By Harlan Nemerofsky
On the heels of having hosted the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at the first annual Hoops Festival, Ryerson Athletics is looking to bring in another NCAA opponent for a similar event – this time to face off against the men’s hockey team.
The Rams, who since 2006 have headed south for a yearly weekend battle with an American counterpart, would be hosting an NCAA team for the first time since moving to the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The event will take place sometime next season, but many details – including the opponent – have yet to be determined.
“Imagine having the team that won the NCAA National Championship in hockey come and play us,” says Ivan Joseph, director of athletics. “[But] we would want them to come here [because] it’s always about bringing fans into our building.”
Head coach Graham Wise says that while it’s still early in the schedule, in the New Year they’d start calling up teams to book an opponent to play against.
“It’s something we think about all the time – how can we put together a quality schedule during league games that’s going to be exciting for our players to play in. [The plan] is in the works and we’ll move forward with it,” he says.
Earlier this season, the Rams lost a close game against the Lake Superior State Lakers, before suffering an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of the 2011-12 NCAA finalists, the Ferris State Bulldogs.
Rams defenceman Brian Birkhoff says that while these sorts of road trips benefit in terms of team bonding, he’d be excited to play the role of host.
“It would be quite an experience,” he says. “Every year we go down there and play a couple of games, and as much fun as that is, I think it would be as much fun or even more fun to have our fans behind us and just kind of show those NCAA teams how good our fans really are.”
Men’s basketball coach Roy Rana says that hosting and playing highlevel competition from the U.S. “can be nothing but positive” towards the recruitment of top athletes.
“I tell everybody (recruits) that comes here that [the MAC is comparable to] a solid mid-major facility,” says Rana. “For someone that wants to get a special experience as an athlete, this is a great place.”
Joseph is also entertained by the idea of Ryerson volleyball teams playing NCAA competition next year as well.
“Imagine if Friday night it was basketball… and Saturday we went there and played volleyball. I would love it.”