Ringette is going coast to coast.
The sport's national governing body yesterday announced the formation of the National Ringette League, with teams in 16 cities across Canada, including one in Gloucester.
Players must be aged at least 19 to compete in the league.
"It basically gives women who can play at the top level a chance to keep competing at the highest level possible," said Dave Shoobert, coach of the Gloucester Devils, one of three teams in the Ontario Division of the NRL.
The Devils will compete against two other Ontario teams and five clubs in Quebec.
Gloucester is 4-0 with a pair of wins each against the Quebec Cyclones and the Richmond Hill Lightning.
"We've got a very good team, one of the best in the country," said Shoobert, who expects his club to compete for the national title next April 11-16 in Winnipeg.
"If we're not the best team in the country, then we'd have to be at least in the top three."
The Devils boast four members of the Canadian national team -- Barb Bautista of Ottawa, Kim Beach of Kingston, Colleen Hagan of Manotick and Katie Lugg of Ottawa -- who will compete in the world ringette championship in Stockholm, beginning Nov. 22.
Jenna McBride of Ottawa is also a national team reserve.
Ringette Canada hopes the formation of the national league will increase the sport's profile in Canada.
"The NRL is an opportunity to showcase the sport that we as athletes love and it is also a chance to increase the number of competitive games we are able to play over the course of a season," said Alexis Snowdon, who plays defence for the national team and competes for the Edmonton WAM team in the league.
"It has been my experience that when people see ringette played at this level, they are absolutely mesmerized by how much finesse the game has and how exciting and fast-paced it is," she said.
Eight teams from Western Canada -- two each from Winnipeg and Edmonton, and clubs from Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary and the Vancouver area -- make up the rest of the league.
"The thing we kept hearing from the athletes is 'we want to play more games,' and that's what this facilitates," president Jim Dawson said.
Dawson hopes the league will have an Atlantic Division in the future. "We're pretty fiscally conservative about this," he said. "We don't want to put a new team in a location unless we have a business case to support it."
About 250 players will play in the NRL.