Ringette Star Soper Sports Plenty Of Game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Laura Soper is an elite Canadian athlete, yet she walks the halls of Western University in anonymity. But that’s okay with the Mustangs’ ringette star, who prefers to grab the spotlight on the ice playing a sport which, traditionally, has gained little attention.

Soper, 18, of Mississauga has been selected to skate for Canada’s national junior ringette squad competing at the 2019 World Ringette Championships in Burnaby, B.C. from November 25 to 30. She endured a gruelling selection camp at Ottawa in mid-May, which saw 22 athletes across Canada chosen to represent their country in a sport which is growing at an unprecedented rate from coast to coast.

Laura Soper

Ringette Canada says there are more than 31,000 ringette players on almost 2,000 teams across Canada, with more than 1,500 officials and nearly 8,000 coaches involved in the sport. Ringette Ontario lists more than 75 local associations and more than 9,500 registered players, 2,600 coaches, 600 referees and countless volunteers.

The London Lynx ringette program is one of the province’s strongest. There were seven Londoners on this year’s Mustangs squad.

It appears the days of ringette playing second banana to women’s hockey are over. And Soper hopes the day will come soon when sports fans recognize Canada’s top ringette players as elite athletes.

“Registration is at an all-time high, and that’s great,” said Soper, who took up the sport shortly after learning how to skate at age 4, and shortly afterwards joined the Mississauga Mustangs ringette association. “On campus, within the athletics community, we are very well respected as a team and as athletes. The training staff treats us just like the football guys. But unfortunately, no, I’m not recognized in the halls.”

Western ringette competes against Ontario university squads, and against some of the strongest women’s teams in the Western Region Ringette Association Open AA division. That means they play against some of the best ringette players in North America. There is no U Sports league, but Ontario squads compete at university-hosted tournaments and at Ringette Ontario-sanctioned competition, including provincials.

“These are skilled athletes,” said Mustangs coach Ellen Thornton. “They are the best of the best, just like our football players.”

The Mustangs fell short at provincials this season, losing some heart-breaking one-goal contests. On the season, Soper finished with 57 goals and 28 assists. She also helped Team Ontario win silver at the Canada Winter Games, and finished tied for fourth in tournament scoring with three goals and 17 assists.

“From the beginning of the season to the end, (the Mustangs) saw some really big improvement,” Soper said. “If not for those few heart-breakers, we could have won a championship. We faced some really strong teams this year, especially some tough university teams. That’s because the sport is really gaining in popularity.”

Laura Soper (top row, centre) and Western Mustangs ringette squad. Photo: Mustangs Ringette.

An all-around athlete, Soper was asked to play winter soccer as a kid growing up in Mississauga. But that would have cut into ringette, so she abandoned the pitch for the ice. The Western sophomore is studying Science and entering Biology studies this fall. She’ll bring her books with her as the national junior squad has a busy schedule ahead, with training camp slated for Edmonton on Labour Day weekend, and another in Burnaby on Thanksgiving weekend.

“We are very excited to ice such a strong and powerful group of young athletes for this team,” said Ringette Canada’s junior national head coach Lorrie Horne. “This is a diverse group of young Canadians, from seven provinces, who are ready to prepare themselves in their pursuit of a world championship.”

Soper said she wasn’t surprised by the high calibre of play at the Ottawa selection camp, since she had already witnessed the talent of many of the skaters during provincial and national tournaments. But still, she said she was “in awe of them at times, because of their talent.”

Said Soper, “Being selected to the team, knowing I will be able to play with some of Canada’s top athletes, was one of my favourite moments.”

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Jeffrey Reed has been a member of the London sports media since 1980. He is also editor of LondonOntarioGolf.com. Reach Jeffrey at jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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