At the age of 15, Shayne Corson was one of the top players in all of Canada for his age group. He was about to leave his hometown of Barrie, Ontario to play junior in Brantford, Wayne Gretzky's hometown.
But instead of taking the OHL by storm, Corson found himself inexplicably dropping twenty pounds and in extreme pain. He tried hiding the pain but it became too much. After six months he finally went to a doctor.
"I was scared. I thought it was cancer or something" Corson said, understandably.
It turned out to be ulcerative colitis. It was not life threatening, but he would have to deal with it for the rest of his life. He began taking 16 pills a day to control the disease.
Corson has always been an awareness advocate ever since.
“I just want to get the awareness out there about colitis. I think it's important that we get awareness out there and let people know you can do all the things you love to do as long as you find the right treatment and the right support staff to help you manage the disease.”
Corson proved you can still great things while dealing with the disease.
“I just looked at it as another challenge in my life. I wasn't going to let it hold it back from what I wanted to do. I always had a dream since I was a young boy – I wanted to play in the NHL. I was getting closer to that opportunity and I wasn't letting anything hold me back.
“I dealt with it head on. I just said, 'I'm not going to let this beat me. It's going to be a part of my life. I'm going to manage it and deal with it the best I can.'”
Corson returned to the ice and was selected eight overall by the Montreal Canadiens. They loved his power game.
Shayne Corson was a strong skater, overpowering players as he drove to the net. He was not fast or agile by any means, but he knew the fastest way to the puck was in a straight line, and he did not care if you were in the way.
The real key to Corson's game was his excellent balance on his skates. That allowed him to excel doing the all the dirty work along the boards and in front of the net. As such he was a very effective power forward.
Corson lacked the hands and creativity to be an top scorer. Fancy he was not. Instead he thrived right in front of the net, smacking away at loose pucks. He was also quite adept at deflections.
Corson was always at his best playing a physical game. He was an imposing player who could, literally and figuratively, make quite the impact on any game. He was strong and scrappy, often in a bad mood.
Corson was best known for his 11 seasons (combined in two different stints) in Montreal. Corson also played in Edmonton, St. Louis, Toronto and, briefly, Dallas. He also represented Canada at the 1991 Canada Cup, the 1998 Olympics, two World Juniors and two World Championships.
“I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to play on some really good teams and play with some great players,” he said.
“I played with Gretzky in the Canada Cup in '91 and played on a line with him in St. Louis, along with Brett Hull. That was quite a highlight to play with one of the greatest players for some time in St. Louis and obviously I played on a line with him and Steve Larmer for the Canada Cup in '91. That was quite a thrill when I showed up at training camp and found out who I was playing with.”
Corson's career was not without controversy. Twice he got into bar room incidents. Later in his career he developed debilitating panic and anxiety attacks. Those got so bad late in his career he actually walked out on the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first round of 2003 playoffs.
That's too bad, because Corson was unable to always enjoy his time in Toronto where he played with his brother-in-law, Darcy Tucker.
In 1156 career NHL games Shayne Corson scored 273 goals, 420 assists and 693 points to go with 2357 penalty minutes.
“(Hockey) has given me everything that I have today. I owe a lot to the game of hockey. I made some good friends and have some good memories. I made a good living at doing it, too. The most important thing was the memories and the people that I met through the game. Those are the things I'm going to hold on to for the rest of my life.”