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Photo by Winston Chow, www.winstonswchow.com

[T]he lights went down, the smoke went up and the crowd went wild.

“It was truly amazing,” said Graham Wise, head coach of the Rams men’s hockey team. “I’ve never felt such a buzz in a CIS arena before.”

The line up at the box office circled around the concourse. The constant rush of excitement and adrenaline whirled throughout the entire building as fans trickled in at a steady pace into the arena.

The old Maple Leaf Gardens, now the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), has come back to life. The once iconic building is now the home of the Ryerson Rams. The men’s hockey home opener was the beginning of a new piece of history.

The last regular season game played on this ice was between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks on February 3, 1999, more than a decade ago.

“I still think it’s an iconic building,” said team captain, Andrew Buck. “But after the first couple weeks, being there every day, it definitely feels like our home now.”

The current Rams team lined up, shoulder to shoulder, and listened as the announcer introduced the 1962-63 Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team. This was the last Rams hockey team to will a national championship.

“We’ve always said at a university, we build a program not a team,” said Wise. “Those men are part of our program. It was great to see the support.”

As the National Anthem was sung, a piercing silence travelled through the arena; contrasting the ear-popping cheers and screams that followed.

“The fans were great, very energetic”, said Greg Payne, assistant captain. “It may have hurt us though, I think it got us too pumped up.”

The Rams didn’t have the start to the game that they had hoped for. Within the first minute of play, the Queens Gaels scored the first goal of the night.

Ryerson and Queens fans were quickly distinguished, as the blue and gold coloured section remained seated, quietly.

Soon after, in response, Ryerson’s Matt McCann put the Rams on the scoreboard and the entire arena rose to their feet, the ‘GO RAMS GO’ clappers moving in unison across the stands.

But the Queen’s Gaels were fast to quiet the screaming Rams’ fans. They scored their second goal just seconds after the Rams tied it up.

“We felt deflated at that point,” said Payne. “When we tied it, we thought it would give us a boost, but [Queens] cancelled that right away.”

The Rams had more than double the number of shots on net than the Gaels yet couldn’t find a way to put the puck in the net and Queens won the game 5-3.

“We got caught up and let nerves get the best of us,” said Buck.

The Rams took on RMC on Saturday and won the contest 2-1, making it a win and a loss to start the year, not bad, but not great either.

“We’re really happy with the talent level and work ethic this year,” said Wise. “We showed we can stub our toes and battle back, now we just have to work on not stubbing our toes.”