By Josh Wingrove
He gave his time, his heart — even his marriage — to the university.
But after five years as the head coach of the Ryerson men’s hockey team, Ed Kirsten was fired by Ryerson Athletics in December. After the Rams started the season 0-12-0-0, athletic director Dave Dubois made the cut.
“After a conversation with Ed, we mutually agreed to make a change,” Dubois was quoted as saying in a press release. “We felt that this would be best for the team.”
Kirsten was disappointed at the team’s failure. “I really thought I could do it,” he said. “I did have to tell my players that I would never quit on them.” Rams assistant coach Mick Mitrovic will step in to coach on an interim basis. Kirsten coached the Rams while working full-time as a parole officer at the Ministry of Correctional Services.
Kirsten is one of the few coaches in the Ontario University Association who isn’t paid a fulltime salary and he says the stress of working two jobs took its toll on his health and his marriage. He recently separated from his wife, Debbie, of 28 years. Kirsten said he coached the Rams 35 hours a week in addition to the 40 hours a week at his other job.
Ryerson Athletics paid Kirsten between $10,000 and $14,000 a year. Kirsten believes Ryerson will have to start investing in the program to make it competitive. “They’re probably going to have to come up on par with other schools that have full-time coaches. We can’t offer curriculum and that is the biggest stumbling block,” Kirsten said. “We don’t have any money to offer them. We don’t have any sports programs, so we aren’t going to attract any athletes.”
Athletes cannot be offered scholarships under OUA regulations, but Ryerson fails to offer any further incentive. The most financial assistance an athlete can receive is a $1500 scholarship in second year, providing they maintain a GPA of at least 2.6. “It’s a pittance, compared to other schools,” he said.
Kirsten said that the Rams will have problems keeping athletes on the team. Since the beginning of the season, the Rams and Kirsten have already lost last year’s starting goalie, Braden Deane, and a rookie goalie, Mark Furman. Deane left the team citing frustration with its management and its losing record.
“Most of our guys are in it for the long haul, but they don’t like losing,” he said. Kirsten is proud of the effort he gave to Ryerson, and said the experience was a positive one. “I always went into each game, each practice, having a plan,” he said. “I don’t think I missed a practice.”
As for a return to hockey, Kirsten, who describes himself as a “typical red-blooded Canadian,” isn’t ruling anything out. “I’m sure I am going to need a fix next year.”