By Ben Fisher
It’s a 365-day-a-year job.
“Well 364, I won’t call someone on Christmas.”
Graham Wise, Ryerson’s men’s hockey coach, spends all year looking for new recruits to help his team in upcoming seasons or to add mid-season during the January admission process.
So far, after the first tournament of the year, it seems his efforts have paid off. This past weekend at the York University tournament, the Rams won a game, something they accomplished only twice all of last year.
Alongside associate coach Lawrence Smith, Wise has brought in 11 new recruits this season who have experience in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) — the premier junior league in Ontario — or the Junior A programs. With the five recruits brought to the team last year in mid-season, they are building a solid foundation of players with experience in top tier junior leagues.
Eight players that Wise and Smith brought to Ryerson have experience in the OHL. He said he had 12 to 16 players with experience in the “O” on a typical year when he coached at York. But, Wise doesn’t believe that a team’s success can be measured by the number of former OHL players it has.
“It is a great league that develops a lot of pros,” said Wise, adding that several players choose to play in the NCAA instead.
“Hockey’s not going to leave our lifestyle so we’re going to do some school and play some hockey,” said new Ram Anthony Pototschnik, who played for several OHL teams including Sarnia and St. John’s.
Wise said there is still a lot of top level players in the Junior A system who opt against the OHL so they can play in the U.S. on scholarships.
“The important thing is you have to get good kids who are good athletes and good students.”
New recruit and former OHLer Daniel Borges said school was a factor in his decision to come to Ryerson.
“We’re hockey players but school comes first,” he said.
Wise and Smith have already begun recruiting players for January admission and for next year.
“The strategy is to focus on kids in the GTA because they know the city a bit more,” said Wise, noting that he also contacted players from as far away as Winnipeg, Timmons and Sudbury.
Once Wise finds a player that he likes, he then has to introduce the player to the university.
“Basically, you’re being a salesman.” he said, adding that he likes to keep in touch with his potential recruits about once every two weeks.
Wise has been at Ryerson for a little over a year, coming over from York where he was the head coach for 19 years and led the team to 11 division titles and two national championships.
He arrived too late in the recruiting season to have any real success last season, but he and Smith have used this past year filling their roster with talented recruits for the upcoming season. However, Wise doesn’t hope for as busy of a recruiting season in the future.
“The ideal situation would be to have six or seven recruits every year because you’re graduating five or six guys and you’re on a four year rotation.”
When Wise first arrived a year ago, things were a lot different. At times he had a hard time dressing an entire lineup. Last year they dressed only 12 skaters and three goalies at one point.
One year later and things have certainly changed.
“We had 40 guys show up (to tryouts),” said Wise. “To be able to make some cuts was nice.”