Corey Hirsch rebounds in life thanks to a tweet
The former NHL goalie was dealing with a divorce and unemployment, but fuelled by positive thoughts and with a little help, he’s back in hockey as an analyst with Sportsnet.
By: Curtis Rush Sports reporter, The Star, Published on Fri Feb 13 2015
Last year, sitting at home alone in Phoenix, retired NHL goaltender Corey Hirsch felt like a failure, a nobody. The phone didn’t ring. Nobody was returning his calls. He could barely drag himself out of bed. He dreaded everyday. His 15-year marriage was over and the St. Louis Blues didn’t renew his contract as a goalie coach. It was a double whammy.
At his peak, he made around $600,000 (U.S.) as an NHL goaltender, but that was 20 years ago. His career lasted about 10 seasons, spent mostly with the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. After retirement, he worked for Hockey Canada and then was hired as a goalie coach with the Maple Leafs in 2008. In 2010, the Blues hired him as their goalie coach. When the Blues lost in the first round of the playoffs last spring, Hirsch was let go. Now he had no job and bills to pay. At 42, hockey was the only thing he has ever known.
Hirsch tried to get work. He paid his own way to Philadelphia for last summer’s NHL draft. He interviewed with a few NHL teams, but nothing came of it. “Things weren’t going well,” Hirsch recalled in an interview in a downtown Toronto hotel. “And the bills were piling up. What am I going to do? I started thinking, what’s going to happen to me today?”
The ego was not only bruised, it was destroyed. As an NHL player, Hirsch got the gold glove treatment everywhere he went. A highlight was playing in the 1994 Olympics, but he was so young and naive, “I thought this life was going to last forever.” Foolishly, he didn’t even think to take a camera to Lillehammer, Norway. Now, nobody was knocking on his door. He had to learn to approach people. “As players, people come to us,” Hirsch said. “We don’t have to go to them. But guess what? Once it ends, unless you’re Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky, nobody is looking for you anymore.”
One day, he woke up alone. His wife was gone and his three children — Alexa, 16, Hayden, 14, and Farrah, 10 — were with her (they have shared custody). On the outside, it looked like a perfect life. A home in Phoenix. A family. But when the marriage ended, there was a house to sell, assets to split. A new place to live.
He was losing hope. But suddenly something clicked in him, and he thought that if he changed his thinking, something good would happen.
He tried it. Days went by and, he thought, this isn’t working. But he kept at it. Positive thoughts.
Little blessings were there, but he discounted them. “We’re always looking for the big things,” he said. “There are a ton of good things that happen. We’re healthy and (in his case) I got to watch my daughter dance.”
Through Twitter, he found a great supporter in Stacy Lymber, who is a transition and lifestyle strategist who works mostly with ex-hockey players. “He’s inspiring,” she said on the phone from Buffalo, N.Y., “but the sadder part about it is there are thousands out there more like him, not just hockey players. They’re lost, basically.”
Out of the blue, Hirsch tweeted something out about a hockey game he was watching, and Sportsnet hockey analyst Elliotte Friedman saw it. He thought his analysis, in less than 140 characters, was very good and could transfer nicely to a bigger stage. “I follow Corey on Twitter, and I’ve talked to him a bit over his career,” Friedman said by phone. “He always had a kind of a snarky and sarcastic and pretty funny way of looking at things. Some of the stuff he says is pretty funny and biting.”
Friedman said he had “no idea” Hirsch was in a bad place when he put him in touch with Mitch Kerzner, executive producer of studio production for NHL on Sportsnet. “We weren’t close enough that he would share that kind of thing with me,” Friedman said. “The one thing you learn, though, covering this business is when players retire, it’s not easy.”
Kerzner took Friedman’s advice and he checked Hirsch’s Twitter account. “I saw some things on Twitter that I liked so I gave him a call,” Kerzner said over the phone. “I think he’s got a lot of insight, but witty insight.”
Hirsch works for Sportsnet as a freelance NHL analyst. The former player said he felt comfortable right away in the studio. “It seemed to click,” he said. Prior to this, Hirsch had reached out to the NHL alumni, which put on a broadcasting workshop that furnished him with training and confidence to enter a new arena. “His desire to find an area that he was passionate about and ignite a spark like hockey did is not easy,” said Wendy McCreary of the NHL alumni association. “Corey was a natural.”
Hirsch was so moved by his turn of luck that he took to Facebook this week to tell his friends the story and it touched a nerve with hundreds of readers, including former teammate Kirk McLean. Hirsch doesn’t want to come across as a sympathy case. He just wants his story out there so others can be inspired.
He is also not suggesting that people with clinical depression can just snap out of it like he did.
