Charges: High school hockey coach killed in fight over distancing at St. Paul bar

The 48-year-old had coached in Bloomington hockey programs for more than 20 years.
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A Bloomington hockey coach died from injuries sustained when he struck his head on the pavement after being punched outside a St. Paul bar on Saturday night, charges say.

Mike Ryan, 48, was found suffering from a head injury outside of Herbie's on the Park, next to Rice Park, in St. Paul around 11:35 p.m. Saturday. The Bloomington Jefferson High School girls hockey coach had hit his head on the concrete after falling down a flight of stairs when he was punched, according to a criminal complaint. 

Ryan was transported to Regions Hospital and placed on life support with an unsurvivable brain injury. Police were informed of his death round 3 p.m. Sunday. 

Ryan J. Whisler, 43, of St. Paul, has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder. He's accused of punching Ryan during a dispute on the stairs outside Herbie's, causing Ryan to fall backward and suffer a fatal head injury. 

According to the criminal complaint, surveillance video shows Ryan and Whisler arguing when Ryan grabbed onto a railing and tried to pull away from Whisler, who had grabbed hold of his shirt. A man got in between the two before Whisler punched Ryan in the head with "a large, sweeping motion," the complaint says. 

"The video, when played frame by frame, shows Whisler pushed (Ryan) towards the stairs. (Ryan) flew through the air to the bottom of the stairs and his head hit the concrete."

Two friends of Ryan told police that the argument began earlier in the men's restroom. The complaint says some urinals in the bathroom were covered with cellophane to help with social distancing. Whisler apparently ignored the safety measures. 

The complaint says Whisler "punched a hole in the cellophane and took a cell phone video of himself urinating at the covered urinal,” later adding that Ryan “was agitated with Whisler, but he didn’t say anything to Whisler at the time."

Ryan then "called Whisler out for his behavior in the men’s bathroom as they were leaving the bar which led to a verbal confrontation."

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Ryan, who played for Bloomington Jefferson's 1989 state championship team, leaves behind a wife and two daughters. 

"He will be dearly missed by his wife and daughters and the Bloomington hockey community. Please keep them in your prayers as they begin to mourn his loss," reads a statement from Jefferson girls hockey

"Mike's passion was for his family, the kids he coached, and for his pride of being a Jaguar. This is really hard to process," said a tweet from the Jefferson athletics staff. 

Ryan coached in the Bloomington hockey program for more than 20 years, and was named head coach of the girls varsity team in 2016. 

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