Last Saturday, Ryerson hosted the first hockey game played at the new Mattamy Athletic Centre, winning 5-4 in an exhibition against UOIT. Buck, a fourth-year winger, became the first player to captain a home team at the historic venue since Mats Sundin did on February 13, 1999. He spoke to Harlan Nemers about the big game and what it means for Rams hockey to finally have a home on campus.
How did you feel leading up to Saturday night’s game?
I was definitely more nervous than for a regular exhibition game, that’s for sure. Obviously we didn’t want to lose the first game at the Gardens. The focus before was more like a playoff game.
What was it like to play in the first game at the MAC?
It was definitely a cool sight. I’d never been a part of a game where a mascot dropped from the roof. All the guys were pretty excited about that. And the crowd was awesome. [It] was definitely close to sold out and that gave us some energy, definitely in the beginning, and a lot of nerves. I think it showed from our play in the first period, guys were quick with the puck. But once [it] settled down, it was just another game.
What was like it meeting Prime Minister Stephen Harper and having him do the ceremonial puck-drop at the MAC’s unveiling in August?
I was told [there] was going to be a guest, but I wasn’t allowed to know until the day of. So when I got there and I found out that it was Stephen Harper it was definitely a surreal moment. Honestly, I wasn’t too intimated — I was just thinking he’s just another guy. What really intimidated me were the security guards. I talked to him for a couple minutes before the event started [and] I didn’t really know how the conversation would go. I was scared — I had my hockey gloves on so I was worried that if I shook his hand it would make his hand smell. I [said] like, “Hopefully you don’t mind my smelly hands.” But yeah, he was a good guy. Before the puck drop, [Harper] warned me about the cameras. He made a joke about it. He said, “when we get out there, there’s going to be a ton of cameras in our faces. It’ll be pretty crazy. Just be ready for it.”
How does the move to the Gardens affect the team?
The biggest thing is not having to travel two hours a day to George Bell [Arena]. Not only will it help us with hockey, it will help with school. I mean, we have four or five guys in engineering and that’s a pretty crazy program, so I think moving closer will really help.
You grew up as a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Did you get the opportunity to spend any time in the old Maple Leaf Gardens?
I used to go with my granddad and my uncle, but not with my dad — [he’s] not really a part of my life. We’d go once a year, we’d set a trip and I’d get tickets for Christmas; my granddad would buy them for all of us — my two other cousins and uncle. We used to sit pretty high [up]. So probably the same height as the seats that are in there now, which I guess is pretty cool. The one big memory I have of being there is – I was young so I don’t remember the game or anything — but I was there for [Doug] Gilmour’s 1000th point and when he scored, all the Leafs came onto the ice, [and] celebrated with him. And it was right in the middle of the game.
Who was your favourite player as a kid?
Growing up, it was Wendel Clark. That’s why I wear number 17. A couple of my buddies from Newmarket know that I like Wendel Clark and say that I play like [him]. He was a lot tougher than I am… I play like him a little bit. I’ve got no teeth, right? During Movember, I’ll get a moustache, so I might look like him then.
Lastly, how cool is it to play at the Gardens now?
How cool is it to play there? I don’t know if I can swear — but it’s pretty fuckin’ unbelievable.