But what about the tweet, that game-changing tweet? Hirsch can’t remember it, and neither can Friedman. “I wish I did,” Hirsch says before leaving to do research on the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks game Friday night.
The tweet doesn’t matter much anymore. What matters is that, in Hirsch’s mind, bad things can be blessings in disguise. “It’s weird sometimes,” he says, “how we think the worst thing that could ever happen to us turns out to be one of the best things to ever happen to us. I was let go by St. Louis. At the time, I was devastated. “But it led me to this.”
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The Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University
Degree and Non-Degree Courses and Programs
The BreakAway Program, formerly known as the Life After Hockey Program, is supported and funded by the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA). The BreakAway Program is administered by the NHL Alumni Association, and will work in conjunction with the Ted Rogers School of Management in the development of customized programs, courses and career services for current and former NHL players.
The Ted Rogers School of Management is Canada’s largest undergraduate management school and offers a diverse range of business courses that can be completed on a flexible schedule, both in-class and online. With a strong career-focus and an accessible Toronto location, the school is the perfect educational partner for the BreakAway Program.
“The BreakAway Program will give all current and former players the opportunity to work with one of the top schools in North America that truly understands the unique circumstances of professional athletes,” commented Pat Flatley, BreakAway Program Director. “The BreakAway Program is a credit to the innovative culture that is nurtured at the Ted Rogers School of Management . All current and former players will have the opportunity to work with experienced professionals that truly understand the unique circumstances of an NHL player.”
The goal of the NHL, NHLPA, NHL Alumni and the Ted Rogers School of Management is to ensure that the players are given every opportunity to enhance their education while playing the game and as they continue into their retirement and life following their playing days. This announcment marks a tremendous partnership with a technologically innovative school. Through the creation and use of digital modules that the players can access at anytime, the BreakAway Program will enhance learning for all players, allowing for successful achievements on every level.
“The Ted Rogers School of Management is honoured to assist current and former NHL players in making successful transitions into the business world,” said Ken Jones, Dean, Ted Rogers School of Management. “Through our professional, relevant and career-ready programs that integrate theory with practice, we can engage and facilitate players affirming their success on and off the ice.”
For further information or to discuss any matters, please contact Wendy McCreary at the NHL Alumni office.
Pat Flatley could score, he could check, he could track down pucks in a crowd and he could lead his team on and off the ice. A native of Toronto, Flatley had modest expectations when it came to his NHL career, hoping, above all else, that he would play a few seasons at hockey’s elite level. And though he was a long way off when it came to how long he thought he would last in NHL circles, Flatley wasn’t exactly disappointed by the outcome.
“I just think about the good fortune I had,” said Flatley, who spent over 13 years in the NHL during the 1980s and '90s. “I’ve always viewed my career as a 14-year holiday from the real world. It brings back memories of something that really did feel as if it were a vacation. It was a true gift. “My mindset when I started was that I wanted to play five years — I think the average career back then was four years. When I got five, I was hoping for 10. When I got to 10, I wanted to 15. I almost got there.”
Selected 21st overall by the New York Islanders in 1982, Flatley helped the Wisconsin Badgers win the NCAA crown in 1983 and was named to the WCHA first all-star team, the NCAA West first-all-American team and the NCAA championship tournament all-star team.
The hard-working winger netted four goals in seven games while helping Canada win the bronze medal at the 1983 World Junior Championships. Later that same year, he won bronze with the senior team at the World Championships.
In spite of his all-around strong play, cracking the Islanders lineup wasn’t easy. The organization decided Flatley would benefit from a year with the Canadian national team. He scored 31 goals in 57 games during the 1983-84 season, and was brilliant for his country at the Sarajevo Olympics. His most significant contribution was scoring twice in a hard-fought 4-3 win over Czechoslovakia.
Following the Olympics, Flatley contributed nine points in 16 games for the New York Islanders then scored nine times in 21 contests as the team's drive for five consecutive Stanley Cups fell short in the finals against the Edmonton Oilers.
“After the Olympics, I came into the Islanders’ dressing room and I was so nervous,” recalled Flatley. “I couldn’t skate or stand up, I was falling all over the place. I said to (head coach) Al Arbour after my first practice, I’m not that bad.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I hope not or you won’t be here very long.”
Flatley had an enviable supporting cast to learn from, including one of hockey’s most feared forwards. “I was taken under the wing of Clark Gillies, which was a little scary early on,” said Flatley, of the imposing Isles’ forward. “We had a really great group of guys. We had great senior mentors who helped us navigate our way through the NHL. I think helped to have a long career.”
Lessons, especially for rookies, were never at a premium, as Flatley recalls.
