Castleton women’s ice hockey alumni Colleen Senecal and Brianna Stanford (Behmke), have been selected to compete for the United States at the 2019 World Ringette Championships in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Both Senecal and Stanford played for Castleton in 2006-2007. After continuous training and tryouts in Michigan and Philadelphia, they join 15 other players from across North America in an opportunity to take home the gold medal.
“We are honored to be part of this growing sport and to represent the U.S. as athletes on the world stage,” Senecal said on behalf of herself and Stanford.
Invented in Canada in 1963, ringette was created as a recreational activity for women. The sport is like ice hockey in terms of objective, playing surface, and number of players. However, it is played with straight sticks and a ring rather than the distinctive curved sticks and puck that are found in hockey. Additionally, ringette has elements of basketball, for a shot or a change of possession must occur within the 30-second shot clock.
“The ring itself is much more difficult to catch than a hockey puck because the stick must ‘spear’ the inside of the ring to catch a pass,” Senecal said. “So hand-eye coordination is very important.”
In the U.S., the sport has seen marginal development since the 1970’s. It has gained a lot of attention along the border states with Canada and on the East Coast, and USA Ringette, the main organization behind the sport, strives to continue this growth. However, due to focus being drawn to more prominent sports, ringette has received little to no recognition nationwide. Senecal said that winning the world championships would change this frame of mind.
“Athletes, young and old, want to be a part of a winning team, and are therefore more likely to try ringette if we can prove that we belong on the world stage,” Senecal said.
Played every third year since 1990, the World Ringette Championships showcases all-female teams from around the world in a multi-day tournament. The winning team is awarded the Sam Jacks Cup.
The U.S. National Team has been a prominent force in the tournament. The team has earned six bronze medals on the senior level since 1996 and took second place in the President’s Pool at the 2017 competition. The United States even hosted in 1994 when the world championships were played in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
The WRC has been live-streamed on YouTube and other media channels. According to a press release, the 2017 tournament was said to inspire nearly 10,000 fans.
Senecal added that the sport helps young women develop the ability to work as a member of a team. Through friendly competition and athletic improvement, she said it helps build a lifelong passion for health and fitness.
“We believe in women supporting each other, both on and off the ice, and ringette is a wonderful way to do just that,” Senecal said.
Being a relatively unknown sport, the U.S. National Team is an unfunded one. USA Ringette is a non-profit organization, and each player is responsible for her own airfare, accommodation, meals, transportation and uniforms. The trip comes costs an estimated $4,000 per player.
Despite financial difficulties and low recognition, Senecal said the sport is a way of life for her and other members of the national team. She said both she and Stanford remain dedicated to training while balancing careers and family, and credit their time as student-athletes at Castleton for instilling this mentality.
“Balancing the rigorous schedule of on and off ice practices, classes, and mandatory study halls helped to prepare both of us (for) life outside of school,” Senecal said.
The tournament will be played from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1. To support Senecal and Stanford and for more information, donate at https://www.gofundme.com/f/brianna-and-colleen-usa-ringette.