Despite being a city of winter sports, the number of ringette players in Sudbury is dropping.

The Sudbury Ringette Association once had hundreds of girls registered. Last year it only had 85. Those involved in the sport say the problem could be the fact that it has traditionally been considered a girls-only game.

"We have an identity crisis for this sport," said Harry Hirsimaki, who has been coaching ringette for the past 15 years.

"We have to get it away from ‘it’s a girls sport’ and more into ‘it’s a sport played by girls, predominantly by girls.’"

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Harry Hirsimaki, who has been coaching ringette for the past 15 years, said the sport is having an identity crisis. (Steve Howard)

Hirsimaki said a lot of people don't see it as a legitimate sport, especially now that many of the people who once championed ringette have taken up women's hockey — which has become more popular since it became an Olympic sport in 1998.

However, local ringette player Natalie Hayden has stuck with the sport. She played as a child and now has two daughters who are members of the Sudbury Ringette Association.

Hayden said there is still a stigma attached to the sport.

"Sometimes I wonder if maybe it’s because it’s the fathers making the decisions in the household and [they’re saying] we’re going to play hockey."

Hirsimaki said the provincial ringette association wants more youngsters to come and check out the sport for themselves.

He said locally, leaders are considering sending out pamphlets to schools, and starting a "bring-a-friend to ringette day" to draw bigger crowds.

Hirsimaki said some boys currently play ringette when they are younger, but there is a social stigma attached to playing at an older age.

He said people need to get over the notion of "boys playing a girls’ sport."

"[We need to] get it to be that boys are playing a very good sport or a sport … [then] we will have a boy’s league."

There were nearly 800 boys registered for ringette in Canada in 2009 and 2010.

With files from Steve Howard