Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


In order to make sport become a more inclusive and ethical activity enjoyed by more and more people, sports innovation and leadership involves being aware of issues and experimenting with potential solutions.

Sam Jacks was the Director of Parks and Recreation in North Bay, Ontario and he had two problems about sport in Canada: Firstly, not everyone was always included in sport and secondly, women were rarely playing winter team games.

Adapting hockey and lacrosse, Jacks invented a team sport on ice that circumvented these issues and that he called 'ringette'. Like hockey, the team sport was played on ice and involved skates. Like lacrosse, the team sport involved sticks but that was the end of the comparison.

It was important for Jacks that the sport emphasize healthy competition and that the rules therefore enabled maximum participation for everyone of the six team members. From this more inclusive perspective, Jacks ensured a number of characteristics became an integral feature of the sport.

Firstly, no-one was to be intimidated by an overly aggressive style of play, and so the sport involved no intentional body contact. Secondly, there was to be a special emphasis on teamwork and emotional and social maturity, and so collaboration and co-operation became essential ingredients for success. Thirdly, the sport would be intrinsically competitive but this competition would be based mainly on skill. Therefore, the games were structured to be wide-open, dynamic and demanded tremendous skating skill and agility. For example, only three players (including the goalie) were allowed to defend in the end zone.

The first ringette game was played in Espanola in northern Ontario in the winter of 1963 and caught on so quickly that by 1969 the first provincial ringette association had been established in Ontario. Today, ringette is played in all the major sporting countries in the world as well as by over 30,000 Canadians.

photograph of Sam Jacks
Sam Jacks started his professional career in recreation in 1935 in Toronto. He created the game of floor hockey in 1936. Later, as the Director of Recreation for North Bay, Ontario he recognized that girls need to have an equal opportunity to play an ice game and winter team sport. He finalized the game he called ringette in 1963. Jacks was a visionary with a strong sense of community and inclusiveness.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Photograph of two ringette players with sticks and plastic ring
Ringette as a winter sport is played on a standard ice rink with skates and there is an indoor version called gym ringette. The players use a straight stick with tapered ends, with plastic or metals tips designed with grooves to increase the life and velocity of the wrist shot. The ring is made of plastic. There is no intentional body contact. The rules make the game a wide-open and dynamic sport.
Collection: Ringette Canada

Team Canada jersey with Ringette Canada Logo on front
The first ringette game was played in Espanola, Ontario in 1963. By 1966 the first community associations were formed and the game began to gain in popularity with over 20,000 players registered by 1985. Internationally the game is played in many countries including Finland, Sweden, the United States, France, Slovakia, Russia and the Czech Republic. Canada has competed at the World Championships since their inception in 1990. This is the Team Canada jersey for 2014.
Collection: Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

photograph of player and goalie
The emphasis in Ringette is on play-making and skating skills. Players cannot carry the ring across the blue lines. Only three players from each team, plus the defending goalie, are allowed in the end zones at the same time. In 2000, a 30-second shot clock was introduced to make the game even faster. The game also requires teamwork and individual players develop great skating speed and agility.
Collection: Ringette Canada

photograph of two players on ice
Ringette is played at many age levels at the local, regional, provincial and university levels. There is a Junior and Senior National Team Program. Although the game is played predominantly by women there are many men and boys who also play. Ringette is one of the sports played at the Canada Winter Games.
Collection: Ringette Canada

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