When Ryerson men’s hockey team head coach Graham Wise announced his retirement in June, it marked the end of an era. Wise had spent the last 35 years coaching in the CIS, his final 10 as the head coach of the Rams.
With Wise now gone, Ryerson will open the season with interim head coach Johnny Duco leading an almost entirely new coaching staff.
Duco had been an associate coach with the Rams for the past three seasons. He says that during that time, he was able to learn a lot from his predecessor.
“He’s one of the most organized guys I’ve ever met, if not the most organized,” said Duco of Wise. “He’s a great communicator. Even if it is going to be a tough conversation he always has the conversation. Things like that I was able to learn from his years of experience.”
But while Wise’s fingerprints remain on the program, Duco is also looking to make this team his own. The biggest aspect he is looking to add is skill development, something he said the team has not done a lot of in the past.
“I think in the past the mentality was more, “Hey, they are what they are at this age,” said Duco. “But the more research I’ve done and people I’ve talked to around the hockey world, it doesn’t matter how old they are. They can still improve.”
With that in mind the team has established “win the day” as their motto for the season. The coaching staff is hoping it enforces the team’s culture of daily improvement.
At 33 years of age, Duco is the oldest member of a young Ryerson coaching staff. Assistant coach Nathaniel Brooks is 30, while rookie associate coach Kori Cheverie is 29.
Cheverie, hired this summer, is the first full-time female coach of a men’s hockey team in CIS history. She is impressed with how well the coaches are working together already.
“We are all similar in age, we all have very similar coaching philosophies,” said Cheverie. “It’s been really easy (working together) and our players have all bought into the program we are delivering.”
This season is a big one for the staff. Cheverie is on a one-year contract while Duco’s head coaching position will be opened up to candidates from all over Canada this summer. He is hoping a good season will help both of them retain their positions.
“I think we just put our best foot forward and let the cards fall where they may,” said Duco. “We are confident that if we do the things we are capable of doing we should have a pretty good chance of being elite candidates for next year.”
The new Ryerson coaching staff will get their chance to make a good first impression on Oct. 6 when the Rams open the regular season against the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.