Five Lacombe Ringette Association alumni turned Team Canada players now have their accomplishments immortalized on the walls of the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex.
On Tuesday, as part of the annual Ringette Night in Lacombe, sisters Dailyn and Jamie Bell, Lindsay Vink (nee Brown), and Gillian Dreger became the first ringette players to have alumni posters unveiled along the dressing room hall in the Can Pak 1 Arena. They were also recognized on the ice during the intermission of a coaches versus players game.
Melissa Misutka was also recognized, but was not in attendance.
“It’s a pretty special moment, especially being in such a small town,” said Vink. “It’s nice to be recognized, and for all those little girls to look up to us is pretty special.”
Dailyn Bell played with the Lacombe Ringette Association from 1996 to 2006, while her sister, Jamie Bell, and cousin Vink played in Lacombe from 1997 to 2006. Dreger and Misutka, meanwhile, played from 2003-2010.
While Lacombe is proud of its program, it can only take players so far on a competitive level, before players become part of the Central Alberta AA program and beyond.
In this case, all five players moved on to play in Edmonton as part of the National Ringette League (NRL) and the Edmonton WAM! Dailyn was the first to join the ‘WAMily’ in 2009, followed by Jamie in 2012, Vink in 2013 and Dreger in 2016. Misutka joined the team this year.
They haven’t forgotten where they came from, and are proud to have come from the local programs.
“People always ask what is it about Lacombe, what’s in the water? You’ve got to come see it and you’ll understand,” Jamie said.
“We equate it a lot to the way we were raised. Growing up, we were taught some strong work ethic and it just goes to show the strength of the ringette association – you have a lot of players that used to play at high levels come back and coach, and I think having a great coach kind of teaches you skills at a young age that prepare you for success.”
“A lot of it is the love and the passion – it’s thick in Lacombe,” she said. “You go to the cities and you don’t feel that as much. Lacombe you can really feel the community around sports.”
While the dressing room hallway has been lined with a plethora of Lacombe Minor Hockey alumni and their successes for over a year, Lacombe Ringette says they’ll create posters for those who play for Team Canada, so it’s no small feat to see five posters along the hallway.
The Bell sisters made their first World Championship run with the senior national team in 2013, and returned in 2016 and 2017, while Dreger was on the junior team in 2017. The three, along with Misutka, made their most recent world championship appearance last month in Burnaby, B.C., and it may have been five if Vink, who played on Team Canada in 2017, was not on maternity leave.
Unfortunately, their latest showing didn’t quite go as planned, as they fell to 5-1 to Finland, handing their opponents their seventh consecutive world title. Jamie Bell had the lone Canadian goal.
They described the loss as heartbreaking.
“It was our year. We had the team to do it, we had the coaching staff, the support staff. It was heartbreaking for the outcome,” said Dailyn. “But you walk away from the journey and the experience and reflect on it – it’s such an honour to put on those jerseys and to play alongside all the best female athletes in the country and the world.
“It makes you hungry for more.”
With the world championships only held every two years, however, none of the players know for sure if they’ll fight for a spot on the team and make another run.
With their posters and accomplishments on display outside the dressing rooms, however, what is a sure bet is they’ll continue to inspire the community’s up-and-coming ringette players for many years to come.
As for advice to give those players?
“Hard work beats talent – talent can only take you so far, but if you put in the hard work you can achieve great things,” said Jamie. “There’s two types of people that get to wear the maple leaf on their chest – those in the military and our athletes – so wearing that maple leaf is an honour and definitely something they should strive for.”
Vink, who has taken a break from the WAM! and competing with Team Canada while on maternity leave and is instead coaching, agreed.
“To add to that, every time you step on the ice, your goal should be to get better in some form or another,” she said. “Those little habits every single day will make you into the athlete and person you want to be.”
All sent a huge thank you to the Lacombe Ringette Association for all the support they receive throughout the season, including the coaches they had growing up both, as well as their parents and the community in general.