Finnish ringette superstar has accomplished something unique

Tapani crosses sports to play in hockey worlds

OTTAWA — Susanna Tapani is in Ottawa this week competing for Finland in the IIHF Women’s World Championships.

The 20-year-old forward is the only player in the tournament who not only represents her country in hockey, but also ringette.

She has competed in eight Women’s Hockey World Championships as well as three World Ringette Championships.

Tapani began playing ringette at the age of six. It was not until she was 14 years old that her brother’s hockey coach invited her to come out and try that sport.

Ringette and hockey are two ice sports that have similar equipment and rules. Their differences lie in two key concepts: elite-level ringette is women-only, and ringette is a sport based around passing thanks to the rules requiring players to pass over the blue-lines to advance the ring into the next zone.

The difference in the rules between the two sports makes it difficult for many skaters to play both, but this is not a problem for the multi-talented Tapani.

“Not actually the rules, but shooting and passing, it just feels different,” said Tapani, asked if she struggled with adjusting to the different rules when she plays. “Sometimes if I’m playing ringette a lot more, then I can come and play hockey, it’s really hard.”

Switching back and forth between ringette and hockey is not the only struggle Tapani faces as a multisport athlete — she also has to balance training time for both sports.

“Training is much easier because I train hockey in the mornings and ringette in the evenings,” said Tapani. “Games are on the weekends, so it’s really hard because I have three games in the same weekend. It’s really hard.

“Sometimes I have to pass on some games because I have other sports. I have played ringette more, so I go and play ringette first.”

The biggest challenge, however, lies ahead. The World Ringette Championships will be held in North Bay in December while the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi begin less than two months later.

“Yeah, I really want to be [in North Bay],” said Tapani. “But it’s really hard because it is right before the Olympics. So it is not certain yet, but if I can come there I really want to be there.”

Ringette in Canada

The sport of ringette, invented in North Bay, Ont., is celebrating 50 years. Ringette Canada has recorded over 50,000 participants in ringette including players, coaches, officials, and volunteers.

The sport has grown to have teams in the United States, Sweden, Russia, France, and Tapani’s home country of Finland.

Even with 50,000 participants, ringette’s following in Canada does not compare to that of women’s hockey. However, according to Tapani, ringette has a much more comparable following to that of women’s hockey in Finland.

“I think it is kind of the same between hockey and ringette,” said Tapani. “ It’s not so big in Canada, but I think it is really the same.”

When asked if she had any suggestions for the thousands of young girls who have aspirations of succeeding in both ringette and hockey, she had the following words of advice.

“I just think that it is good when you can play both,” said Tapani. “And if somebody tells you that it is not ok, you just have to keep on trying and it is possible to play both. “