By Sean Tepper
Years of mediocrity have forced the Ryerson Rams to fade away from the Canadian university sports scene and from athletic relevance, but 2011 was supposed to be the year that put Ryerson athletics back on the map.
At the beginning of the fall semester, dozens of media outlets were supposed to be lined up in front of the historic doors of 60 Carleton Street. In front of them, Ryerson’s President, Sheldon Levy, and Ryerson’s Director of Athletics, Ivan Joseph, were supposed to be smiling and shaking hands with the who’s who of Toronto’s sports scene as they unveiled Ryerson’s new $60 million athletic facility.
Led by all-Canadian midfielder Alex Braletic, the men’s soccer team was supposed to overcome last season’s heartbreaking playoff loss and push for an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship, and maybe even a national title.
Two teams that were smack in the middle of their rebuilding phase, the men’s and women’s basketball teams, were supposed to have recruited enough top talent to distinguish them as legitimate competitors.
After finally achieving varsity status, Ryerson’s newly formed women’s hockey team was supposed to have opened up their inaugural season as an official Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) team by skating on the same ice as such hockey legends as Darryl Sittler, Dave Keon and Tim Horton.
All of these things were supposed to happen, but none of them did. For that, you can thank Maple Leaf Gardens.
Arguably one of the best players in university soccer, Braletic was forced to miss the 2011 season because of his current academic standing. Identical 1-3 records coupled with significant injuries to Aaron Best and Chloe Mago, two highly touted rookies, have both basketball teams on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Both the men’s and women’s hockey teams are struggling with their 90-minute commute to George Bell Arena for practices, let alone building a loyal fan base. But more importantly, MLG is still not open. No, scratch that, MLG is still not anywhere close to being open.
All that to say that all of the talent for a championship run is in place.
For the past couple of years, critics and administrators alike have been saying how a majority of the groundwork has been laid and how all the necessary steps have been taken to ensure the future will be brimming with success. For better or worse, that successful future is directly tied to the grand opening of MLG, and that’s not fair.
Apart from the constant delays, the most frustrating part of that statement is the fact that Ryerson is overflowing with top-tier athletic talent.
In just over a year, Jahmal Jones has quickly become the poster boy for both Ryerson and Ontario basketball; not to mention the fact that his female counterpart, Ashley MacDonald, is dominating every aspect of her league.
Although both teams are struggling, right-winger Dustin Alcock will provide the men’s hockey team with a much needed leader, while Emma Crawley may very well be the best women’s goalkeeper in the province by the end of her stay at Ryerson.
Both Kasandra Bracken and Luka Milosevic are doing their best to revive Ryerson’s volleyball teams, while Alysha Gjos is single-handedly making Ryerson figure skating relevant once more. In just their second year of existence, Ryerson’s equestrian team is proving to be a dominant force on the Ontario equestrian circuit. And we haven’t even mentioned Michael Jan of the men’s soccer team, who is one of the OUA’s best defenders and Andrea Raso, who is arguably the best player in women’s soccer at the university level.
So please, stop telling us that Ryerson’s athletic rebirth starts with MLG. Everything you need for a championship calibre program is right in front of you.