By: Daniel Rocchi
The Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) was bustling with excited hockey fans as the Rams hosted Hockey Day in Toronto on Saturday.
The event was designed by personnel from the university and the MAC to showcase Ryerson athletics and strengthen school ties with the community.
“We want these people to come back; we want them to be interested in what we’re doing,” said Brian Shantz, Ryerson’s athletics co-ordinator. “They see the scores in the newspapers, some of those kids want to be Rams some day and play for us. And when parents see us in the headlines doing well, they have older [children] that might want to come to Ryerson to study.”
Local and school sponsors provided numerous promotions and giveaways over the course of the day for the more than 1,450 fans that took in the event.
Representatives from the Hockey Hall of Fame were also on hand with a collection of Toronto Maple Leafs heirlooms, and fans were invited to pose with the NHL’s Conn Smythe and Norris trophies. They also provided fans with two-for-one admission vouchers for future visits to the attraction.
At 2:30 p.m., the day’s headline event got underway as the men’s hockey team took to the ice — on-ice entertainment was provided during the intermissions. The Rams (14-5-0) downed the Waterloo Warriors 5-1 to win their fifth straight game, but not before Waterloo’s frustrations boiled over into some on-ice fisticuffs that saw a combined 20 penalty minutes handed out to members of both teams.
“It’s amazing,” said Shantz, sporting a replica jersey from the Ryerson Institute of Technology’s 1962-63 championship season. “It’s what our President Levy said he wanted to do. He wanted excitement in the stands, and we had that today for sure.”
Following the game, Rams head coach Graham Wise discussed what the support from the crowd meant to the team.
“It’s so nice. The players appreciate the fans, and I felt that gave us an extra lift. For us, it gives us that sixth man out there on the ice,” Wise said. “Any time you outreach to community and help people in the community, or show people what you’re doing — the university, the building here — it’s a win-win for everybody.”
After the game, the team was brought out for an autograph session with a huge crowd of eager fans, the majority of whom were young minor hockey players taking in the day with family and teammates.
“It was good,” said Wise. “Getting the autographs after for the kids just shows that we don’t just play hockey, we’re here for the community as well. It was a good day for Ryerson and our team.”
With a 7:30 p.m. puck-drop, the women’s game drew an admittedly smaller crowd. But it was still an enthusiastic one, and Ryerson interim head coach Pierra Alain was quick to point out the effect it had on his players.
“It was very good. They were working hard and they knew that people were here for them,” Alain said.
The day was a huge success, and very encouraging for similar initiatives in the future, said Kelly Austin, director of sales and marketing for the MAC.
“I think you’ll definitely see another Hockey Day in Toronto or Hockey Day at Ryerson,” said Austin. “Some sort of version where we do a men’s and women’s double-header and really try and focus on that minor hockey league community and bring out a lot of kids.”