By Alex Guibord
On Feb. 28, Dave Dubois paged men’s hockey coach Mick Mitrovic with an urgent request to meet on campus and discuss the future of the program.
Dubois, Sports and Recreation’s athletic director, told Mitrovic he had secured the funds to hire a full-time coach — something Mitrovic had been insisting the losing team needs in order to be competitive.
“I lobbied for this, not for myself, but I thought it would happen in two to three years from now … but funds were made available with an increased budget.”
Dubois asked Mitrovic to accept the full-time position. “In order to do that, I would have had to take a pay cut,” said Mitrovic, who, by day, is a BMO Nesbitt Burns investment banker. “Taking a pay cut is not something I wanted to do when I make well into the six figures.”
So he resigned as head coach. Both Dubois and Mitrovic agreed the team needed a coach with better connections in the Ontario Hockey League and regular on-campus office hours. Each year Dubois submits a budget request package to Linda Grayson, vice president of administration and student affairs.
This year Dubois asked for money to hire a full-time hockey coach. Without one, the 1-21-1 Rams would continue to struggle the a league. Dr. Grayson, with the support of the President Sheldon Levy, approved the request. “I want to put a higher priority on varsity sports,” Levy said about giving more money to Ryerson’s most expensive team. “We made the choice that we’re going to put less priority on certain things and more on varsity sports.”
Mitrovic is confident that Levy’s dedication to the hockey program will mean a stronger athletics system overall. “It’s a great university academically; let’s make it a great school athletically,” he said. Funding for next year has not increased just for hockey, but across the board, Dubois said. Sports and Recreation will receive $100,000 in equipment by the end of April. “(Levy) wants to engage students, and we’re just one method to do that,” Dubois said.
“All these things are meant to make students feel pride to be at Ryerson… Winning teams really help to create that sense of pride.”
Assistant captain Chris Sutton views the move as a “big-time gain” for the program. “A lot of the veterans have been looking towards this as some sort of a goal for us. Your head coach becomes more valuable to you as a player,” he said. “I believe with this transition, players are looking for something different. Granted (the team) liked Mick, but there were problems with some things Mick did… He wasn’t able to commit (as much time and availability as a full-time coach).”
Sutton said his teammates were not playing smart hockey this year and this compounded the problem. Mitrovic will remain on as interim coach until June 1, when a replacement is finalized. Until then Mitrovic will continue recruiting for next season and compiling player evaluations for formal tryouts in September. “I still have to walk (prospective players) through the process, to convince them to stay when I’m not here.”
Afterwards, Mitrovic will remain with the program’s alumni association, organizing events to raise money for athletic bursaries. The new hockey head coach will be Ryerson’s fourth full-time coach, joining Sandra Pothier, women’s basketball; Glenn Taylor, men’s basketball; and Mirek Porosa, men’s volleyball. Mitrovic, who will help search for his replacement, said he already has the interest of five candidates: two former National Hockey League players, two former University of Toronto assistant coaches, and one provincial tier-two coach. He would not reveal the identities of the applicants, explaining it is too early to speculate with a long screening process ahead.
Mitrovic was disappointed with captain Matt Murphy this year and said he will recommend different players to the new coach. “It was partially my fault. I thought (Murphy) would perform better on ice and in the dressing room… instead, he distanced himself,” said Mitrovic, who will reccomend Sutton as a possible replacement. “Sutton is successful on ice and an ambassador for the program. He’s a guy who cares, without fail, about the program,” Mitrovic said.
Rookie forward Kevin Krasnowski will also get a strong recommendation for assistant captain. “He’s a guy who doesn’t complain whatsoever,” assistant coach Dave Wells said. Formal try-outs will be held in September, with the new coach settling on the roster.
“Right now, no one is on a team, and, as a far as I’m concerned, there is never a set roster,” Mitrovic said.