Hockey goalie takes his shot at ringette amid goaltender shortage

It’s not his first time online.

Eleven-year-old Rylan Dunn usually arrives at his games 30 minutes before he hits the ice. His pads are slightly worn – no doubt from stopping countless shots – and his racquet is taped to his liking.

He has been a goalkeeper for years, but this time something is different. Instead of saving pucks, Dunn blocks rings.

“They were looking for a goalie and it was right for my age group, and I said, ‘Sure, I wouldn’t want a team to go without a goalie,'” Dunn said of Charlottetown Ringette’s recent search for another goalie.

“It was also a perfect opportunity. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play ringette.”

“You can’t shoot at an empty net”

It was ideal timing for Dunn and Charlottetown Ringette – an organization struggling to find women interested in becoming goalies.

“It’s a no-brainer when you think about it, you can’t shoot at an empty net, it’s too easy to lose a game that way,” said Troy Fraser, assistant coach at an under-14 side.

“So the goalkeeper is a very important position.”

Ringette assistant coach Troy Fraser says it feels good to know there’s someone in the nets who will do their job for the team. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

Fraser said there are currently five available goalkeepers for the six local U14 teams. That means the team losing out in the draft will have to “recruit a goalkeeper, look for one, beg, borrow and steal,” he said.

Dunn noted that if your team doesn’t have a goalie, “you’re either going to have to put an inexperienced player in the net or you’re going to have to give up every game you play.”

“And that’s one of the worst things that can happen in any sport,” he said.

ups and downs

It’s a bit of a mystery why there are so few female ringette goalies. On the one hand, Fraser believes the position can put immense pressure on both the athlete and the parent. On the other hand, it can also be accompanied by great appreciation.

“Sometimes you feel like you blame the goalkeeper when the game is lost. But if the game is won, the goalie is the superhero and the star of the show,” he said.

“So it’s tough being a goalkeeper parent but it is what it is. If that’s the position they like to play, let them have fun with it.”

Coaches Troy Fraser and Rylan Dunn chat between seasons. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

The Charlottetown Ringette goaltender agrees the pros outweigh the cons.

“It’s a lot of fun when you make a big save like that,” said Danielle Mayne. “We’ve seen quite a few female goalkeepers in the various federations across the island.”

Still, Mayne said goalkeepers are missing in both the U12 and U14 divisions.

“The sport continues to grow and goalkeepers sometimes don’t grow quite as much,” Mayne said.

“New Kind of Energy”

On the ice, Dunn is still getting used to the different rules. He explained that in ringette players can’t bend their knees, whereas in hockey they can.

But by continuing to play both sports this season, he’s doubling his ice time and having a blast doing it.

“Everyone on the team is very nice and the coaches are very good and it’s really fun,” said Dunn.

Charlottetown Ringette goaltender director Danielle Mayne says there always seems to be a team that ends up without a goalie. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

As for the team, Fraser said they’re thrilled to have Dunn.

“Before we found the goalkeeper it was just a mad mess asking other teams for one and trying to recruit one and trying to work around schedules,” he said.

“When we found one, the girls were excited. They are thrilled. It’s almost like 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 goaltender development sessions every other Friday at McLauchlan Arena.

“We encourage all players to come out and try it. We’ve had some under-eight and…we’ve had some under-16 goalies,” Mayne said.

“It’s really that grassroots age that we’re trying to develop and it’s a great sport for them to come and try it.”

Rylan Dunn says he’s always loved being a goalkeeper. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

Fraser admits he never imagined getting so 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 empowering women, and men can 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, nurture and let her thrive.”

Dunn has some advice for those who are already goalkeepers and know the ups and downs of being alone in the net.

“If other goalkeepers think about retiring…it’s really your decision but with all the lack of goalkeepers, do your best not to,” he said.

“Try to play through it.”

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