I was born in Barrie, Ontario on August 13, 1966. My father, Paul Corson, introduced me to hockey at a young age and coached me for three or four seasons. Both my mother, June, and my dad were very encouraging and loving parents. I have very fond memories of many tournaments won, celebrations had, and having my family along for the ride made it a lot of fun.
At age 19, I was drafted to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in the first round to the Brantford Alexanders. After one year, the team moved to Hamilton, Ontario. At the end of my first year in the OHL, I was drafted in the first round in the National Hockey League (NHL) draft, eighth overall by the Montreal Canadiens. That was a very special day for my family and I. My parents accompanied me at the Montreal Forum -- it was a life-long dream that came true. Later that day, we dined at Da Vinci, a restaurant in Montreal, where I first met Armando, who has been my best friend and business partner until this day.
During my OHL career I was fortunate enough to play for Canada in two World Junior Championships -- winning gold in Finland, and silver in Hamilton, Ontario.
Over the 18 years I played in the NHL, I captained three teams, played in three All-Star games and three World Championships for Team Canada. I feel so lucky to have realized my dreams. There were many highs and lows throughout my amateur and professional hockey career. One particular heartbreaker was losing in a shootout to Czech Republic at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis
Years before all of that, at the age of 15, I suffered from painful cramping, weight loss and the terrifying sight of blood in my stool. My mother found me doubled over in pain in the bathroom one day -- I had hid it from my parents for nearly six months or so. I was very scared.
My mother took me to our doctor and I was later diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC). I was fortunate to have a very good doctor who helped me manage the symptoms with medication. He also advised me on lifestyle changes, such as proper nutrition and lots of rest to help my body deal with the illness.
I was determined to not let ulcerative colitis stop me from realizing my dream of becoming a professional hockey player.
There were some difficult moments throughout my hockey career, such as wondering how I was going to get to the washroom on long road trips. There were even some times that the symptoms were so bad that I missed practices.
I hid the fact that I had ulcerative colitis. I worried that it might hurt my career, and it can be very embarrassing to talk about.
In time, with the support of my doctors, I felt more comfortable talking to the coaching staff about the disease -- I was pleased to realize how supportive they were!
Educating yourself about the disease and talking about it really helps.
Early diagnosis is important. Also, finding a doctor who you feel comfortable with and working with them to find a treatment that works for you to help minimize the symptoms can make living with the disease a lot easier.
Maintaining a positive attitude and facing difficulties head on with the help of your doctor can allow you to cope with the disease and not let it hold you back from reaching your goals in life, and doing the things that you love to do.
Right now, I continue to manage my symptoms through good nutrition, exercise and taking my medication. I continue to work as an entrepreneur with my business partner, Armando, and am glad to be able to work with the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC), the Gastrointestinal Society and Living with UC to raise awareness, and tell my story of how I would not let this disease stand in the way of pursuing my dreams.