About Ringette


History  –  Overview  –  Equipment  –  Levels of Play  –  Different than Hockey  –  Olympics  –  National Ringette League

Ringette is a team sport activity played on an ice surface. Ringette uses some rules and equipment that are similar to ice hockey; it requires the use of lightweight, straight, hollow sticks to control a blue rubber ring; with the objective of the game being to score goals by shooting the ring into the opponent’s net. The sport is officially co-ed, though it is primarily played by female participants.


The game of ringette was invented in 1963 by the Northern Ontario Recreation Directors Association (NORDA) and led by the two founders of Ringette, Sam Jacks, from West Ferris, Ontario, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of North Bay, Ontario and Mirl “Red” McCarthy, recreation director for the town of Espanola, Ontario. The birthplace of ringette is Espanola,Ontario, where the first game was played in the fall of 1963 under the direction of McCarthy. NORDA was a regional organization composed of members from a large area that included the Ontario communities of North Bay, Espanola, Deep River, Elliot Lake, Huntsville, Sturgeon Falls, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Onaping and Phelps; as well as Témiscaming, Québec. The body recognized the problem of limited girls’ winter recreational programs and decided to find a solution. The first time the name “ringette” is mentioned was at the NORDA meetings held on January 20 and 21, 1963 in Sudbury. Jacks advised the group that “he had been working on a new girls court game”. Evidently he first considered an inside floor game for females, relying no doubt on his previous success with floor hockey. At their September 15 and 16, 1963 meeting at North Bay’s RCAF base, Jacks informed the group that he would “like to have NORDA receive credit as a body for the birth of this game.” Each one of the sports directors left this meeting agreeing to develop the game in their own community and report their findings at the next NORDA meeting in early 1964. Under the guidance of Mirl “Red” McCarthy, the first game of ringette was held between Espanola high school girls at the Espanola Arena in the fall of 1963. He wrote up a set of rules and created a ring for this occasion, still on display inside the Espanola arena. In 1963-1964, McCarthy’s original ringette rules become experimental in several Northern Ontario and Quebec communities:

  • Espanola, Ontario Arena
  • Onaping, Ontario Playground
  • Sudbury, Ontario Kingsway Playground
  • Sudbury Grace Playground
  • Sudbury Adamsdale Playground
  • Sudbury Barrydowne Playground
  • Sault Ste. Marie,Ontario
  • Témiscaming, Québec Arena

McCarthy presents a written list of rules which he had developed, combined with comments and observations, to NORDA at their meeting at Moose Lake Lodge in Onaping, on January 19 and 20, 1964. Ringette is introduced to the province of Québec by Bob Reid, director of recreation for Témiscaming, secretary and chairman of NORDA. In 1964-1965, Sudbury, Ontario forms the first ever ringette league, comprising four teams. Diana Heit, assistant program director of Sudbury Parks and Recreation department, helps the teams with schedules, rules and coaching. Ringette is introduced in North Bay on January 21, 1965 at the Kiwanis Playground with teams from Kiwanis and Police zones participating. The game ended in a 5-5 overtime tie. Attempts are being made to form a four team league.[1] Ironically, growth in ringette came slowly to North Bay as ice time was never available. It was not until 1971-72 that West Ferris, Ontario, today part of North Bay, had a four-team league operating. The West Ferris Arena (West Ferris Centennial Community Centre) was built in 1967, four years after the birth and invention of the sport in 1963 in Espanola, Ontario. This arena,along with the surrounding ballfields and tennis courts, is today called the Sam Jacks Recreational Complex. On March 5, 1966, the first invitational tournament, called the “Northern Ontario and Quebec championships”, is held in Temiscaming, Quebec. The tournament took place with five teams participating: North Bay Police playground, Sudbury Rose Marie Playground, Sudbury East End playground, Temiscaming Reds, and Temiscaming Whites. The tournament is won by the Temiscaming Reds team. This historic tournament created many firsts for the game of ringette:

  1. The first ringette tournament.
  2. The first interprovincial tournament.
  3. The first tournament in Quebec.
  4. The first tournament for the Canadian and World Championship.
  5. The first indoor tournament.
  6. The first tournament on artificial ice.
  7. The first crests ever created and awarded for the sport.[2]

