One moment, one mistake and bam, the tide shifts and you’re watching someone else celebrate a victory that you had hoped to earn. It’s an instant that plagued Saskatchewan Rush captain, Chris Corbeil all off season.
The infamous moment that the ball “exploded” off his stick in the 2017 Champions Cup finals against the Georgia Swarm.
“So we pulled our goaltender,” Corbeil began to recount, “They doubled the ball (which means they were leaving one guy open), I happened to be that guy. Jeremy (Thompson) gave me a pretty good pass,” then Corbeil paused, searching for the words to best encapsulate the moment.
“Just one of those (passes) that hit my stick, I wasn’t thinking about it and it just sort of exploded off of it and they picked up the ball.”
That play lead to a Georgia goal, which led to overtime. Where Georgia Swarm’s Miles Thompson played hero.
“It all happened in 8.5 seconds, but it seemed to take forever to unfold.”
In Corbeil’s mind he then became, both literally and figuratively, “the guy who dropped the ball”. A line he’s used before and one, in my estimation, that he uses as humor to help mask the pain that has yet to fully subside.
In arduous situations it’s easy for us to deflect blame when things go wrong. Whether it’s on someone else or through go-to mantras:
We’re only human. Everything happens for a reason. It’s something that you can learn from.
However, Corbeil isn’t looking for an excuse to shield him from the agony of that moment, he just wants another crack at the title and a chance for atonement.
“Not to make too big a deal out of it, but it was a tough time honestly, in that week or two immediately following that. I’ve been waiting for a shot at redemption and a chance to put that all behind me for a long time.” Corbeil said.
Everyone else involved in the play attempted to shoulder the burden for what happened. Specifically Jeremy Thompson and head coach Derek Keenan, but Corbeil insists that the brunt of the responsibility should fall squarely on this chest. Whether that’s warranted or not, it is a quality you admire in a captain, a role that Corbeil takes very seriously.
“I kind of shy away from the recognition (that donning the C can bring) but I see it as a great honor to be the captain of a team. So, when Derek (Keenan) approached me and asked me to do it, I was thrilled. It’s something I embraced and was pretty excited about. I never dreamed I’d play in the NLL, let alone be that captain of a team, let alone win a championship as the captain of that team!”
Having taken over the reins from current Rush defensive coach, Jimmy Quinlan in 2013, Corbeil has grown from a young and excited captain to one that likes to have his finger on the pulse of his team, a role responsibility that can be tricky.
Managing people and personalities demands a degree of difficulty higher than a no-look, behind the back shovel that ends up top corner. It’s probably one of the more delicate balances to strike.
Imagine being an office manager and having to navigate strong personalities with multiple idiosyncrasies on a daily basis? A captain is tasked with doing just that, but in a high intensity and ultra-competitive environment. Helping Corbeil navigate that tough terrain has been Quinlan who’s always there for council when needed.
“(I was) extremely fortunate that he (Quinlan) stayed on board right away (following his retirement) so there was no time without him. It was very simple to pull Jim aside at practice or after a game and ask, ‘what would you do in this situation, how would you approach it?’ because he was a guy, as captain, that had a lot of respect from his teammates and who I try to model my leadership style after.”
Corbeil recounted a dilemma he faced when a Rush player wasn’t fitting in, he was uncertain how to handle the situation. “(There was) attitude issues from a player in the past that was struggling to fit in with the team. You don’t exactly know how to approach that all the time. Do you coddle them and bring them in by giving them special, favorable treatment or do you take a tough love approach with them, right?”
Faced with the prospect of one guy making it impossible for Saskatchewan to be a solid, cohesive unit Corbeil went to Jim. A guy who’d dealt with situations like this in the past and whose advice was not only sage but quite clinical. As if you sought out a psychology professional. “He sort of walked me through it, ‘well depending on what the issue is and what this guy sees as the problem,’ Quinlan mused, ‘if you can dive down to the root as to why this guy thinks he not fitting in or what his problem with the team is, you can sort of figure out what your approach is going to be. But you have to figure out the root cause before you can sort of tackle it.’”, Corbeil said.
WWJD. What Would Jim Do? I don’t think you’ll find Corbeil with a bracelet or shirt displaying that personal motto, but there is no doubt how invaluable and meaningful Quinlan’s impact on Corbeil’s career has been. He’s someone that Corbeil has always relied on, from the moment he took on the ‘C’ to the most tumultuous moment of his career.
The overarching theme in Corbeil’s tenure is that you’re never left to fight battles alone. On the field or off it. So despite being the glue that’s supposed to hold it all together, when things hit the fan your relationships within the organization are cemented when everyone else bonds together to help you get through the difficult moments.