Back in February, White Rock’s Sue Rittinger wanted to drum up enough interest to form a women’s hockey team for the 55+ BC Games.
She ended up with enough for an entire league.
Originally, Rittinger, 61, had eight players on board to form a Zone 3 team for the Games, but needed a handful more, including a goaltender. Through word of mouth – and, Rittinger says, the forwarding around of Peace Arch News’ original article – interest grew quickly to the point where “we have enough for two teams now.”
With interest piqued, Rittinger is now taking the helm of a new league for women 45 and older. The league will play out of Langley’s Twin Rinks, and according to Rittinger, as the only 45-plus league in the Lower Mainland, she has already fielded inquiries from prospective players from North Vancouver to Chilliwack.
“I knew the demand was out there… but what I was surprised was just how many players we found for the Zone 3 (BC Games) team,” she told PAN.
The league is set to hit the ice under new COVID-19 return-to-play safety protocols on Sept. 7. Games are scheduled for Monday nights, Rittinger added.
The creation of a 45-plus league is important, she said, because many women in that age bracket – whether they’re experienced players or new to the game – don’t always want to play in recreational leagues with no age restrictions.
“I’m 61, so I don’t really want to play with players who are in their 20s. It’s harder to keep up… and socially, too, you want to be around people (your own age).”
The new return-to-play protocols for recreational hockey – which were announced earlier this summer – will apply to the new women’s league, Rittinger said. Among the many changes are a new no-faceoffs rule, while the game itself has switched to a four-on-four format, which means smaller rosters, fewer players on the bench and more room on the ice.
Also making for more room on the ice is a new offside rule where once the offensive zone is successfully gained by the attacking team, the ‘offside’ line moves from the usual blue line to the red line, which gives the offensive team much more room to work.
Rittinger, who has played under the new rules already, said it’s made for a much faster, more wide-open game – and one that many others have raved about, too. She hopes the new rules encourage women to play who might otherwise have health and safety concerns.
“You really aren’t in contact with people nearly as much – it’s become a real passing game, a skating game,” she said.
“I was a little nervous at first, too, but the rule changes really make you feel safe, and some players were saying they actually prefer (the new format) to the old way.
“They’re really liking it.”
For more information on the league, or to sign up, email Rittinger at firstname.lastname@example.org