A ringette star for the West End

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MoWester Blanchette is one of the country’s best

A ringette star for the West End

BY NOAH SIDEL

Montreal West’s Julie Blanchette is a rare breed in the West End sporting scene: a ringette star like no other!

Having played since she was a young girl in Montreal’s East End, Blanchette – who moved to MoWest two years ago – has taken her game to an elite level and hopes to once again represent Canada at this year’s world championship to be held in Ottawa in November. “Being on Team Canada is a great challenge. This is my second time as I was with them in 2004. I’ve played against a lot of my teammates on Team Canada before and I really respect them and I’m looking forward to being with them instead of against them now,” she said.

The national program, Blanchette explained, selects 32 women, of which 22 move on to the game roster while the rest practice in hope of getting bumped up.

As one of the top players in the country, Blanchette is gunning for a spot in the top 22. “Everything is a step up at this level and I’m really excited. Now that I’m on this team, it’s a challenge to be in top 22 to make the world championships. There are 32 of us and they’ll select 22 for the playing squad as of May,” she said.

A star in the 16-team National Ringette League, Blanchette finished second on the Montreal Mission and seventh overall this past season with 27 goals and 54 points. Indeed, she is the second-leading scorer in Mission franchise history with 57 goals and 129 points in three seasons.

Her 129 points are also good for fourth all-time in the three-year existence of the NRL. “We’re building the National Ringette League to hopefully have people own our teams, similar to the National Women’s Hockey League. It’s in progress and we’re trying to grow it,” Blanchette said. “I’ve been in the league since the beginning in 2004, and aside from international play, I’d say it has to be the highest level of the sport in the world.”

As the 2005-06 league MVP, Blanchette must be considered among the top ringette players on the planet. At 30, she believes she can parlay her skill and experience into a leadership role on Team Canada. “On Team Canada, the players range from 19 to about 31, with the average being in the late-20s. If anything, being 30, I have a lot of experience and that should work for me, not against me,” she said. “We finished second to Finland in Stockholm, Sweden in 2004 and I want to avenge that loss and prove Canada is the best at ringette.”

For now, Blanchette will focus on growing the game in her own part of the world and training to make the national squad. “I’m originally from the East End and I’ve lived in Montreal West for two years. (The Mission) played a game at Doug Harvey in NDG this year and our home arena is in the East End. We try to play a little bit here and a little bit there to expose the sport to more and more people,” she said. “This is a beautiful, graceful, fast game, and I’d like to see it get bigger and bigger.” • For more on the National Ringette League, visit www.nationalringetteleague.com.

Organisations: Team Canada, National Ringette League, National Women Hockey League

Lieux géographiques: Montreal West, West End, East End Canada MoWest Finland Stockholm Sweden NDG

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