Ringette dreams started in Ottawa

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:21 PM ET

Lyndsay Wheelans smiles every time she thinks about the venerable old barn on Ogilvie Rd. The Earl Armstrong Arena is that special to the Ottawa ringette coach.

And why not? Fifteen years ago, the Edmonton native and a group of ambitious Alberta women became the first world ringette champions at the Earl.

"Whenever I go there now, I get these good, tingly feelings," Wheelans said of that magical week in Gloucester. "It brings back a lot of good memories."

PIONEERS IN SPORT

They were pioneers in their sport. And it's for that reason that Ringette Canada will induct the team -- along with the 1992 world champs -- into its Hall of Fame at the national championships next month in Winnipeg.

Wheelans, already in the Hall as a coach (2002), remembers that first global title team with great fondness. One of her teammates, Judy Diduck of Sherwood Park, Alta., also played on Canada's first world championship women's hockey team the same year.

Former Ottawa resident Shauna Flath was part of the squad, too.

"They were really good athletes," Wheelans said of the team, which is already in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (she also played for the 1992 world champs). "I was so lucky to be a part of that group."

Wheelans has become a fixture on the Ottawa ringette scene since first moving here in 1998 to work as Ringette Canada's technical director, a job she held for three years. She was behind the bench for the Ottawa Ice when it won Canadian belle titles in 2003 and 2004.

Last fall, she served as an assistant coach with Canada's national team, which retained its global supremacy in Finland. Wheelans hopes a head-coaching job is in her future.

It's become the game of her life, something Wheelans admits she didn't see coming when first took up the game on outdoor rinks in Edmonton.

"I just wanted to do it mostly because my brother was playing hockey, and I wanted to do something," Wheelans said of her 25-year involvement with ringette.

"It's the skating that makes it such a great sport. I played a bit of ice hockey, too, but in ringette, there's so much more dazzle and speed and quickness.

"There's nothing like the movement on the ice, that feeling you get."

TAKING ON THE WORLD: Fresh off a triple-gold performance at the cross-country skiing nationals, Almonte's Perianne Jones is aiming for bigger things at the Nordic junior world ski championships, which begin tomorrow in Rovaniemi, Finland. She is targeting a top-10 result at her third and last world juniors. "Last year, I ended up 13th in the sprint and I will definitely be looking to better my performance," said Jones, 20, of the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club. "The senior team has set an amazing standard for us, and hopefully we can follow in their footsteps."

INCREDIBLE IVANIE: Teen speed skating sensation Ivanie Blondin of the Gloucester Concordes added to her medal collection in a big way at last weekend's Ontario short-track championships, winning the junior overall crown. Blondin also set a Canadian junior record in winning the 1,000 metres (1:38.43), and claimed the Kit Jarosz Memorial Cup for the fastest 500 metres at the meet (47.40). She is in Milwaukee this weekend for the North American championships.

AROUND THE AMATEUR SCENE: Gatineau's Audrey Attali placed 25th in the 10-km individual race at the world junior biathlon championships in Finland ... Dan Raymond of Gatineau recorded a season-best eighth-place finish Friday in half-pipe at a World Cup snowboarding event in Tandadalen, Sweden.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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