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Angela Mead - The Jaromir Jagr of local ringette

"I'm the Jaromir Jagr of ringette," Angela Mead exclaimed with a laugh.

That's not a completely unrealistic analogy in the case of the 43 year old Sudbury native.

A career in the sport that she loves, one which dates back to her introduction to ringette at the age of five, will be punctuated in late November, as Mead suits up with Team USA at the 2017 World Ringette Championships in Mississauga.

Put the fact that Mead is playing for the United States, an interesting story into itself, on hold, just for a moment. The fact that she will take to the ice opposite a majority of skaters young enough to be her daughter qualifies as the starting in this incredible adventure.

Through her teenage years, Mead was hardly unique in this Northern Ontario nickel city. One of several talented ringette players who owed their start to the association in Walden, she moved on to play in Sudbury, capturing countless provincial championships along the way.

"When Sudbury (ringette) died out, I got picked up for nationals by Pickering," she recalled. "I played with Pickering for years, for Whitby for years, all while living in Sudbury. There were only a couple of girls, here and there, that continued like this."

Through her twenties and into her thirties, Mead simply could not justify stepping away from ringette. "I just didn't stop," she said. "The only time off was when I was pregnant. I love the sport, I had no reason to quit. I'm an athlete, I love being physical, I love working out. Now, every year is a bonus."

Thankfully, a resurgence of sorts locally would curtail the extensive travel requirements that the local member of the Greater Sudbury Police Services would face, each and every winter. An Open Women's team in Valley East provided the competitive outlet that Mead so relished, much closer to home.

"Even though there is a big age difference, they've accepted me on the team," she said. "Some of them kind of look up to me, I guess, because I've done so much with the sport. I've gone everywhere I can and travelled many places, and they respect that, which is really nice. It's a great bunch of girls."

In actuality, Mead had not "gone everywhere" that she could, with ringette. Yes, she had travelled the world with long-time ringette acquaintances, part of a Canadian elite team that would participate in European showdowns, largely versus the world powerhouse that is Finland.

Those matchups, however, were never at the "official" World Championships. Despite never living south of the border, Mead was first approached about representing our closest neighbours in international competition as the sport looked at possible outlets of growth.

"Ringette in the States is not as promoted, or as recognized, as it is in Canada or Finland," she explained. "Originally, for Team USA, you had to have some sort of family ties to the U.S., and I do have nephews there."

But it wasn't until the 2017 event that Mead would finally crack the roster, ironically, with the most stringent process to date. "In order to get people out and get the sport recognized in the States, they opened it up to Canadians to try out for this team and help promote the sport," she said.

In May, she attended tryouts in Michigan with 50 or so other hopefuls. A second camp, a little over a month or so ago, would assemble about half this number in Philadelphia. A few weeks back, the call would come.

"To me, it's an honour," said Mead. "I had a feeling I would make it, but I didn't want to get my hopes up, just in case. I think we have a nice little team this year." While remaining in shape is a lifestyle decision for Mead, the notion of testing herself against athletes half her age would require a somewhat greater commitment.

"One of the guys at work asked me to play shinny hockey with him for the whole summer," she said. "That was an advantage for sure, staying on the ice the whole season. I'm known for my speed. I can rush in, try and score, and still get back on defence."

Though Team USA is not likely to threaten either Canada or Finland for world ringette supremacy, the squad is expected to duke it out with both Sweden and the Czech Republic for the Presidential Cup.

Nearly four decades of involvement with ringette allows Mead to enjoy a rather unique perspective on the upcoming tournament. "It's almost validation at the same time," she said. "I'll be able to say that I've gone. But if I have another opportunity next year to make it, I'm going to go for it."

Sounds like a mindset that she might share with Jaromir Jagr. "Yes, and he works hard off the ice too."

The 2017 World Ringette Championships will run fro, November 26th through to December 3rd, with all games scheduled for the Hershey Centre.

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