By 1965-66, NORDA decided that they had carried the game about as far as it could go. The Society of Directors of Municipal Recreation of Ontario (SDMRO) was chosen to develop and organize it further on a larger scale. By 1973, an agreement was worked out between SDMRO and the Ontario Ringette Association (ORA) where the copyright to the Official Ringette Rules would be held by the ORA. Finally, in 1983 in agreement with the ORA, these rights were acquired by Ringette Canada. After Sam Jack died in May 1975, his wife Agnes has promoted the game over the years until her own death in April 2005. She was awarded the Order of Canada. Now ringette is played in countries such as Finland, Sweden, United States, Czech Republic and Russia, with the largest community in Canada, with over 50,000 participants.[3]



Only six players on each team are permitted on the ice at one time, one centre, two forwards, two defenders, and a goaltender. Like hockey, a team plays short-handed (is down one or two players) when a player gets a penalty and must sit for a defined interval in the penalty box. Regardless of the number of players in the penalty box, at least three skaters must be present on the ice at all times. No players are added to the ice until there is only one left in the box (i.e. add the 4th skater to the ice). A team may pull the goalie off the ice and substitute a 4th attacker when the opposing team has a delayed penalty or in the last 5 minutes of the game. If the goalie is pulled and the play returns to that team’s defensive end, one skater may become an acting goalkeeper (AGK). Once she enters the crease, she is bound by the same rules as a regular goalkeeper. When the opposing team’s penalty is called (they take possession of the ring), the extra skater leaves the ice and the goalie returns to the net.

Free Pass

The game begins with the visiting team receiving control of the ring on the defending half of the center circle. One player from the visiting team must pass the ring to another player within 5 seconds, without leaving the half circle or crossing the centre line, or else possession is lost and granted to the opposing team.

Blue lines

Players are not permitted to carry the ring over the 2 blue lines; they can advance the ring over the line only by passing it to another player. The ring must be touched by any other player first, but does not need to be under control before the passer take possession again (e.g. the passer bounces the ring off a player’s skate and then picks it up). If a player touches the ring consecutively on both sides of the blue line their team loses possession and the opposing team is given a face off. If the ring goes over both blue lines, the team that passed it may not touch it until the opposing team does. If a goaltender throws the ring across the blue line, a delayed violation is signalled. The goaltender may use their stick to pass the ring over the blue line. Ringette Line The red line at the top of the defensive circles is called the Ringette Line. It marks the restricted area of each team’s attacking/defending zones. Only 3 players from each team, plus the defending goaltender, are permitted into the restricted areas. Exceptions include:

  • The defending team must have one player out of the free play area. If a team has 2 penalized players, only two players in addition to the goaltender may be in the zone.
  • If a team has pulled their goaltender, an additional player is allowed into the attacking or defending zone. The goaltender must be completely off the ice before the additional player is permitted to enter. Once the goalie is pulled, any of the players from that team may enter the net and play as goalie – but cannot carry the ring out of the net.

If the violation is non-intentional, the team in violation will lose possession of the ring and have it granted to the non-offending team. If the violation is deemed intentional, a delay of game penalty is assessed (rare). If an intentional violation occurs in the last 2 minutes of the game, a penalty shot is awarded instead. The Extended Zone Line is also known as the “ringette line”.


The crease is essentially an invisible wall from ice to ceiling located in front of the goal mouth and defined by a red semi circle on the ice. Goaltenders are the only players permitted in the crease. If a member of the team with ring possession violates the crease with a stick, skate, arm, etc., the play is stopped and the goalie receives the ring. If any member of the non-possession team violates the crease, their team cannot touch the ring for five seconds (counted by the referee), or possession of the ring is given to the other team. When the ring enters the crease, the goaltender then has five seconds to throw, pass with stick, deflect, or push the ring out to another player. If the goalie does not pass it within five seconds, the ring is awarded to the other team for a free pass from one of the defensive free play circles. The goalie may use the stick to touch the ring outside the crease, and can also pass through the crease, but may not pull it into the crease unless pull it all the way through and out with one motion. Otherwise, this results in a loss of possession, and a penalty if she has already been given a warning. The goalie may not pick up or cover the ring with her glove outside the crease. The goalie can push the ring with a hand when outside the crease, as can any other player. The team in possession of the ring has 30 seconds to shoot, it is not always played this way with the younger girls (U12), or it gives up possession to the other team. The shot clock is reset when possession of the ring changes teams, when the ring stops in the goaltender’s crease, or when the ring bounces off the goalie. The shot clock is only applied in competitive levels, starting at the petite level (10 to 11).


