By Josh Wingrove
The Ryerson men’s hockey team won’t be moving to Moss Park next season but it looks like they will be moving closer to campus.
A source within the team said George Bell Arena, located at the intersection of Keele and St. Clair West streets, is the team’s choice for their new arena. Head coach Mick Mitrovic would only comment on what he called a “second option.”
“It’s a little bit closer. It’s a big rink, it’s an old rink,” said Mitrovic. “It’s got a lot of character.”
“George Bell is a beautiful rink,” said Dave Dubois, program director of Ryerson Sports and Recreation. “We would pursue it if that was a good option.”
The move is intended to bring the Rams closer to campus. George Bell Arena is roughly 10 kilometres from Ryerson, an improvement over the 17-kilometre commute to the Lakeshore Lions Arena, the team’s home this past season. “It’s just been preliminary discussion,” said Enzo Mezzatesta, manager of the 1,000-seat George Bell Arena.
The arena’s bookings are mostly for kid’s leagues but Mezzatesta didn’t rule out taking on the Rams as tenants next season. “The (ice) surface may be too small,” he said. “Other than that, it would be adequate.”
Dubois said that although the atmosphere and pro shop at George Bell are better than Lakeshore, the team would need to look into the dressing rooms to ensure space is available for visiting teams.
“We are looking at George Bell,” Dubois said.
Mitrovic had been campaigning for the team to move to nearby Moss Park Arena, a venue with an ice surface smaller than George Bell’s. Dubois said Moss Park is not a viable solution for the team.
“Moss Park is not an option for me. It’s too small and it’s too dangerous,” Dubois said. “We won’t go there. I know Mick is going to be disappointed. But it’s too dangerous.”
In February, Mitrovic sent campus sports writers with three players to view Moss Park. He referred to Lakeshore as “embarrassing” and insinuated the hockey program wouldn’t be competitive until they left the Etobicoke arena.
Coaches across Ontario weren’t excited about the possibility of the Rams moving to Moss Park, an arena the team played at a decade ago. “Safety was a huge issue playing in that rink,” said Graham Wise, head coach of York University’s men’s hockey team. “I don’t think we can turn around and ignore what was said ten years ago when no changes have been made…I am dead against Ryerson going back to Moss Park.”
“Based on the size of the ice and the speed of the game, it probably wouldn’t be the safest option,” said Darren Lowe, head coach of the University of Toronto men’s hockey team.
“The size of the players has increased. I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
The near-campus presence was the prime appeal of Moss Park, though there is little fan seating and the dressing rooms are inadequate. “This wasn’t the facility for them ice-wise.
Closest-wise, yes, sure. You can’t ask for much better,” said Brian Sutton, manager of Moss Park Arena. “It would take a year of negotiations to even attempt to do something.”
“So Moss Park isn’t an option. Big deal,” Mitrovic said. Mitrovic said the team is unified in its opposition to returning to Lakeshore, though Dubois may not be. “The facility itself isn’t that great,” said Calum Hughes, a second-year defenceman whom Mitrovic called his most improved player.
“If we could get something that’s closer and something that’s better, you kill two birds with one stone. “Any change in this sense is good. The coaching change is good. Mick has come in and changed everything and it’s working,” Hughes said. “A new building on top of that would only be beneficial.”
Lakeshore is the practice facility of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently aren’t playing because of the National Hockey League’s lockout of its players. “It’s an adequate university-sized arena. There’s adequate ice, adequate lighting and seating,” said Murray Nystrom, the head coach of Brock University’s men’s hockey team, of Lakeshore.
“If it’s good enough for the Leafs, it’s good enough for the university.”
Regardless of the building’s condition, Lakeshore was too far. Any new arena will be closer. “As far as I know, we’ve all been in agreement that Lakeshore is a bad fit,” Mitrovic said. “The secondary option (George Bell) is a good one.”
Mitrovic doesn’t want to go back to Lakeshore, and Sports and Recreation has until the end of the month to notify Lakeshore of their intent, and won’t do so until a deal is in place.
“We’re still status quo with Lakeshore Lions unless a better deal comes,” Dubois said. If it’s up to Mitrovic, none of the Rams will touch the ice of Lakeshore next season. “Anything but Lakeshore,” he said.