Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.
Chris Corbeil of the Saskatchewan Rush is in the PLPA Player Spotlight with Teddy Jenner
Taking their talents to Saskatoon- Captain Chris Corbeil and the Champions Cup winning Edmonton Rush will have a new home in 2016.
Back on January 06, 2006 the Edmonton Rush franchise stepped into the big leagues for the very first time. If it wasn't for Jeff Zywicki's greasy OT winner the electric crowd would have been gone home with an even bigger smile on their faces. You see, on opening night the National Lacrosse League welcomed the seventh Canadian club to ever play in the league and even the loss couldn't take the smile off peoples faces at the prospect of what was to come. With their Alberta rivals already having won an NLL title in 2004, Edmonton had high hopes of making a big splash right away.
There were 11,385 people inside Rexall Place that cold January night, I was there and even with my mush-head I can still remember that goal from Z and the feeling that time had stopped for a brief second. A snapshot in my mind from that crushing feeling of defeat.
On June 5th 2015, 12,275 people screamed at the top of their lungs as the clock wound down in game two of the NLL Champions Cup Finals. Chris Corbeil, the Edmonton Rush captain, watched his teammate Brett Mydske run out the dying seconds of the clock. No need for the snapshot, that's memory never to be forgotten.
For Corbeil, those final seconds seemed to take for ever. For many of those in attendance on that night as well opening night 2006, being able to say the Rush were the best lacrosse team on the planet was unthinkable. Ten years of trials and tribulations that many franchises before them and after them were unable to survive.
Survival is what 2015 was all about for the Rush, as they had to not only endure the rigorous battles of the NLL but were dealt three difficult situations to deal with away from the floor. This is where Chris Corbeil's worth as a leader of men really pays off.
You see Corbeil may only be 27 years old but he plays with the mentality, poise and savviness you'd see out of Jim Veltman. Calm, cool, collected and more importantly, he understands the moment. Upon raising the Champions Cup over his head, the Oakville, Ont. native made a direct line for the team's General, head-coach and GM Derek Keenan.
Four words, "This is for Wendy!' Those four words were so perfect at that moment that it couldn't have been scripted better. "I owe so much of my success, both on and off the floor, to Derek. He's like a second father to me." Making the passing of the trophy to Keenan a given no matter the situation.
However looming over the win, was the cloud of relocation which made the celebration bitter sweet for everyone involved. Once again though, Corbeil was able to see the bigger picture, "it seems bizarre, but it would have been much more difficult to leave Edmonton before having won the championship."
It's a good thing the NHL went on strike back in 2012 or we may have lost Corbeil to the ECHL and pro hockey for good, after the two-sport star had a brief stint with the Stockton Thunder. "Pro lacrosse isn't nearly as time consuming. Lacrosse allows you to have a regular life while still playing a pro sport," said Corbeil who was standout winger for the University of Western Mustangs.
"Pro hockey requires a full commitment to the game and forces you to make far more sacrifices." Corbeil pulls double duty as a Controller at a Hedge Fund in Ontario, a job when searched has a responsibility listed as "other tasks deemed necessary for smooth operations of company." Ironic, because that's pretty much how he captains his team too; smooth operations.
While he and anybody that played for Jammer, will credit him for their player developments, you can bet that his time in Buffalo playing for the fiery Darris Kilgour will have a lasting impression on him as well. "I remember Darris yelling at us before practice even started on day one of training camp," he calls. Raise your hand if you know of this coaching tactic...
After two years in BanditLand, Corbeil was traded to the Rush and thus began the evolution of a champion. In that off-season Keenan was also able secure Aaron Bold in a trade with Rochester and Jeff Cornwall also came over from Buffalo. Plus the Rush picked up Kyle Rubisch and Ryan Dilks in the Boston Blazers dispersal draft. We'll forgive him for the Paul Rabil trade as it allowed the franchise to select Mark Matthews with the #1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Not. Too. Shabby.
Teams go through ups and downs all the time and many rise above, to achieve great success and the Rush were no different but it wasn't all on the shoulders of the Captain. As the season grew old the relocation word surfaced again and it could have easily derailed the train from the tracks. "For such a young team, we handled that situation remarkably maturely," said Corbeil who said it was "surpassingly easy" to keep everyone focused and ignoring the distractions surrounding the team.
That focus allowed the Rush to play with a more unbridled, care free style of play. They were loose and relaxed winning 9 of 10 down the stretch. They knew they had every crack in their armour from far too many losing battles in the past sealed up and everything was falling into place for a historic ending.
It was an ending everyone wanted for a situation nobody wanted. "I'm extremely grateful to the people of the Edmonton area for making my experience there over the past four seasons very positive. I will always look back on my time spent playing in Edmonton with fondness and that's largely thanks to the great people of Edmonton."
However, being in the line of work Corbeil is, he understood the situation owner Bruce Urban was in. "With how expensive large arena lease's have become, it's become nearly impossible for NLL teams to survive in major markets unless they own the arena and are able to earn money from concessions, parking, merch, etc."
So while the taste of champagne was still fresh in his mouth, Corbeil found himself in front of the Sask-Tel Centre looking at his new home. So will the defending champs be able to shine bright enough to lure in more support than their time in Edmonton? Corbeil's answer was boldly honest, "I'm cautiously optimistic.
Lacrosse isn't that popular in Saskatoon, so we'll have our work cut out for us in educating a new fan base and trying to grow the game at the minor level there." Well it's not like there's no lacrosse in the prairies as the Saskatoon Swat just won their first ever Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (RMLL) Jr B championship. There's a ground work already in place and that is going to be huge for the Rush.
"To our new fans in Saskatoon, I'd like to express how excited the players are to be coming to a city with such such a strong sense of community that takes great pride in it's local teams." If you know anything about prairie folk, is they are incredible humble, community based and massive supporters of blue-collar workers. Pro lacrosse could have an immediate following and if the Rush bring their stick-to-schools and community involvement programs to their new neighbourhood, the fan base could come quicker than some think.
So whenever the new look Rush re-debut in 2016, Corbeil will have the opportunity to bond with a new fan base, a chance to impress a new grassroots lacrosse culture and unfortunately endure another early Sunday morning flight. And who knows, come June, Corbeil could once again be standing next to Commissioner George Daniel getting set to raise the trophy, hopefully not backwards this time, above his head in front of Rush-Nation.
Just don't let Tyler Carlson near the trophy this time.
The Edmonton Rush weren't built in a day. The Saskatoon Rush weren't either. However, they've got a massive head start as they'll begin 2016 as the sort-of defending Champions which will allow the Saskatchewan fans a chance to witness what all those 12K+ fans did at Rexall Place back in June; The best lacrosse team on the planet.
His won't be the same as mine but when the first Saskatoon Rush game is over, Chris Corbeil will have his own snapshot to be forever engrained in his memory as a new chapter in the NLL beings. A consummate professional, Corbeil looks forward to meeting this new challenge head on and where he leads, his troops will be right beside him.
Teddy Jenner is a life long lacrosse addict. He started playing at 3yrs old growing up in the shadow of the Gait brothers. After six years in the NLL with four teams (aka a suitcase) he moved from the floor to the media booth and has been covering the NLL extensively every since. Working with IL Indoor as one of their lead writers and work with TSN, Jenner has become one of the most well respected people in lacrosse and continues to give back to game in as many ways as possible.