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High-flying Ravens’ dream season shot down; Ottawa’s national ringette championships canned due to COVID-19

Emma Kelly and her Nepean Ravens ringette team were in the midst of competing for a provincial championship when the novel coronavirus suddenly brought their season to a crashing halt.

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Emma Kelly at the 2019 World Ringette Championships in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo: Sara Plouffe)

By Eden Suh

Emma Kelly and her Nepean Ravens ringette team were in the midst of competing for a provincial championship when the novel coronavirus suddenly brought their season to a crashing halt.

Kelly’s Ravens had completed just one day of play at the provincial championships in Richmond Hill when teams were pulled from the ice because of restrictions put in place to limit public gatherings in an attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Through the Ravens first three games at the U19 ‘AA’ provincials, the 17-year-old Kelly had been her team’s top scorer with eight goals. Nepean won two of its first three games and tied the other.

“We were just a really strong team,” said Kelly, adding that she had been looking forward to playing with the girls on this season’s team for years, because several age groups within Nepean had been combined to form a top-tier U19 group.

“We were all crossing our fingers, like, ‘no, no, no, this can’t be it,’” Kelly said.

The U19 ‘AA’ Ravens finished the season at the top of their division’s ranking in the province. In the four tournaments that factored into their qualification for the provincial championships, they only lost one game, winning their other 11 contests. Kelly had also been part of the Eastern team at the Ontario Winter Games, just weeks before the provincial championships. She was the leading scorer on that gold medal-winning team.

The provincial championships were officially cancelled on March 13, day two of the competition.

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“Given the extraordinary nature of this world event, and after having numerous conversations with our stakeholders, the Ringette Canada Board of Directors in consultation with our provincial partners, has made the necessary and difficult decision to immediately suspend all domestic sanctioned ringette activities until further notice,” Natasha Johnston, executive director of Ringette Canada, said in a statement at the time.

Included in the cancellations were the Canadian Ringette Championships, which were supposed to be held in Ottawa.

Though discouraging, the unique circumstances that brought an end to this season – Kelly’s 14th playing ringette – won’t prevent her from continuing to work towards goals she’s set for herself in the sport. She dreams of playing in the National Ringette League, as well as continuing with Canada’s national team, which she was named to in May, after winning a gold medal in the junior division at the World Ringette Championships last year.

She’s also keen on maintaining the friendships she’s built through the sport by continuing playing.

“When I go to ringette, I’m with all my best friends and we’re all playing the sport that we love,” she said.

Along with having to grapple with the premature cancellation of what was shaping up to be a season to remember, Kelly and many of her teammates are also facing an anticlimactic end to their years in high school. At the time of publication, it seemed probable, if not likely, that because of the timing, springtime events like prom and graduation will be cancelled in Ontario.

“It’s just very upsetting for all the students,” said the St. Joseph Catholic High School senior who’d like to study journalism at Carleton University next. “The last few months (of the school year) that probably will be cancelled are the best months of the year.”

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