End of the line for graduating athletes

Andrew Buck is one of a handfull of athletes graduating from Ryerson this year.

Andrew Buck is one of a handfull of athletes graduating from Ryerson this year (Ryersonian staff photo)

By William Brown

Feb. 28, he was crushed with the knowledge that he had taken his final skate as a Ryerson Ram after five years of playing hockey, three of which he served as captain.

Every student athlete will have to accept that once their time playing university sports is up, they must move on to their chosen career and perhaps give up the game for good.

Buck, who became Ryerson’s second all-time point getter this year, said there has not been much interest from professional teams.

But whether he’s playing the game or not, he would still like to be involved with hockey.

“I have some business on my resumé, and if it happens, it happens,” said the Newmarket native, adding that there are a lot of ways to be involved in the sport while not actually playing.

“I’m looking forward to different things and opportunities in a different time of my life.”

But Buck’s not the only Ryerson star athlete retiring from an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) career.

Women’s basketball guard Dayana Gechkova and men’s soccer midfielder Alex Braletic are both saying their goodbyes after illustrious careers playing in the OUA.

Braletic became Ryerson’s first-ever student athlete to win the CIS Most Outstanding Player Award this year.

While the ship may have sailed on a possible professional soccer career, he says that he still wants to remain an important part of Ryerson’s soccer team.

“This team has been a big part of my life, and I don’t really want to walk away. I really want the best for the team,” he said.

And since Braletic, 26, says that age is a factor in pursuing soccer professionally, he will instead look for a job in engineering.

“I’m going to get a job in that field. I think that’s something I’m more motivated to do,” he said. “School is more my primary focus now.”

It’s been a transitional phase for the athlete, who has focused more on grades after being put on academic probation in 2011.

“It happened two or three years ago,” he said on his increasing focus on academics. “I wouldn’t say I flipped the switch, but I slowly went toward the academic side of school.”

For Gechkova, pursuing professional basketball in Europe

was a consideration but she eventually decided to take the safer option, choosing to stay in Toronto and build a career in business.

“I definitely thought about it a lot,” said the athlete, who’s played 100 games over five seasons for the Rams.

“Originally, I wanted to play professionally but unfortunately, due to economic circumstances in Europe, it doesn’t seem to be worth it.”

Gechkova, who has been playing basketball since the fifth grade, had trouble letting the sport go.

“It’s been 12 years and I always knew I would play professionally.  But when the time comes, reality hits. You have a mortgage you need to pay back, and you have to make money,” said the Bulgaria native, adding that the salaries athletes make are limited.

Buck, Braletic and Gechkova have all enjoyed successful OUA careers with the Rams.

But as their time at Ryerson comes to an end, they will be saying a goodbye to university sports.

“Until this day, basketball has been my life,” said Gechkova. “It’s sad to let it go on a professional level. But I know that as long as I can play, I’ll be playing. Even if it’s just for fun.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 5, 2014.

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