Corey Hirsch sat down for a chat with VHN a little while back to discuss his reasons for leaving the Vancouver Canucks radio gig. They’re all good ones, as in he’s moving on to opportunities and activities that reside closest to his heart.
“I’m no longer a hockey player, I’m a mental health advocate,” Hirsch stated.
It’s the next step in a logical and emotional progression. One that started in the crease with moments of notoriety and fame along the way, to a world turned upside down, to trying to live and make a living benefiting others.
A couple of events stand out, none more than the 1994 Winter Olympics when as a minor league goalie Hirsch back-stopped Team Canada to the Gold Medal Game against Sweden in Lillehammer, Norway.
Coming off a 30-save performance in the the semi-finals in a 5-3 win against Finland on February 25th, Hirsch stole the show two days later. He made 40 saves against the Swedes, allowing the tying goal with just under two minutes to play. The famous shoot-out ended in the 7th-round, with Peter Forsberg scoring the winner with the since often imitated, backhanded, reach-back goal. It’s known simply as the “Foppa”, the same as the player’s nickname.
In Sweden, you’ll find Forsberg and Hirsch’s likeness from that moment on a postage stamp.
Two years later Hirsch was playing playoff games for the Vancouver Canucks, twice beating the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche and goaltender Patrick Roy in the first round.
That was one of Hirsch’s two biggest memories from playing with Vancouver.
“I remember walking into a small restaurant just to eat after one of the games and getting a standing ovation, it was pretty cool,” Hirsch recalled.
The other giant moment; asking for help with his quickly deteriorating mental health.
“This is where I was diagnosed, and it saved my life.”
Confronting the Demons, Confronting the Stigma
“It was during the next season I pulled Mike Bernstein (Canucks trainer) aside, at Nassau Coliseum, underneath, and by this time it was obvious, I had lost 30 pounds playing and I couldn’t do it any more,” Hirsch said about battling serious depression and suicidal tendencies. He was in a dangerous state of mind.
“He put the wheels in motion, the organization put the wheels in motion and a pyschologist came to my house through the psychiatry group the Vancouver Canucks were connected to, and they diagnosed me,” Hirsch explained.
“I probably threw away my NHL career at that point due to the time era it was and the stigma, but it was also the same day I saved my own life,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch would go on to play another twenty-odd NHL games, all but three of them with Vancouver. He spent almost an entire decade playing in the minors or in Europe.
After working as a goaltending coach and as a television analyst, Hirsch finally erupted into the conscience of the North American sporting world with his Player’s Tribune article entitled “Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark, Dark”, in 2017.
It remains a benchmark in mental health awareness for everyone across the sporting worlds.
He spilled his guts and blew everyone away.
As part of his public speaking commitments, Hirsch often speaks to groups related to the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) as part of their wellness program. Craftspeople and physical labourers can be a vulnerable group.
Bigger picture, Hirsch will be releasing a book October 11th entitled “The Save of My Life: My Journey Out of the Dark,” with the help of the same man who helped him with his article, Sean Patrick Conboy.
It’s the story of Hirsch’s powerful mental health journey, parts of which he shares in his Players Tribune affiliated podcast “Blindsided,” with Dr. Diane McIntosh. There are contributions from other athletes and doctors.
“It’s other guys, folks telling similar stories to mine,” Hirsch said.
At times there can be a religious element, but it’s not a prevailing theme. Or as former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner put it, “I use the bible as a life guide, not as a weapon.”
Hirsch says he believes in a higher power.
“If faith is your thing to get you through your mental health, I’m a thousand-percent for it,” Hirsch said.
Ultimately Hirsch is behind advocacy a thousand percent. A busy public speaker, a host, and now an author.
Great reasons to leave the day-to-day hockey and sportscasting worlds behind.