Women happy about league

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

If only Sam Jacks had been around to see this.

But Lisa Brown knows exactly what he would say: "I knew this would happen."

Jacks, a Scottish immigrant who died in 1975, invented ringette in the early 1960s and Brown, one of the game's legendary players, says she wishes he could have been around to see yesterday's introduction of the National Ringette League.

"He foresaw this 40 years ago," said Brown, a three-time world champion in the 1990s. "He said women are going to come into their own in sports. He was a real visionary that way."

The eight-team league, in which Brown will lead the Calgary Rath, boasts three divisions -- West, Ontario and Quebec.

"This is the culmination of two years of hard work and getting all our homework done," said president Jim Dawson of Edmonton. "We've always had a number of teams around the country but they only play each other at nationals one week a year."

Now, they're playing for a league championship title, plus berths at the nationals in Winnipeg April 11-16.

And, he said, the NRL is a great way to promote the game.

"We can now see ringette played at its highest levels across the country," Dawson said. "We can get to know some of these athletes and develop some heroes for girls to follow."

The West Division, which kicks off action next weekend at the Bernadette Price Memorial Tournament in Saskatoon, is comprised of eight teams.

Calgary hosts the teams in its Golden Ring tournament Jan. 21-23.

The Rath is anxious to sink its teeth into the Edmonton Wam, whom head coach Steve Hutchison expects will be Calgary's chief rival.

"That team has eight players on the national team going to the worlds (at Stockholm, Sweden, Nov. 23-27)," he said.

The Rath is anchored by Brown, the 37-year-old veteran.

But she shifts the focus to the goaltenders, Shannon Hutchison and Stacey McNichol.

"They are formidable," said Brown. "They're both in their third year and it takes a while at the open division to understand the level of play."


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