

From Bunnies to coaching, Heather Hills has made a mark on the ringette community for the past 40-plus years. She can remember her early years of ringette being, "those days that not too many players have seen or will ever see, with little (I am little) knee pads and little pink mittens. That is what you wore as equipment."


As a player in Caledonia, Hills’ journey in ringette would begin. Her team from Caledonia was one of the first ringette teams to play a tournament in Finland, where they came third. For a small-town ringette team like Caledonia, this was an opportunity and experience of a lifetime. Heather Hills said, "Playing Ringette in a small town like Caledonia there weren't many opportunities for winter sports, let alone winter sports for girls. So when the opportunity to play in Finland as a ringette team, who were not even considered at A-level, meant the world."

We learned so much about ringette and Heather's journey throughout our conversation. She mentioned that while playing, they would play three different playing styles of ringette for one year. According to Hills, "One year, they were piloting it. Back then, they called extended zones (your ringette line) and no zone, where all five could go everywhere. So Monday nights we played 'No Zone,' Sundays were 'Extended Zone,' and Saturdays were regular league games with a blue line.” Could you imagine switching between three different styles of play today?

One's journey in ringette is different no matter who you talk to, but what seems to be a common factor is that everyone starts as a player. Hills said, "For me, ringette started as a player but now has transitioned into a ringette parent & coach.” No matter what sport you played or played growing up, you always have that thought in the back of your mind saying, 'If I have kids, they are going to play too.’ So, for Hills, her way back into the sport was through her children - a parent's dream, right?

Her oldest daughter is turning 21 this year, and she started playing when she was three, turning four that year. And Hills said, "This is how I got back in. Right from that year, I got on the ice as a coach, joined the executive board in Caledonia and got back into playing as an adult in those years."

Ringette has this pull for people. When one leaves, they always seem to find a way back, and like mentioned above, because of Hills’ two daughters, she was able to get back into the game that she loved & still loves to this day. Although her daughter's youth ringette days are done, they are all still involved in the sport, with Hills coaching her daughter's Open-A tournament team.

Hills’ love extends farther than just hers or her daughter's ringette journey. The love she has shown comes through in a promise she made to the girls that she has coached over the years, and that is her promise to coach them in their adult ringette journeys. If that was not enough, Heather is even training the next generation of volunteers and executives within the Caledonia Ringette Association. Ringette has been a part of her life for many years.

Heather states, "I have played the sport; you name it, I have played the sport, and if you were to ask me, there is not another sport like it.” Her explanation of ringette is, "The sport is like chess; it's all about the strategy that no other sport gives me, and I just love it!"

We have now interviewed a handful of people whose stories are all so different yet have similarities. Although Heather’s story has something we have not heard from someone before, "I love the sport so much that I have passed on my love of the sport to my girls and  EVEN MY HUSBAND!! As a joke, before we got married he was a rep hockey player, and he wanted five boys so we could have a full hockey line. He didn't get that, but he is now my best advocate for the sport. If I get asked to speak to someone about the sport, I tell them to talk to Jim, not me, because he is a full convert, coming from being a rep hockey player, wanting all boys to have girls who play ringette. He is the one that walks around now saying hockey is checkers and ringette is chess. Jim would say it should have done far better than hockey.” Even with both girls playing ringette & hockey, Heather and her husband, Jim, say, “It's not even a consideration to play ringette for them as a family.”

People may play a sport to play a sport, but while talking with Heather, it seemed like she played this game because she loved it. She mentioned that she knew ringette was for her right at the beginning. She said, "I knew it was for me since those beginning years of playing, well maybe not when I was learning to skate, but it was shortly after that. There are two situations where I REALLY knew it was for me; when I played baseball in the summer, and if I missed a game or practice, I was okay, but when it came to ringette, I could not miss anything. And the second situation would be when I re-found the sport while coaching. I loved it more than when I played as a kid."

It seems you give back to something you love so much, and that is when you know it's for you!

To finish it off, we asked Heather, "What is your WHY?"

Heather said, "I would say a couple of things: as a coach, it's the strategy; as a parent & player, it is friendship & community for life."

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