Elite Amateur Sport Ringette

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Emma Kelly ‘living’ in a different time zone for world junior ringette championship

By Martin Cleary

For the past two weeks, Emma Kelly has been residing in her Ottawa home, but living on Finland time.

Not to worry. It’s part of the Canadian strategy to win the gold medal at next month’s world women’s junior ringette championship Nov. 3 and 5 in Espoo, Finland. The women’s senior worlds are Nov. 4 and 6.

The worlds were scheduled to be held in Helsinki in 2022, but were cancelled and delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By going to bed 30 minutes earlier than the previous night and waking up 30 minutes earlier than the previous morning over the past fortnight, Kelly and her national squad teammates should be able to deal with jet lag better and be properly energized to battle the Finnish national team in the two-game championship series.

“It’s not as drastic as it sounds. It’s crazy to go to bed at 5:30 p.m. and wake up at 1:30 a.m., but it definitely works,” Kelly said in a phone interview before she was scheduled to fly to Finland on Wednesday.

The time difference between Ottawa and Espoo is seven hours.

“I’d get up and go for a walk to get my heart rate going. A few of the girls (on the national team) will take a (university) lecture at 2 a.m., do a neuro-science class or research. I think I’d rather go to the gym.”

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Kelly and the national junior women’s team will arrive in Finland on Thursday and will only have a few days before a warmup match against a Finnish national league team and exhibition games against Finland on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

“Everyone is taking this seriously and is dedicated to it because of the time difference,” she added. “The coach (Mark Beal) wanted us to avoid being exhausted (from the travel) and sleep on Finnish time. Sleeping earlier than we are used to will allow us to perform right away.”

Being alert and ready to play will be one of the key factors for the Canadian players as they aim to track down a fourth straight world junior title. Canada captured world titles in 2019, 2017 and 2016.

Kelly will be joined on the Canadian junior (U21) team by Nepean Ravens teammates Rachael Pelisek, a goalkeeper, and Jalena Marelic, a forward, as well as Gatineau Fusion defence player Jasmine Menard. The Ravens and Fusion play in the National Ringette League, which begins its 2022-23 season with a series of hub games in Gatineau on Nov. 18-20.

The national junior coaching staff also includes assistant Colleen Hagan of Manotick and mentor coach Shelley Coolidge of Ottawa.

The senior roster for Canada has a pair of Fusion players, defender Julie Vandal, who was the Player of the Game in the second and final match at the 2019 world juniors, and centre Emily Chenier.

Emma Kelly. Photo: @kellyemmaaa Twitter

After graduating from the U19 ranks to play for the expansion Nepean Ravens in the open National Ringette League in 2021-22, Kelly was invited to the national junior tryout camp last spring. She was one of 150 junior women in the pool and 30 were selected for the camp.

Kelly, a 20-year-old forward, was one of 22 players designated to wear Canadian colours for the 2022 world championship. She also was on the 2019 Canadian worlds roster as the youngest player at 16.

“Anytime you have a tryout, it can be nerve-wracking,” said Kelly, who is a third-year journalism student at Carleton University.

“The first time (2019), I had no expectations. I was shocked to be invited. I was an underdog. I had no stress. It was a great accomplishment for me to get that far.

“It was a big shock (to make the team). I didn’t expect it. I try to avoid being disappointed and I tell myself, whatever happens, happens.”

At the 2019 junior worlds, Kelly played regular shifts in the opening 7-6 win over Finland, but dressed and watched from the bench as Canada earned a second victory, 9-7.

“I was super grateful to be dressed as some team members were in the stands and couldn’t experience the celebration on the ice,” Kelly said.

The two games, a gold-medal experience and all the tournament atmosphere allowed Kelly to gain full insight into what a world championship is all about.

Having played her first worlds and stickhandled her way through a limited version of her sport because of the pandemic in the past two years, Kelly is ready to be a team leader for Canada at this year’s world juniors.

“I felt it was an excellent accomplishment (to make the 2022 national team),” added Kelly, who will be one of the team’s three assistant captains. “I want to take a leadership role. I learned a lot from the last time (2019).

“When you’re at this level, the majority of the competition is in your head. I want to make sure that I will be an outlet for the newer girls. I was inexperienced in 2019 and I learned a lot from the others.”

Kelly was amazed by the offensive creatively and forechecking at the 2019 world juniors and would like to make her mark in Finland.

“I’m very energetic,” she added. “I love pumping up my teammates. I like an intense game. I’m offensively focused; scoring goals is my thing. I try to change the energy by scoring goals.”

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Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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 martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.

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