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By Dan Berlin and Nuruddin Qorane
Students say players deserved their punishments for breaking the rules after the Ryerson men’s hockey team was suspended for drinking during a recent road trip to Princeton, N.J.
“Even though they are of age, I don’t think it’s the best idea for athletes to be drinking because it will affect their performance,” said Anna-Maria Stavridis, first-year Creative Industries student, in response to Ryerson’s director of athletics, Ivan Joseph’s, announcement Monday that the team was suspended for seven days for violating Ryerson’s student-athlete code of conduct after a week-long investigation. “It sucks, but it’s fair I think.”
Katlynn Sverko, first-year Creative Industries student, said, “It reflects poorly on Ryerson, but mostly because it’s been made such a big deal in the media. I don’t necessarily think drinking is a horrible thing but I don’t think it should be done in a professional atmosphere or if it’s against the code of conduct.”
One student, however, felt the penalties might not fit the crime.
“I don’t know if it was fair just because I assume that it happens all the time, that the team is drinking while [it’s] away or partying a little bit,” Sarah Mirenzi, third-year ACS student, said. “I’m sure it was just because they were caught this time.”
Away for a two-game exhibition series vs. the Princeton Tigers, the men’s hockey team was reported to be drinking at its team hotel, which is against school policy.
“There were rules that we broke and we have to accept the punishment,” said Andrew Buck, the team’s captain. “What is done is done. It’s disappointing, but it’s something we’ll have to deal with.”
As a result of the suspension, the hockey team will forfeit its upcoming games this week at UOIT and at Queen’s University.
“When you are an athlete, you accept the terms and conditions of responsibility,” said Sheldon Levy, Ryerson president, who accepted the recommendation for the suspension. “I always trust the students [but] this is something very, very different.”
Third-year defenceman Brian Birkhoff said, “We’re going to take this punishment in stride.
“We’re determined to come back and kick the crap out of every team that comes in our way from next Monday until the end of the season.”
Head coach Graham Wise has also received a four-game suspension, while assistant coach Lawrence Smith has been relieved of his duties. Joseph said he won’t provide more details on Smith’s exit from the team because it’s a human resources matter and it would go against policy to reveal more information.
Wise refused to comment when asked about the suspension.
Players and team personnel will not be allowed to use any of the university’s athletic facilities during the suspension. The team is not allowed to enter the Mattamy Athletic Centre unless members are working or studying there. They can’t use the weight room, equipment, dressing room or any other facilities related to athletics, Joseph said.
Joseph said coaches were not present at the time of the drinking, as they were in a meeting analyzing video footage of the team. Hotel management found out about the drinking after noise violations and disruptions caused them to intervene. The coaches were alerted to the incident the next morning.
“I’m disappointed that they have chosen to do this, which takes the light and shine off of what they’ve done on the ice,” Joseph said.
The seven-day suspension will derail the team’s 5-2 start to this season as it will have to accept two losses for games missed during the suspension.
Under a section that deals with athletes’ behaviour, the Ryerson Rams student-athlete handbook states: “Alcohol may not be consumed by Rams athletes or staff for the duration of road trips (from the time of departure until the time of arrival back in Toronto).”
This marks the second time during Joseph’s tenure that a team has received a suspension. The women’s volleyball team was also suspended for seven days in 2009 for a similar offence.
“One has to put everything in perspective. This isn’t the first time,” Levy said. “[When] something like this has happened and you go back, and see improvements…you’re the biggest cheerleader again for the team.”
With files from David Rockne Corrigan