Ringette tournament packs Fredericton arenas

The Willie O'Ree Arena in Fredericton, N.B., was full of cheers Sunday.

Fans supported more than 1,000 players and 70 teams competing this weekend in the first official ringette tournament of the season.

Teams from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick competed in the three-day tournament. Games were played at various arenas in Fredericton. 

The teams are made up primarily of girls ranging from kids to teenagers. 

Lily Morgan, 11, of Fredericton is playing in her second season. A year ago, she laced up skates for the first time and stepped onto the ice without knowing much about the sport. 

Gary Moore/CBC

"I knew that you had to pass over the blue-line and you couldn't go in the crease, and that's it," Morgan said.

She was determined and dedicated to learning the game. When she got her first goal she felt the love from her teammates.  

"Everybody huddled around me and I just got really excited and I had tears of joy."

Her father built an outdoor rink in their backyard last winter so she could practise skating and learn the game. 

"We have a soccer net that we use as a ringette net," Lily said. 

Gary Moore/CBC

Lily's father, Jason, said he's seen a big change in his daughter since she started playing the game.

"I watched my girl, shy girl, grow up into a force. She wants to do better and she has that drive," Jason said. 

Lily's coach, Scott Gullison, said his players are close and are building lifelong friendships.

He said his sister grew up playing the sport. 

"She played ringette 20-something years ago and she still keeps in contact with her ringette community, so it's pretty cool to see."

Gullison is also the president of the Fredericton Youth Ringette Association. He said there were six more teams in the tournament this year than last year and he's expecting more next year.

"I heard some good feedback this year that we may see some other teams look to support us this year."