By Don McHoull
When his team is losing, Ryerson hockey coach Ed Kirsten can feel his heart begin to beat faster.
Less than a year after suffering a heart attack, Kirsten is back behind the Rams bench, faced with the stress of coaching a team that is winless the first 11 games of the regular season.
“I try not to get too worked up on the bench, but when we get hammered, its pretty tough,” said Kirsten. “When you’re losing it’s a stressful experience.”
Kirsten had a heart attack in April while he was exercising on a treadmill. He says he considered giving up coaching, but couldn’t let go of the game he loves.
“It did cross my mind, but I love the game so much,” he said. “We made so much progress last year, and I didn’t want to let that go.”
Last season the hockey team was 10-14-0 and reached the second round of the OAU East playoffs. This year the Rams are 0-10-1, following a 2-2 tie against Waterloo on Sunday.
Kirsten said the tie, in which Ryerson had three goals called back, was a disappointment because it left the Rams still searching for their first win of the season.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted,” he said.
Despite their early struggles, the Rams are still not out of the playoff race. A win against the Royal Military College Paladins on Thursday will put Ryerson in a tie with that team for the last spot in the OUA East playoffs.
Kirsten said the team’s most immediate problem was that they were averaging fewer than two goals a game.
“We have some skilled players, but they’re not putting it in the net right now,” he said.
Marco Sesito, a forward on the team, says that team members were shocked to learn of their coach’s heart attack over the summer, but they hadn’t let it affect the way they treated him.
“He made a note of it at the beginning of the year but it hasn’t really changed.”
To keep his heart healthy, Kirsten takes a handful of medications and goes to cardio-rehab sessions twice a week. When he feels his heart starts to pound during games, Kirsten tries to stay calm through breathing exercise and other relaxation techniques.
Still he admits it can be stressful working a combined 80 hours a week between his job as a probation officer and as coach of the hockey team, and that some of his players aren’t helping the situation.
“There are still guys on the team on team that stress me out, but that’s just the way it is,” he said.