By Atara Shields
Ryerson’s hockey teams cashed in big this offseason.
The Rams women’s and men’s hockey teams received a donation of $1 million from Al and Brigitte Kavanagh. It’s the largest donation in the athletics department’s history.
The money will be used for team development, player recruitment and financial awards for student-athletes, according to Al Kavanagh, the retired founder of GolfNorth properties.
“We came and said, ‘Let’s bring a championship and continue to bring academic awards to the hockey programs,’” he told The Eyeopener. “This is the goal.”
Kavanagh said it was Ivan Joseph, the director of Ryerson’s athletics department, who has the “exciting visions” for the hockey program. The donation will help establish an “excellence fund” which will go towards extra scholarships, coaching experiences and exhibition travel. The donation will be split evenly between the two teams.
“We like to fund our sports [teams] as equitably as possible and give them both a chance to be excellent,” said Joseph.
Johnny Duco, the newly appointed head coach of the Rams men’s hockey team, does not yet know exactly how the hockey program will be allocating the money, but one thing he is looking forward to is more opportunities to travel for exhibition games.
“We went down to play UBC last season in exhibition and we thought it was a great team building experience,” Duco said. “It gave us the opportunity to play in some top end competitions.”
The men’s hockey team has qualified for the playoffs every year since the 2012-2013 season, and finished in the top spot in their conference in the 2016-2017 season. The women’s hockey team made it to the playoffs in 2014-2015, which was their fourth season.
“Both teams are doing a great job,” said Kavanagh. “I hope to see national championships soon.” Kavanagh said seeing players play in the remodelled Maple Leaf Gardens “is definitely part of the excitement.”
“We came as a fan of hockey and as a fan of what Ryerson has done with Maple Leaf Gardens and just seeing an opportunity to be able to help and see the players and students grow and contribute in a positive way,” he said.
Joseph is also eager to see the teams back on the ice at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
“I’m always looking forward to seeing both our men’s and women’s teams on the ice competing at the national level,” he said. “The most exciting piece is when they hit the ice, they’re ready to compete, and they’re playing their very best.”
The million-dollar hockey season begins in the fall of 2017.