Can you spell “Finland?”

The recent World Club Championships in Finland were revealing.

It re-affirmed that Finland has embraced the sport of ringette – it is obsessed with ringette.

It is no wonder that some of Canada’s finest ringette players travel each year to Finland to play in their elite league.

Evidence is offered in a recent interview with an Alberta-based player. She notes, and I quote “As compared to ringette in Canada, the league over there is a big deal, “When they broadcast the games, 160,000 people in Finland watch,” “The arenas are packed.” The finals rival the productions of professional sports in Canada she says. “It is really incredible.” “Some small towns have teams and that’s what you do. That is their Saturday night. You go there and there is a huge crowd.”

Finland has offered players a fantastic learning experience. They are on the ice five times a week, allowing athletes to focus on the game.

In Finland, the games are longer with 3, 20 minute periods, compared to Canada with 2, 20 minute periods for players 14 and older.

You can imagine my keen interest when I watched the games over the web when Finland’s best teams took on two of our best elite adult teams (National Ringette League).

I applaud Ringette Canada for organizing the web broadcasts. Check it out here.

I spoke with several people associated with our Canadian teams that made the trip to Turku, Finland. I posed the question: how did the Fins get so good?

Here are my top five reasons on why Finland “owns” the ringette ring spotlight.

No. 5. Ringette is so popular in Finland that it is a Finnish Cultural Trademark.

No. 4. They make the Ring Jet sticks that are so popular with ringette players, everywhere. They KNOW ringette.

No. 3. They form their teams so that the best players are allowed to dominate the ice time, delegating other players to support roles. (Not great for player development, but good for winning).

No. 2. The national team players are on the ice together several times per week.

No. 1. Money flows to the players allowing them to dedicate considerable time and energy to ringette.

In Canada, we have over 25,000 players – we need as many as we can get.

It is the classic sports system battle – whose sport system is better – theirs or ours?

While the Canadian ringette system is mature, it has failed to capture the imagination of the population, like it has in Finland.

We can learn a lot from the Finns in making ringette a Canadian cultural trademark.

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