Former NHL goalie coach and inventor of famous hockey statistic joins Stingers staff
Concordia University graduate Jim Corsi has returned to his roots, joining the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team as an assistant coach this season. He studied at Concordia University from 1972 to 1976, playing on the hockey team as a goalie, and on the soccer team as an attacker.
Corsi played professional hockey in North America and Europe from 1976 to 1991. He was the goalie coach for the Buffalo Sabres in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1998 to 2014, and with the St. Louis Blues from 2014 to 2017. The Concordian sat down with Corsi to talk about his career since he graduated from Concordia.
Q: What’s it like to be back at Concordia?
A: It’s great. I’ve been back from time to time. […] Over the last 20 years, since I’ve been in the NHL, it’s been really hard to be home. Being here is a lot of fun because it’s my old school, and there are still a lot of people who are still here from when I was here.
Q: What’s the difference between coaching a goalie at the university level and at the NHL level?
A: At the NHL level, they’re already a formed type of goaltender. There are a number of things that you might want to adjust technically or tweak […] At the university level, you’ll get a 22 or 23-year-old who has perhaps played junior, and hasn’t been exposed to certain levels of training, so you might have a little technical stuff to teach, but probably a lot of tactical stuff.
Q: Who was the most interesting goalie to coach in the NHL?
A: The most remarkable was Dominik Hasek, and the most demanding was Ryan Miller. Hasek, for me, was a guy who rewrote the book on goaltending. He added athleticism to goaltending. Miller had such a curiosity [for] the game, he had such a romance [for] the detail of the game. Miller was so curious about his job that, if you explained to him to put his hand [in a certain position], he would ask why.
Q: One of the advanced statistics in hockey is Corsi, which measures how many shots a player takes compared to everyone else on the ice. You helped create the Corsi stat as we know it. What’s the story behind it?
A: [In Buffalo], I was trying to figure out how much work a goalie does. I was adding up shots on goal, blocked and missed shots. […] Nobody knew about it until our general manager, Darcy Regier, started talking [on the radio] about a statistic we used to gage the goalie’s work. So some guy in Edmonton, [Vic Ferrari], hears about it and says, “Wow that’s phenomenal. I wonder if I could apply it to players. Let’s gage a player’s work by the number of shots he takes.” The Corsi number that has gone out there as a stat is an evolution of what my numbers were. So the guy who devised [the modern Corsi number], went through the [Buffalo Sabres media guide] and said, “Okay, I’ll call it the Darcy Regier stat. No that doesn’t sound good.” So he flipped through the guide, saw my picture, and said, “I love that moustache. Corsi stat—it has a great ring.” Unbenounced to him, I was the guy who started that stat.
Q: What’s it like to hear your name as a stat?
A: I tell my wife that my name has become generic, like, “What’s your Corsi?” What do you mean what’s my Corsi? That’s my name!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Main photo by Kirubel Mehari.