HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
When ringette forward Emma Kelly joined a recent Zoom meeting with former Team Canada players, she thought it was to relive their glorious triumph at the 2019 world championships. Instead, she was shocked.
Ringette Canada president Angie Milbury took some of the sting out of a cancelled 2020-21 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic by announcing Canada’s 2019 world junior team had been inducted into the association’s hall of fame.
“This recognition is a testament to not only the success this team has achieved, but (also) to the passion and dedication they have for the game,” Milbury said in a press release.
Canada rallied to beat powerhouse Finland 7-6 in the first game of the best-of-three world championship series and posted a 9-7 win in the second game to earn the gold medal. Kelly was one of the youngest players on the team at 16.
“I honestly did not expect it,” Kelly, now 18, said about the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame induction. “We got an email saying there would be a special announcement. Can you attend a Zoom meeting?”
“I honestly thought we were going to talk to each other with our coach (Lorrie Horne) and see what everyone is doing now.”
Kelly, who expects to receive something in the mail to commemorate the hall-of-fame moment, shared the induction with Gatineau teammates Jasmine Menard, Sara Plouffe and Julie Vandal as well as assistant coach Carrie Hartley of Ottawa.
Kelly’s unscheduled journey to the hall of fame was a multi-step process, including a lot of selection camps, endless scouting and waiting for team announcements. She played well, survived the cuts and shared in a world championship.
Four seasons ago, she qualified for the Eastern AAA team, which won the Ontario Winter Games gold medal. From those Games and Challenge Cup tournaments, she was invited to the Ontario team tryouts.
Sixty girls attended the first tryout in Oshawa and the field was reduced to 30 for the second camp in Ottawa. Kelly was named to Ontario’s team for the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, AB.
She counted eight goals and four assists as Ontario won the silver medal at the Canada Winter Games. At the 2019 Canadian U19 championships, Kelly helped Nepean Ravens to fourth place with 19 goals, 15 assists and was a first-team all-star.
Her performances at those two national competitions helped Kelly earn an invitation to the Team Canada tryouts at Carleton University that May. Thirty players started and 22 made the cut, including a disbelieving Kelly.
“It was crazy. I didn’t expect to make it,” Kelly recalled. “I was 16. I had a great Canada Winter Games. It was a great way to put my name out. But I didn’t expect to be invited. And there was no pressure because of my age.”
When she learned she had been named to Team Canada, she was thrilled. But she thought she would have some fun with her parents and tell them that, despite all of her efforts, she had been cut from the team.
She sent them a text message to give them ‘the disappointing news,’ but her parents were very understanding. Her parents actually were in a neighbouring dressing room (with other players’ parents) waiting to surprise Kelly.
“It (worlds) was so fun. The excitement at the rink and in the dressing room. One of my fears was taking something for granted. I’ll never play in the Canada Winter Games again, so I took pictures of everything,” she said.
“At worlds (in Burnaby, B.C.), it was a great moment. My parents went along with my aunt from Newfoundland (Labrador).”
Sixteen months later, the pandemic halted ringette. But Kelly has continued to forge ahead and has been practising three times a week on ice. In 2021-22, she’ll debut in the National Ringette League with the expansion Nepean team.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.