BY ZACHARY CORMIER
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after the final buzzer sounded on the Edmonton WAM! game in Lacombe this past weekend.
To the average passerby, the National Ringette League game against the Calgary RATH appeared to be like the many others that the WAM! have hosted at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in the past. But those in attendance knew that there was someone missing behind the WAM! bench, someone who has had a huge impact on ringette in Lacombe and in Alberta as a whole.
Edmonton WAM! and Lacombe ringette coach Ralph Bell, RJ for short, passed away on Dec. 3rd after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. This would be the first time that the team would play on home ice without him at the helm.
“You come to the rink and it’s your first time coming to the rink without him. But you know that he would have loved to have been here to watch you play. That’s the motivation behind it. This game was for him and that makes it pretty easy,” said Ralph’s daughter, Jamie Bell, who plays for the WAM! along with her sister Dailyn.
For the Bell sisters, strapping on the skates so soon after their father’s passing was an easy decision to make, especially because it was being played in Lacombe, where they grew up playing ringette in the Central Alberta Sting AA program and where Ralph spent almost 10 years coaching the sport he loved.
“They asked us a couple of days after Dad had passed whether we even wanted to play this game and it was kind of a no-brainer for Jamie and I,” Dailyn said.
“The Lacombe games were always the games that Dad loved, the games he promoted. He wanted to get Lacombe Ringette out to support the highest level of ringette possible.”
It was a tough game for the fired up ‘WAMily’, whose helmets were adorned with stickers emblazoned with the words ‘For RJ’ and their coach’s favourite slogan ‘never, never give up.’
Jamie opened the scoring for the WAM! 13 minutes into the opening frame, but Calgary quickly responded with one of their own. Dailyn then tallied two goals but again the RATH responded.
It was a hard-fought battle for both sides as the back-and-forth affair continued. By the mid-point of the fourth and final period, the game was tied at four goals apiece, but this was a game Edmonton was not going to lose.
With 10 minutes left in the final frame, Dailyn carried the ring low into the Calgary zone and slid a pass out in front of the net to Jamie, who fired it past the Calgary goaltender.
As soon as the ring crossed the goal line, the pair embraced in an exuberant celebration as the building erupted with noise.The goal would hold up as the game winner. Final score: 5-4 WAM!
“I’m never one to score a game winner. I do believe he was here and he helped me score that,” Jamie said, noting that the sisters also played with, perhaps, a little too much passion.
“He also put us in the penalty box a few times,” Dailyn laughed.
“I can only imagine what he would have said. This will be a game I’ll remember,” Jamie added.
Ralph Bell initially became involved with ringette when Dailyn was six years old, 20 years ago.
He spent nine years coaching his daughters through the Central Alberta Sting AA program and spent another three years in the Edmonton Ringette Club’s AA program before being brought on as an assistant coach with the WAM! in 2011.
That same year, the team won an NRL championship. In the following years, he guided the team to two national bronzes in three appearances at the National championships and a World bronze medal.
Jamie and Dailyn said the support from the ringette community the past few weeks has been incredible and they wanted to thank everyone for their kind words during this difficult time.