“There are so many different stories. The one that sticks with me is when Al Arbour told me, because I was a few minutes late for a bus, that when I get back you are going to the minors. So, that was about nine hours of mental torture because we were coming from the West Coast.” “I’m just sitting on the plane the whole time wondering how I’m going to explain this. I was probably a half hour early for every bus and every practice all the time after that. Being early shows that you are prepared more and that you care more.”
Starting in 1984-85, Flatley played twelve straight years with the Islanders. He worked on the power play and killed penalties and emerged as a team leader. One of his most memorable nights came in front of his family when he put four pucks into the Toronto net at Maple Leaf Gardens in a 5-4 Islanders win on November 11, 1985.
Flatley hit the 20-goal mark twice and recorded a personal-best 60 points in 1992-93. That same year his leadership was vital to the team's upset of the Pittsburgh Penguins on the way to reaching the Stanley Cup semifinals.
Flatley signed with the cross-town Rangers in 1996 and played a checking role there for one season before retiring.
“You have to learn how to be consistent, that’s what keeps you in the game,” offered Flatley. “A coach needs to know they can depend on certain players every night. I think that’s the most important skill a player needs to develop.”
A skill Pat Flatley mastered for longer than he could have ever envisioned and has carried off the ice to his retirement. Pat’s dedication began at the University of Wisconsin where he majored in Journalism. Upon retirement he served as a part-time analyst with Hockey Night in Canada 1988 – 2000 Seasons. His quick wit, loyalty and dedication to the game of hockey and the players, landed him a position as the NHL Director of Alumni Relations for 10 years where he served as the liaison with the NHL, club owners and the NHL Alumni.
Pat was very instrumental in the continuity of the career transition and the formulation of the NHL Alumni Association to assist former players in need. He has served as a Board of Director of the NHL Alumni Association since the inception in November of 1999 and has continued to help his fellow players through many aspects of the game and life skills on and off the ice.
With Pat’s knowledge of the game, respect of the players and ability to work with the NHL and the NHL Alumni and his definitive interest in helping current players right through to their transition into retirement, the NHLPA hired the former NHL player, to be the Assistant Director of Player Affairs looking after players and on-ice issues helping to build a better bond between the NHLPA and alumni players.
With his heartfelt and continued interest in ensuring players understand their options in retirement, Pat has taken on the role of Director of the BreakAway Program and is thrilled to be following his passion for hockey, education, and general life skill-sets in this new capacity. Pat has been a part of the BreakAway (formerly known as Life After Hockey) Committee for the past 10 years and looks forward to working with Ted Rogers School of Management and Ryerson University.
Wendy McCreary has been a part of “Hockey’s Greatest Family” since birth. Her father, the late Keith McCreary had a 10 year career in the NHL and was one of the founder’s of the NHL Alumni Association, serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Her extensive family roots in hockey ranges from her father, two uncles, three cousins playing in the NHL to her cousin refereeing as one of the current most senior referees in the league. Transition from the game to retirement is well-known and understood in her family.
She has been with the NHL Alumni Association since the inception of the organization almost 11 years ago and has dealt with the players and their families on all professional levels. Wendy has handled event management, player appearances, corporate licensing, media relations, marketing/sponsorship and the career transition throughout her tenure.
She has followed her father’s passion of ensuring that players are looked after from the time they sign their contract to play until retirement when they need assistance most in transitioning out of the game. Wendy’s level of trust, confidentiality and respect amongst the players and the hockey industry are attributions that she has worked hard to achieve and maintain.
Her general love of the game and understanding of the adversities that the players undergo throughout their career is an asset in assisting players and their families determine their post- career. Her mediating and negotiating skills have aided in numerous aspects of her position and involvement to generate programs in the best interest of the players.
Wendy has worked in conjunction with Pat Flatley and Dr. Brian Shaw and his team for eleven years determining the appropriate direction that suits the player and his family’s needs. She is excited to hold the position of BreakAway Manager and looks forward to working with Ted Rogers School of Management / Ryerson University to coordinate a program that the players will find a rewarding experience and outcome.
M.A. - Education Liason
Marla is a Graduate of both McGill University where she received her B.A in Organizational Psychology and from The University of Ottawa where she received her Masters of Arts in Psychopedagogy. Her research was on the Impact of Teachers’ Emotional Intelligence Skills on Students’ Motivation to Learn.