A violation is a minor penalty called for violations of game play rules, usually due to improper movement or handling of the ring. Common violations include entering the crease, touching the ring on either side of the blue line, four players in the zone and 2 (blue) line passes. If a violation is committed by the team in possession of the ring, play is stopped immediately. The ring is awarded to the opposing team in the zone the violation occurred. If a violation is committed by the team not in possession of the ring, a ‘delayed violation’ is signaled by the official (arm raised with a 90 degree bend at the elbow) and a 5-second count begins. If the team in violation touches the ring within that time period, play is stopped and the violation is assessed. If the count expires, the violation is dropped and play continues. If a violation occurs that would award the defending team a free pass in their own zone, the ring is given to the goaltender as a “goalie ring”. Play resumes immediately when the goaltender receives the ring. Time is not provided for teams to perform line changes as can be done on a free pass, although on-the-fly changes are permitted as in normal play.


Penalties in ringette have the same concept as in hockey, with the notable exception that less body contact is allowed, and fighting has a zero-tolerance policy. Penalties are of the following classes:

  • Minor penalties, such as boarding, charging, cross checking, elbowing, holding, illegal substitution, hooking, high-sticking, tripping, body contact, slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct and interference. The offending player must sit in the penalty box for 2–4 minutes depending on the severity of the penalty (other exceptions apply) and her team plays short-handed. The penalty ends when the team with the penalty is scored on, or the penalty time runs out. (If the defense is serving two penalties, the oldest penalty ends.)
  • A major penalty is assessed for serious offenses, generally involving intent to injure or an intentional penalty action to prevent a shot during the attacking team’s breakaway. Major penalties are 4 minutes in length and do not end upon the scoring of a goal. Interruption of a breakaway by a penalty action can result in a penalty shot.

— body contact, slashing, tripping, boarding, charging and any other physical contact penalty, and unsportsmanlike can become a 4 minute major penalty depending on the severity and roughness. Also, players can receive two penalties at the same time for a combination of four or more minutes.

  • Misconduct and Match penalties may also be called. They result in a player’s ejection from the game. Misconduct and Major penalties also incur a 2- or 4-minute fully served penalty to be served by a teammate, unless the penalty is assessed to a non-playing bench member.

When a penalty is assessed against the goalie, a teammate on the ice at the time of the offence must serve it. If the team not in control of the ring commits a penalty, play is not stopped until the penalized team gains control. This is called a delayed penalty. A minor penalty is nullified if a goal is scored during the delay, unless penalties of equal class were called on both teams. While the penalty is delayed, the attacking team can add a sixth skater to the ice by pulling their goalie. This player can enter the play zone as the 4th attacker. A team can work off at most two penalties at a time. If a team commits a third penalty, the penalized player sits in the penalty box, but her interval does not start until the first of the other penalties expires (and so forth if there are more penalties). A team plays with a minimum of three skaters on the ice, regardless of the number of penalties. If freeing a player from the penalty box would give the team more players on the ice than it is entitled to (such as when the team is down to three attackers, but there are two other players in the penalty box), she will not be freed until a whistle stops play. During the stoppage, the team must remove one player from the ice to return to its proper strength. A team with two penalties can have only two players (instead of the usual three) in its defensive zone. But if a third person is active in the defensive zone while two man down a third penalty will be called. If there is a third penalty that penalty time won’t start till the first penalty is over. All three players may enter the offensive zone.


