Mike Corder epitomized his role as team captain last season so much for the Metro Jets that when he decided to come back and play his final season of junior hockey, the Jets’ brass had no problems giving him the ‘C’ for the second straight year.
After all, when a shoulder injury shelved Corder last year, he didn’t sit back and sulk.
It was last October and Corder dropped the gloves with Dubuque captain Ryan Bachman. When the fight was over, Corder sat up on the ice in obvious pain.
“Bachman got the better of me during that fight and I was out for four weeks in a sling,” said Corder. “I showed up to practices, the coaches gave me a whistle and I stood behind the bench. I have to say it was a change of scenery that I did not like too much. Instead of having surgery and sitting out six months, I went to physical therapy and came back as soon as the shoulder felt strong enough. It never hurts during practice or a game, or I can't feel it, but it hurts before and after.”
Even when last season ended, Corder thought his competitive hockey career was history.
“After last season, I was unclear as to what I really wanted to do – either play hockey or go to college full-time,” explained Corder. “The more I thought about it, the more my mind was set on going to school. I didn't go to any camps all summer; I had literally hung up my skates. Next thing I knew, the exhibition season was starting. (Jets head) coach (Jason) Cirone called me and got me to come out and play an exhibition game against Flint (which the Jets won, 4-3, with six seconds left) and I got a good feeling about the team and the coaching staff.”
As for wearing the ‘C,’ Corder said he feels humbled by the honor, but it’s not somethinghe sought out to get at the beginning of last year.
“I am just the kind of guy who shows up and punches the clock night in and night out,” Corder said. “I'm not the most vocal, but my philosophy is to lead by example. I know my role as a player and I do my job at 110 percent. I expect my team to meet the standard that I set.”
Showing his team player attributes, Corder said even though Metro had just two wins heading into last weekend, it never was panic time. In fact, Corder said it was the perfect time to show why he’s the Jets’ captain.
“The season has started off a little slower than we hoped for, but we are showing our potential 10 minutes here, five minutes there,” said Corder prior to last weekend. “We all just need to buy in 100 percent to what Coach is trying to teach us and simplify the game. It will take a few games for the young guys to get up to speed and understand the game at this level, but it will happen. I feel some pressure, but it is only the pressure that I put on myself to play at the level I expect for myself. I see that as the best way to lead my team.”
The Jets took both games from Quad City last weekend in dramatic fashion. Saturday night’s game went to overtime and Sunday afternoon’s contest came down to the final minutes.
“Last weekend was a preview of what is to come,” Corder said. “There is still a lot of hockey coming up. We needed that sweep to really build confidence and it was proof that Coach Cirone's style of play works. What I really liked was that in each game, we found a way to come out on top. We almost put together 60 minutes of solid hockey in each game. We need to learn that it creates two times the amount of work even taking one shift off, so it is easier to do it hard the first time and get the job done.”
Now with renewed enthusiasm to play hockey as long as he can, Corder also has the mentality that this season may be his swan song. His maturity in dealing with that situation certainly shows another side of Corder’s leadership qualities.
“This is my last year of juniors and I am also prepared that it may be my last season of highly competitive hockey with checking, national championships, stuff like that,” Corder said. “If the right opportunity arose I would be right there to jump on it. Life without hockey isn't life at all, so I am just going to focus on playing as well as I can this season because all I can control is what I do.
“There is no reason to worry about next year yet, there is still work to be done this season. Getting noticed and playing college hockey would be great, preferably Division I, but even if it is Division III, I love hockey and if I can play longer, hey, the longer the better.”