She began her career as a Management Consultant with Ernst and Whinney which propelled her into the field of Marketing where she held various marketing positions over the last 30 years: Management Marketing Consultant, Advertising Executive, Sr. Marketing Manager for both the Financial service and Consumer Packaged Goods industries, Entrepreneur, and Producer/Promoter of Entertainment (Howie Mandel),
Over the last several years Marla has been a Marketing Instructor at various Universities and most recently has been at The Ted Rogers School of Management for the past 2.5 years . At Ryerson, besides her teaching, she has been Project Manager for both an online Learning Site for the NHLA as well as an online Alumni Mentor Social Network site for the Faculty of Business. She has developed on line curriculum for Distance Ed courses and will take on the position as Marketing Manager for the Ted Rogers School of Management as of August 1. She will begin her PhD in Consumer Behaviour this October at the University of Stirling in Scotland.
Dr. Brian Shaw
Dr. Brian F. Shaw is one of the originators of applied cognitive-behavioral psychology for clinical practice, the performance of elite athletes, creativity, health promotion, and coping with significant illness. He is an expert on how the mind works, how it gets de-railed and how to get it back on track. More importantly, he understands how people refresh their thinking to gain new perspectives on their life and their ways to manage stress.
He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Western Ontario in 1975 following a B.Sc. degree in physiology at the University of Toronto. He is a Professor at the University of Toronto. Scientifically, in the 1980’s, he was one of the 50 highest-impact authors in psychology. Over the past 15 years he has taken this research and adapted it to the everyday world where people strive for health, peace of mind and exceptional performance.
He is the author (with Paul Ritvo and Jane Irvine) of Addiction and Recovery for Dummies (Wiley: 2004). His newest book (with Alden Cass and Sydney Leblanc), tentatively titled Managing the Madness of Wall Street and written to help people in the financial sector manage the demands of a career in this high stress industry, will be available in 2007.
In sports, Dr. Shaw is well known for his work as the co-director of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. He also co-directs the behavioral health program for Major League Soccer (MLS/ MLSPA). He is responsible for the educational program for all NHL and MLS players. Dr. Shaw is the psychologist for the Toronto Blue Jays and several other professional and Olympic level athletes. He was recently a featured speaker at the player development forum hosted by the NBA, NFL and the NHL on the topic “managing anxiety in athletes”.
At “The Clinic” in Toronto, Canada, Dr. Shaw provides consultation to individuals as part of his “Mind of Sport” program. The clinic also provides intensive treatment using cognitive- behavior therapy for sleep problems, stress, anxiety, depression and addiction.
Dr. David Lewis
Dr. Shaw Counselling Team
Dr. David Lewis is Co-Director for the NHL and MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Programs, and a nationally respected medical professional, dedicated to the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
Dr. Lewis is a Psychiatrist and is certified in Addiction Medicine as well as certified by the American Association of Medical Review Officers. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has elected him a fellow. Dr. Lewis has served as Chief, Department of Mental Health for the United States Air Force Academy and Chief of Staff for Anacapa Adventist Hospital. He has also held distinguished positions at U.C.L.A. as Clinical Professor and holds medical licenses in California, Colorado and Texas. Dr. Lewis is the Founder of the ASAP Family Treatment Program. He has been honored as a Presidential Appointee of the White House Conference on a Drug Free America and is a distinguished author. In 1989, he was a participant in the First Consensus Conference on Anabolic Androgenic Steroids at the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. Dr. Lewis is also Co-Founder of the nationwide non-profit Make-a-Difference Organization.
Dr. Shaw Counselling Team
Dan Cronin began his career in the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health field two decades ago as licensed Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor working with high profile clients in the entertainment industry. He has the honor of serving as the Director of Counseling for the National Hockey League Players Association Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program which provides comprehensive services for active and retired players and their dependents. Based on the success of the NHL program, Dan and his team developed a similar program for Major League Soccer providing services to the players and their families as well as training and supervision to program counselors throughout North America.
In addition to his work in the entertainment and sports arenas, in 1997 Dan founded Assessment Intervention Resources (AIR) which soon became the leading Alternative Sentencing Firm in
If he can’t help you he “WILL” find someone who can.
In his most recent venture, Dan is honored to have been asked to sit on the Board of Directors and act as Clinical Advisor for the Veteran’s Healing Initiative.
In his spare time, Dan loves to train having completed 11 Iron Men triathlon races all post-age 50.
Dr. Shaw Counselling Team
Andrew Galloway provides assessment, counselling, treatment referral, and interventions for the treatment of alcoholism and addictions. He is an Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counsellor (ICADC). His work has taken him across Canada, the USA, Italy, Germany and the Caribbean. In addition to his private practice, he is a counsellor for the National Hockey League/ National Hockey League Players Association and Major League Soccer's Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health Programs. He has received awards for Academic Excellence from McMaster University and for volunteer service in his community including the Harold A.D. Roberts Circle. In 2008, he was a recipient of the Transforming Lives Award from The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
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