If you’ve ever talked to a Leafs fan old enough to have fond memories of the team, you know Maple Leaf Gardens used to be nothing less than a hockey mecca. While the building no longer plays host to the pros, the MAC (as it’s referred to today), does play a huge part in recruiting players to Ryerson’s hockey teams.
“I think the quality of the facility we have built rivals any NCAA Division 1, Division 2, or CIS school,” said Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics. “So if someone is on the fence about going to the U.S., they see what we are delivering here and are (just as impressed).”
Graham Wise, head coach of the men’s hockey team, has played a big part in players’ decisions to come to Ryerson, including new goalie Adam Courchaine who posted a 3.72 GAA playing for the Boston Bruins’ AHL team two years ago.
“The MAC has definitely contributed a lot into recruiting players, not only because of the great facility, but also because the rink is only a couple blocks from campus,” said the eighth-year head coach.
Wise also explained how attractive the building is when potential players are brought down for tours, and notes the MAC is where the tours both start and end.
Neither Wise nor Joseph believe it’s the history that attracts players to Ryerson, as most current players were too young to remember the recently renovated building’s glory days.
Fourth-year volleyball player Lauren Sokolowski has seen a huge change with her team over the last couple years and agrees their new home court has played a huge part. The team is coming off its best season, and she says that it feels as if the MAC has given the team a fresh start.
This year, the women’s team acquired two quality players from other programs; one from York University and the other from Syracuse in New York.
“I think it has created an atmosphere where sports and athletics are taken more seriously at Ryerson,” says Sokolowski, “It’s a top choice for athletes.”
Emily Betteridge played volleyball in Syracuse but transferred to Ryerson not only for the program and coach, but for the facility.
“I think the reason why people go to the States is because they put a lot of money into athletics,” said Betteridge, “and this facility shows that Ryerson wants to put money into its athletics department as well.”
Betteridge says there’s something bigger at play. “The fact that we play in the Maple Leaf Gardens, it feels like you’re representing Toronto and not just Ryerson.”
Joseph, who played a big part in the building’s transformation, has seen first-hand how his work has helped the school gain a better reputation, as well as serving the general student population better.
“I don’t think there is anything that you can see and look at that I haven’t had a fingerprint on,” said Joseph.
“I think it has engaged all of our numbers for our student athletes and our regular students. Intramural numbers are up, open recreation numbers are up, fitness class numbers are up, and our teams are winning more games.”