Required equipment for ringette is similar to hockey:

  • ringette stick – are generally lightweight composite or hollow wood, with metal or ridged plastic tips. Heavily splintered sticks are not permitted.
  • ringette ring
  • hockey skates – goalies may choose to use goalie skates
  • shin pads, worn under the pants (or goalie pads)
  • protective girdle with a ‘cup’ or a ‘jill’ to protect genitals
  • ringette pants – covering pants.
  • hockey gloves (ringette gloves have been phased out due to a lack of hard padding)
  • elbow pads
  • jersey
  • helmet with ringette facemask (must have a triangle bar pattern-either full or half with a plexiglass shield for the eyes; square bars are disallowed because the stick tip can fit through the spaces)
  • neck guard
  • shoulder pads – in some associations/provinces, shoulder pads are optional after U12. In Ontario, shoulder pads are necessary until 18+, other provinces may vary.
  • wrist guards – optional

– also, in some places mouthguards are necessary too but in most places they are not required. The ringette facemask is much like a hockey one except the bars are spaced so that the end of a ringette stick cannot enter the mask. (triangles not squares) Ringette sticks have tapered ends, with plastic or metal tips specially designed with grooves to increase the lift and velocity of the wrist shot. A ringette stick is also reinforced to withstand the body weight of a player – a ring carrier leans heavily on his/her stick to prevent opposing players from removing the ring. Sticks are flexible and lightweight to bend without breaking.

Differences from hockey

Ringette is related to ice hockey in equipment, number and types of players, and playing surface, but differs in rules and approach to the game. In hockey, puck handling requires agility and concentration. In ringette, the challenge is in catching or “stabbing” the ring. To catch a ring, a player must stab through the hole in the ring with the stick, usually while the player is on the move, a skill that takes years to master. Once caught, the ring is easier to control than a puck is, but ringette’s blue-line rules force more passing. This makes ringette a fast-paced game centered around skating and precision passing. As a result, players learn teamwork; a team cannot depend on one or two dominant players. And, it is deemed the “fastest game on ice” because of this fact. The lack of “puck”-handling in ringette allows players to focus on improving their skating, which increases the tempo of the game. Increased control over the ring often results in higher scores, despite the ring being larger, lighter, and slower than a puck when shot. Also, players cannot enter the crease so their shots are taken from farther away and must be more precise than in hockey.

Ringette and the Olympics

Ringette is currently not in the Olympics. It is very popular in Canada and has been gaining popularity in other countries slowly. Currently, there has been a lot of attention brought about stemming in Canada to try to get the sport recognized in the winter Olympic games. Attention methods have included using social media as well as word of mouth to spread the word. All the efforts have been done in hopes of National acceptance and entrance into the Olympic Games. Ringette is most widely played by females, it would be a large step for the feminist equality to get the game recognized as an Olympic sport. An issue which would stem if ringette made it into the Olympics would be that there would be not enough attention to create a male team. Ringette has been gaining more global attention by being written about in the Globe in Mail article in 2013 proving the ringette is not a “girly” sport and needs to be more well respected in the world. It suggests that there is a strong possibility that ringette will be included for the winter games of 2017. Ringette has thus far been excluded from the Olympics because it is officially co-ed and must have 25% of each gender to qualify. Unfortunately, few boys grow up playing the sport and therefore there are not enough males with the skill to qualify for an Olympic team.

Ringette and Feminism

Ringette is most popular with females and has been commonly referred to as the “female version of hockey”. There has been known controversy with ringette’s connection to feminism, little to no males participate in the sport and has become a problem within feminist inequality. The female hockey community and national Ringette team have disliked the grouping of the two sports as one. Ringette was written in the respected Globe and Mail in 2013 “It’s every bit as physical as a women’s hockey game, if not more,” said Glen Gaudet, coach of the senior women’s national team. The on going struggle between the two sports is only hurting the struggle of female equality. Unfortunately, with the rise of female hockey and ringette still ruled as co-ed, female players are gravitating towards hockey because of its Olympic potential. However, the lack of fighting and heavy body contact makes ringette popular with the parents of young girls.

