“This is the best result I could ever imagine,” said Sault Ringette chief Bruce Graham, who will run Sweden with his daughter Rachel at the upcoming World Ringette Championships in Finland.
A father often isn’t on the same coaching staff as his daughter at any level of competition, let alone on the international stage.
But for Salt Ringgit boss Bruce Graham and his daughter Rachel, that dream will become a reality next month when the duo coach the Swedish national team at the Ringgit World Championships in Espoo, Finland.
Born and raised in Salt, Rachel played the role of Ringgit from the age of five until her early adult years before transferring to school.
Rachel’s father had the opportunity to coach her on the Under-16 and Under-19 teams when she was still living in the city.
After completing school at Yale University, Rachel moved to Sweden to work, but her passion for Ringette never went away. She sits on the board of the Swedish Ringette federation, and even played for the Swedish national team as a goalkeeper in 2017.
“She’s having a lot of fun,” says Bruce Graham. “Rachel really enjoys what she is doing there now. She is really immersed in Swedish culture and even speaks Swedish fluently.”
The proud father has been with Sault Ringette since 1997 and has coached for nearly 20 years. Graham worked his way through the ranks, coaching league, regional and eventually the highest regional levels – leading a wide range of age groups along the way.
The World Ringgit Championship is held every two years, but due to the pandemic, this is the first time it has been held since 2019.
Graham was Sweden’s head coach three years ago when they won gold in the president’s pool on Canadian soil, and he’s looking forward to defending that title – this time, with his daughter at his side.
“Being able to train with your daughter at any level is a real privilege,” he says. “Thinking of one of my daughters being on the bench with me is mind-boggling. I still haven’t figured it out. To do that on the international stage – it’s just a touch on the cake. I don’t know how to describe it.”
The Swedish national team is characterized by a mixture of players. Many are from the 2019 squad, while others are breaking the list for their first chance at a world title. The women are between 17 and 29 years old.
“It’s like women’s hockey where you have a relatively large age range,” Graham says.
The head coach was in Sweden for three weeks in May, spending time with his daughter and the national team in preparation for the upcoming tournament.
“It’s a wonderful country,” he says. “Believe it or not, its landscape is similar to Sault Ste. Mary. You will have a hard time distinguishing northern Ontario and northern Sweden. They are very similar.”
Although it has been a long journey, Graham gives full credit to Sault Ringette Club and programs for providing space to learn, adapt and work in this position as international head coach.
“It’s a very strong organization that we have in Salt,” he says. “The opportunities the club has given me is the real reason why I was able to do it in the first place. Their ability to deliver top-notch programming is the reason why I am where I am today.”
The club has a “come and try it” on Sunday 25th September at 6pm at John Rhodes for any kid who wants to try the Ringette.
While he has a real respect for other sports like hockey, his love for the game of Ringette is undeniable.
“I live for ringgit,” Graham says. “I love sports, it’s my passion, and I can’t get enough of it. To be able to take part in an event like this on the international stage and then have my daughter with me there is just amazing. I can’t wait to get there.”
The World Ringgit Championship will run from October 31 to November 6.