By Joel Wass
The high hopes of both the men’s basketball and hockey teams may be in the past now that two of Ryerson’s most dominant athletes are history.
After a summer of speculation, former hoops star Ben Gorham and stand-out hockey goalkeeper Jon Sikkema will not be suiting up for the blue and gold this year.
Gorham is no longer enrolled at Ryerson, while Sikkema has been denied an additional year of Canadian Interuniversity Sports eligibility by the national eligibility committee.
Both athletes play different sports but their abilities around the net will be missed by their respective teams this year.
Gorham averaged over 20 points a game and was an Ontario University Athletics all-star in both of his seasons with the Rams.
The six-foot-six shooting guard did not play for Ryerson last year, but had been practising with the team late in the year and hinting at a possible comeback.
“When Ben came back to school there was thought he may wish to continue playing for our team, but it just didn’t turn out that way,” says men’s basketball head coach Terry Haggerty.
“But it’s not like we walked in here in September and were shocked. We knew for a while he wasn’t coming back.”
Unfortunately the men’s hockey head coach Ed Kirsten was not given the same time to prepare for the loss of Sikkema.
“My hopes were very high that Jon would be back until August 28 when we found out he lost his appeal,” Kirsten said. “I had to scramble to just get another goalie to come into training camp.”
Last year was Sikkema’s first season with the Rams, but it was his fifth of CIS eligibility. He sought an extra year of eligibility because two of his years were spent playing pro where he was seldom used as a backup.
“For me [the appeal] was more than just about playing hockey again,” says Sikkema. “I really wanted to be a part of the team. I had a great time with those guys last year. It was probably my best year of hockey.”
In Sikkema’s debut season with Ryerson he was named OUA East Most Valuable Player and carried the team to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
Kirsten has recruited two new goalkeepers to compete for the starting goalkeeper spot.
“It’s very disappointing to lose Jon,” says Kirsten. “He was a huge part of our success last season as everyone known, and obviously you can’t replace him.”
Although his career has been put on ice, Sikkema says he does not plan on leaving his former teammates out in the cold.
“I think I could provide some help to the other goalies,” Sikkema says. “I don’t want to say I could be a coach, but I could definitely help them with their game.”
Sikkema plans on staying in school for two more years to earn his degree. Gorham has moved out of the country.
“I think he headed back to Sweden just to chill,” says Sasha Ivankovic, a member of the men’s basketball team and a former teammate of Gorham’s.
“I don’t know what happened with him, but he’ll be missed. He’s the kind of guy you want on the team and the kind of guy you hate to play against.”
Haggerty still predicts his team is playoff bound even without Gorham’s offensive play.
“there’s always going to be someone who’s going to step up,” Haggerty said. “I don’t think our ability to score is going to be a big problem.”
Haggerty seems optimistic considering he has also lost his reigning MVP.
“He was an important player, but he was really our only loss,” Haggerty said, referring to 2001-2002 Ryerson athlete of the year Jan-Michael Nation and the 18 points a game he provided last year.
“Every year someone is going to graduate and move on and of course we’re going to miss [Nation], but now it’s someone else’s chance to shine.”
Haggerty singles out Ivankovic and 6’9” forward Jon Reid as two players big enough to fill the void left by Nation’s departure.
“I know I’m really going to have to step up,” says Ivankovic. “With Jon I’m finally playing with a big man which will be nice and I think we’ll work together.”
Kristen says the hockey team will also have to work as a unit if they want to skate back into the post season.
“we may have to play a different style, a little more defensively,” says Kirsten. “We have four guys with OHL experience so upfront we look pretty good.”
Although Kirsten admits his team could have been would have been more than pretty good with Sikkema still at the helm.
“If we had kept Jon I would have been upset if we actually didn’t win the division,” says Kirsten. “Now we have to set out goals less lofty.”