Levels of play in Canada

There are several levels of play in Ringette, categorized by age. Divisions were recently renamed as U* divisions under the new Long Term Development Plan (LTDP) rolled out nationally by Ringette Canada for the 2009-10 ringette season:

U6-8 under 6 or 8 years- this age division has been recently created by only a few associations. It is designed to introduce younger children (primarily girls) to the sport and begin to develop skills at an early age. Typically, these young players play modified games (shorter time, no penalties, on half of the ice etc.)
U8 under 8 (previously called ‘Bunny’ division)
U9 ‘ Under 9 (this is a minor Novice Division)
U10 primarily 8 & 9 years (previously called the ‘Novice’ division)
U12 10 & 11-year-old players (previously referred to as ‘Petite’ division)
U14 12 & 13-year-old players (previously referred to as ‘Tween’ division)
U16 14 & 15-year-old players (previously referred to as ‘Junior’ division)
U19 16-18 year-old players (previously referred to as ‘ Jr Belle’ of ‘Belle’ division)
18+ 18 years and older players (previously referred to as ‘Open’ or adult division, usually included lifelong players under 30)
‘”Masters”‘ 18 years and older, either lifelong players desiring a slower pace, or new players who begin as adults (this division is part of the league associations but excluded from Provincial tournaments)

NRL Known as the National Ringette league, for elite players aged 18+ In 2010 the league put back in place previous age groups. Boys are permitted to play at any age level but are restricted to competing at the “B” level or lower in many places. It isn’t uncommon to see boys participating above U9 or U6 divisions. Due to the pure speed of the sport, skating is emphasized at these levels; boys will typically develop skating and basic stick-handling before switching over to hockey around U10. Levels of competition, based on skill, range from recreational to competitive, and include: Rec, C, B, BB, A, and AA and AAA, with AA being the highest level at which league competition occurs. AAA ringette is typically specific to particular regions who feel another category is necessary to clarify their league or tournament play. For example: AAA teams out of Quebec have played AA teams out of Alberta at various tournaments, including the National Championships. In Alberta, the highest level considered is AA, although they are deemed equal to the AAA teams from areas such as Quebec. For those who like the hockey parallel, playing AA ringette is the same as playing AAA hockey. The National Ringette League was introduced in 2004-2005 season and includes open-aged players at AA/AAA level.

National Ringette League

The National Ringette League (also indicated by the initials NRL) is an elite league of ringette in Canada. The NRL groups together the very best players over the age of 19 in Canada. The NRL consists of nineteen teams separated into two conferences. The Western Conference has six teams and the Eastern Conference has thirteen teams. The NRL recovers directly from Ringuette Canada, the guiding organisation for the ringette in Canada.

Canadian championships

The Championnats Canadien d’Ringuette/ Canadian Ringette Championships took place for the first time in 1979 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This tournament was conceived so as to be able to determine who are the Canadian champions in the categories Under-16 years, Under-19 years and Open (replaced by the National Ringuette League since 2008). The Canadian Championships of ringuette usually take place in April of every year.

Read more on wikipedia RINGETTE ASSOCIATED LINKS

Ringette Associations in Canada

Since the first Ringette game was played in the fall of 1963 under the direction of McCarthy in Espanola, Ontario, the sport of Ringette has grown into an established league. Today Ringette is played across Canada, in Europe and the United States. In Canada, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, each province operates a Ringette association which acts as the governing body for the sport. Each association has a number of teams with varying age groups and skill levels. Associations provide information on rules, coaches, newsletters and special events for each province’s league. They also provide statistics, standings, ice and tournament schedules as well as clinics for players and officials.

In addition to associations, the National Ringette League (NRL) acts as the principal league for Ringette in Canada and strives to be the premiere women’s sports league in the country. Ringette Canada is the hub for all information pertaining to all things Ringette. It has information about the sport, athletes, events, officials and associations throughout the country. The elite league currently has 14 teams from Atlantic Canada to British Columbia. The top players in the country are all National Ringette League (NRL) players. The NRL groups together the very best players over the age of 19 in Canada. The NRL consists of nineteen teams separated into two conferences. The Western Conference has six teams and the Eastern Conference has thirteen teams.
For more information on a specific province’s association, Ringette Canada or the NRL simply click on the links below.


RC-BILwGrad-RGB NLR alberta bc
manitoba nova scotia                 nb Ontario
pei quebec saskatchewan