By Fareen Qureishi
Graham Wise spent 19 years coaching the York University Lions men’s hockey team. At York, he won two national championships, two provincial championships, and three provincial coach of the year awards.
Last week was his first game standing behind the visitor’s bench at York’s Ice Gardens Arena.
The Ryerson Rams may have obtained one of the most successful coaches in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) history, but last week it didn’t make a difference.
The Rams played against the York Lions on Wednesday night, but came up short 3-1 in the losing effort.
Ryerson started off strong in the first period after building a 1-0 lead, but the Lions shaped up soon after, scoring one goal in the second period and two in the third.
However, the focus of the game was less on the ice, and more on the coaches of both teams off it.
Bill Maguire was notified of Wise’s departure in the first week of August, and hired as his replacement in the second. He admitted that playing against an old colleague felt a little awkward, especially since both teams were looking to bank their first win of the season.
“It was very tough. You’ve got to look at it as just another game or you won’t get through it, but my mind definitely wasn’t in it at the start,” said Maguire. “(Wise) was York hockey.”
When asked how he felt coaching in the York arena, Wise said that, “[It] didn’t feel any different if I was in any other rink.”
Players and coaches alike were shocked when they heard of Wise’s resignation late in the summer, especially since Wise moved from a blossoming program to a struggling one. York has won 11 division titles while Ryerson has lost 43 of 47 games over the last two seasons.
“When I got his e-mail, I got kind of nervous,” said Jesse Grespan, a first year Kinesiology and Health Sciences player on the Lions. “He recruited me. (His leaving) came out of nowhere.”
Grespan said that every rookie on the team — 16 in total — had a one-on-one interview with Wise after the recruitment process.
Both Wise and Maguire say that they’ve still maintained their friendship. “I have deep respect for Graham,” said Maguire. “Not only as a hockey person, but as a person. That’ll never change.”
Maguire served as Wise’s assistant coach for six years during his stay at York. Wise was also Maguire’s coach for two years at York when Maguire was a player.
“Bill was a captain when I coached at York. He’s a terrific leader and assistant coach. I changed schools but that friendship still lasts,” said Wise.
Patricia Murray, sports and recreation programs co-ordinator at York wanted to make it clear that there was no controversy surrounding Wise leaving the school, and that the strong relationship between Wise and York is still intact.
However she did mention that the Lion’s first win, coincidentally against the Rams, in a sense created a bigger victory for York.
“The team was ready to play, but it’s always good competition when you’ve got an extra reason for wanting to win the game,” said Murray.
A reception was held for Wise after the game honouring his time spent with the Lions.
The Rams will face off against the University of Ottawa on October 27.