Alexandra Schneider says it can be a stressful experience playing with grandma.
Alexandra and Yvonne Johnson are separated in age by almost 30 years, but both play on the Chilliwack Ringette Association’s 18-plus squad. Ringette, Alexandra says, is not the peaceful non-contact sport you’d assume it to be, at least not at the women’s level.
Sure, kids playing in the Chilliwack Ringette Association enjoy a non-contact experience where fair play and sportsmanship reigns supreme.
|“Yvonne Johnson is B.C.’s longest continuously playing ringette player. (Eric J. Welsh/ The Progress)”|
But at the women’s level, Alexandra describes the sport as ‘extremely competitive.’
“You worry about your teammates when they’re out on the ice, but all of a sudden when it’s family it’s a whole new level of concern,” she says.
“When you’re playing competitive sports people get, um, aggressive,” Yvonne agrees. “It can get chippy.”
Of course, grandma can take care of herself just fine.
Yvonne has the distinction of being the longest continuously active ringette player in the province.
She first picked up a stick when she was seven years old, in 1972 or 1973, and hasn’t stopped since.
“I lived in Langley and played in Aldergrove and that was the first year that ringette started in British Columbia,” Yvonne recalls. “I have two older brothers who both played hockey, and there was no hockey for girls at that time. I was a tomboy who played every sport going, and when someone brought a film about ringette to school, I went straight home that day and said to my mom, ‘I want to play ringette.’”
She’s 56 now and she’s seen and heard everything there is to see and hear on a sheet of ice.
Anyone who tries to intimidate her is wasting their time.
“She has a ton of courage on the ice,” Alexandra explains. “She’s strong and she doesn’t give up, and that tenacity and determination is what gets her the ring at the end of the day.”
Both women describe themselves as extremely competitive.
Like her grandma, Alexandra started playing when she was seven.
She plays forward and is not shy about going where she needs to go. She’s a good skater with a lethal shot. Yvonne will often yell at her on the ice, ‘No! Don’t shoot from there!’ only to see the ring rocket past a stunned goaltender.
And yet, asked who has the hardest shot between the two of them, Yvonne declares, “That’d probably be me.”
Alexandra’s eyebrows shoot up.
“Oh yeah. I think she’s wrong on that,” she retorts. “I 100 per cent have a harder shot.”
Yvonne was a goaltender for years, so she should have plenty of insight on shooters. She’s a defender now and she has long been the backbone of whatever team she plays on. On the ice she is a steady, calming presence. She sees the game unfolding in front of her and directs traffic like a quarterback.
Off the ice, while she hasn’t been a team manager in a few years, she’s still viewed as the ‘team mom.’
She doesn’t care for the descriptive term, but she’s always enjoyed the role.
“I still get my fingers in there, even though I’m not the designated team manager,” she says with a chuckle.
Yvonne played in Langley with Fraser Valley Ringette up until two years ago, when the birth of the Chilliwack Ringette Association gave her the opportunity to make a change.
“Lots of us came from the Chilliwack/Abbotsford area, and a bunch of them decided to form a team in Chilliwack when CRA was born three years ago,” Yvonne says. “I stayed in Langley for one more year, but it wasn’t as fun without them, so I came out here to join them.
“I love the social aspect of it and playing with people who have become friends over the years.”
Alexandra is thrilled to be able to share the ice with grandma.
“We get so busy in our day to day life, and it’s really nice to have time carved out every week where I get to see my family members,” Alexandra says. “I get to see my grandma at the rink, because we play together, and I get to see my grandpa because he comes along to watch games, and often volunteers and runs the clock or the shot-clock.”
It’s great being on the ice, getting the competitive juices flowing. They love winning. But both women agree the best part of being part of the team is the time spent in the dressing room before and after games.
“The sense of humour on our team is really inappropriate and not printable,” Alexandra laughs. “We have so many inside jokes, and it’s just super fun to be part of it.
“The younger players on the team, we learn a lot from the players who have gone to nationals multiple times and played in the world ringette championships. They’re amazing. They have so much experience and exposure to so many levels of the sport.
“And there are girls who are younger that I am too, and it’s really cool seeing them move through high school to post secondary and seeing them grow.”
Another generation of her family is now starting in the sport. Alexandra has two younger cousins who testing it out, and she is maneuvering behind the scenes to get her niece on the ice.
“I’ve gone public skating with her and we’ve picked up sticks when there’s no one else on the ice,” she says conspiratorially. “I’m trying to make that happen, because I know how much joy I’ve gotten out of this sport over the years. I hope my niece and cousins stick love ringette, but even if it ends up being something else, I hope they find a sport that gives them what ringette has given me.
“I enjoy seeing the grins of young players when they’re out on the ice,” Yvonne agrees. “I coach a U14 team and it’s great seeing them enjoy the game that we’ve loved for so long.”
Alexandra says she intends to keep playing ringette just as long as grandma, who currently has no intention of stopping.
“I’ll play as long as Yvonne, if not longer,” she says, smiling and revealing her competitive nature one more time. “I love this sport, and as long as I can physically keep doing it, I intend to play as long as I can.”