Tillsonburg resident Taylor Campbell knows what it takes to excel at a team sport.
The 18-year-old Glendale High School student recently returned from Fredericton, New Brunswick where she and her Cambridge Turbo teammates won the bronze medal at the 2013 Canadian Ringette Championships.
“It was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking before going,” said Campbell. “The girls have all been there before so it was helpful that they knew what it was like, it got my confidence up.”
Campbell began her ringette career in Tillsonburg and was just five or six years old when she donned her first pair of skates and hit the ice.
“I believe that it’s the fastest sport on ice,” said Campbell. “I love how fast it is on the ice, it’s fun and it’s competitive,” she added. “It’s pretty physical and gets intense.”
Beginning and growing her career in Tillsonburg, Campbell eventually left town for a higher level of play, a path that would lead to the NRL draft last summer. Campbell was a National Ringette League (NRL) rookie with the Turbos this past season, having been selected with the Turbos’ first pick. One of just four underage players in Canada, she was the youngest in the league.
Her skill and talent at such a young age soon set her apart and helped establish Campbell on the Turbos’ top scoring line. In 28 regular season games, she found the back of the net 16 times, adding 36 assists for 52 total points, to go along with one minor penalty.
“I was drafted by Cambridge. They’ve always been known to be a good team, so I was happy to get there,” she said. “I was shocked when they chose me. I knew about the players, how good they were and just knew that Cambridge was always a really strong, competitive team.
“I never thought I’d be playing for the Turbos.”
The NRL is a 16-team national loop with four teams out west and the balance in Ontario, Quebec and The Maritimes. Western teams typically fly to their games, while eastern squads had double-headers for opponents further afield. Waterloo was just down the road for the Turbos, but Cambridge’s schedule for example, included two-game weekends in New Brunswick, Montreal and Ottawa.
The Turbos finished their regular season with 23 wins, four losses and a shootout loss, in second place overall, one point behind the Montreal Mission.
A total of 44 teams from across Canada competed in three age divisions – U16, U19 and NRL (18+) at the Canadian Ringette Championships in New Brunswick from March 31–April 7, all vying for a gold medal in their respective categories.
Eight NRL teams qualify for nationals, the top seven of 12 in the east, three western entries and the host (New Brunswick) squad. The eight play a single-game round-robin, with the top-placed team earning a bye into the final, while two and three play off for the right to challenge them.
Seeded second going in, Cambridge finished round-robin play tied for third with British Columbia and Gloucester, entering a 10-minute mini-game round-robin as a result. The Turbos shut out both opponents to advance to the effective semi-final, dropping a tough decision to the Calgary Rath in overtime. The Rath would go on to beat Winnipeg in the final to claim the 2012-2013 NRL championship.
Some on the team who have tasted Canadian gold may have been a bit disappointed with the colour of the medal, but Campbell said her national bronze experience was an opportunity she will always remember.
“I was very happy that I came home with a medal. It was overwhelming at the beginning but it was a great experience and I hope to go again some day.”
That desire is playing a part in Campbell’s future. A two-sport athlete, Taylor is striker for the London Griffin Academy, an elite U17 soccer team which travels to tournaments in the United States in order to gain exposure for its players. Campbell’s level of play in cleats, as well as on skates, earned her scholarship offers from a university in North Carolina and a 95% free ride from a school in Arkansas.
Instead, and based also in part on her desire to enter the therapeutic recreation field, Campbell has set her sights on either The University of Waterloo, or Seneca College.
Either way, Campbell looks forward to balancing her time between her studies and her on-ice passion next year, back with the Turbos.
“I’m signed again for next season,” she concluded. “I just hope to keep playing and then maybe make the Canadian National Ringette Team one day.”