Hockey coach dies after dispute over social distancing at St. Paul bar

Alex Chhith, Star Tribune
·2 min read

A St. Paul man was charged Monday with punching and unintentionally killing a Bloomington hockey coach outside a bar following a dispute over social distance rules.

Bloomington-Jefferson high school coach Michael G. Ryan, 48, was found by officers outside Herbie's On the Park at 317 Washington St. around 11 p.m. Saturday.

Witnesses told police that Ryan Whisler, 44, punched Ryan, who then fell backward and hit his head on concrete at the bottom of stairs, according to the criminal complaint.

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office charged Whisler with second-degree murder on Monday. The charge said Whisler caused Ryan's death without intent.

The Bloomington-Jefferson girl's hockey team asked for prayers for his wife and daughters. "He will be dearly missed by his wife and daughters and the Bloomington hockey community," the team wrote on Twitter.

According to the complaint, Whisler punched a hole into cellophane put in place over a urinal to encourage social distancing, and Whisler then took a cellphone video of himself urinating into it. Ryan was agitated with Whisler and called him out as they were leaving the bar, the complaint said.

The verbal confrontation was cooling down when the men and their friends got outside, according to a witness in the complaint.

Then Whisler pulled Ryan's mask from his face and grabbed his shirt, the complaint said. Witnesses tried to separate the two, and a friend of Whisler's friend seemed to be directing him away from the bar when Whisler punched Ryan in the face, according to the complaint.

When Ryan's friend said he was calling the police, Whisler and his friend fled to a vehicle. Whisler then came back, picked up an object from the stairs and fled again, the complaint said.

Ryan was diagnosed with a brain injury he couldn't survive and was placed on life support at Regions Hospital. On Sunday, life support was removed. Whisler turned himself in to St. Paul police that day.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office determined Ryan's cause of death was a traumatic brain injury because of the assault and subsequent fall. It said the manner of death was a homicide.

Alex Chhith • 612-673-4759