It’s not his first time in the net.
Eleven-year-old Rylan Dunn usually arrives 30 minutes before hitting the ice at his matches. His pads are no doubt a bit worn from stopping countless shots and his stick is taped to his liking.
He has been playing goalkeeper for years, but this time it is different. Instead of saving pucks, Dunnisblocking rings.
“They were looking for a goalkeeper and it was right in my age group, and I said, ‘Sure, I wouldn’t want a team to leave without a goalkeeper,'” Dunn said of Charlottetown Ringette’s recent search for another goalkeeper.
“It was also a perfect opportunity. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play ringette.”
‘Can’t shoot at an empty net’
It was ideal timing for both Dunn and Charlottetown Ringette, an organization struggling to find women to become goalkeepers.
“If you think about it, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Like you can’t shoot at an empty net, it’s too easy to lose a game that way,” said Troy Fraser, an assistant coach at an U14. -team.
“So goalkeeper is a very important position.”
Fraser said there are currently five goalkeepers available for the six local U14 teams. That means the team that gets the short straw is left to “recruit a goalkeeper, find one, beg, borrow and steal,” he said.
Dunn noted that if your team doesn’t have a goalkeeper, “you either have to put an inexperienced player in the net or you have to give up all your games.”
“And that’s one of the worst things that can happen in any sport,” he said.
High and low
It’s a bit of a mystery why there are so few female ringette keepers. On the one hand, Fraser thinks the position can put tremendous pressure on both the athlete and the parent. On the other hand, it can also be accompanied by a huge appreciation.
“Sometimes you feel like the goalkeeper is to blame when the match is lost. But when the match is won, the goalkeeper is the superhero and the star of the show,” he said.
“So it’s hard to be a goalkeeper parent, but it is what it is. If it’s the position they love to play in, let them have fun with it.”
The Charlottetown Ringette goalkeeper director agrees that the pros outweigh the cons.
“It’s a lot of fun when you make that big save,” said Danielle Mayne. “We’ve seen quite a few female goalkeepers emerging in the various associations all over the island.”
Still, Mayne said goalkeepers are lacking in both the U12 and U14 divisions.
“The sport keeps growing and the goalkeepers sometimes don’t grow quite at the same pace,” Mayne said.
‘New form of energy’
On the ice, Dunn is still getting used to the other rules. He explained that ringette players can’t fit in, while hockey can.
But by continuing to practice both sports this season, he is doubling his ice age and enjoying it a lot.
“Everyone on the team is really nice and the coaches are really good and it’s really fun,” Dunn said.
As for the team, Fraser said they are very happy with Dunn.
“Before we found the goalkeeper, it was crazy to ask other teams for a goalkeeper and recruit one and work around the schedules,” he said.
“When we found one, the girls were thrilled. They’re ecstatic. It’s almost a new kind of energy in the room.”
New goalkeepers welcome
The door is always open for players who want to shoot between the posts. To help, Charlottetown Ringette hosts goalkeeper development sessions every second Friday at the McLauchlan Arena.
“We encourage all levels to try it. We’ve had some under the age of eight and… we’ve had some goalkeepers under 16,” Mayne said.
“It’s really that base age that we’re trying to help develop, and it’s a great sport for them to try it out.”
Fraser admits he was never that involved with Ringette, but as a father of three girls, he’s seen how beneficial it can be.
“It’s about having fun. It’s about women and men being able to play too,” he said.
“But at the end of the day, if they’re having fun, why not? If a girl wants to play in the nets, encourage them, nurture them, and let them thrive in them.”
Dunn has some advice for those who are already goalkeepers with first hand knowledge of the highs and lows you experience when soloing in the net.
“If other goalkeepers are thinking about quitting… it’s really your decision, but with all the lack of goalkeepers, try your best not to,” he said.
“Try to play through it.”
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