Saturday, January 21, 2006

The life and times of Joe Corvo

I briefly mentioned Joe Corvo's dark past when examining the choices for Team USA's Olympic entry about a month ago, something that I think few know about the 28-year-old defenceman.

Corvo's having a fantastic season this year for the LA Kings, posting 24 points and a +19 rating through 49 games — numbers that probably merited more consideration than he got for the American's entry at Turin.

My friend Mark Brender from The Hockey News talked to Corvo about his past for a story in this week's issue and it's well worth a read:

Corvo did not go voluntarily to the anger-management classes that ended up changing his life. They were mandated as part of his probation, once a week for a full year. But that doesn't change the reality of where he stands today, in a far better place than he has ever known.

“That (incident) pretty much changed everything for me,” he says. “I felt like I was stuck in the minors and I guess I was just getting too comfortable with it and maybe having some destructive behavior developing. That opened my eyes.”
The part of the story that I both admire and also wish there was more of was where Mark talks to Corvo's wife, Angela, who Joe began dating in high school. It's more a human interest story than a hockey story (although, of course, it's both), and that's why it's refreshing to see. It's also, as a reporter, not the easiest story to chase down — certainly not as easy as asking a coach about the team's latest line combinations or other such standard hockey fare.

The story makes you think. You wonder about the demons Corvo has (or had) and how his wife was still there after the assault charges. You wonder about the woman who was attacked and the pending civil suit. You wonder how it got to that point.

Corvo talks about how his demons are hockey related:
“And it was just kind of getting to be a little medicated thing for what I thought was going to be the rest of my career (in the minors)…It was like a black cloud hanging over me all the time.”
The pressure to be a pro athlete. I'm sure that's pretty heady, although it's something we rarely hear much about. Is it a valid excuse for what Corvo did? Hardly. But, for the most part, these are far from perfect men playing this game. Hockey is known as a game of 'good guys,' but for every Jarome Iginla, there is a brooding Todd Bertuzzi, or Theoren Fleury, or, in an extreme, Bryan Fogarty. There's a hell of a lot of pain in a lot of these young Canadian guys, and it manifests itself in so many ways.

People complain that too many hockey players are cardboard cutouts, that they lack a definable persona and are uninteresting. I hardly think that's the case. Although the reasons behind what's there are far less clear.

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