By JAMES TUBB on February 7, 2024.
Joe Frazer has had to adjust his morning schedule because of one player.
The Medicine Hat Tigers associate coach has found himself arriving to the rink earlier and earlier to ensure he’s not leaving defenceman Nate Corbet waiting to get his day started.
Frazer says Corbet is at Co-op Place by 7 a.m. to start doing extra work ahead of the 8:45 a.m. meeting he is supposed to be there for.
“He’s 1:45 early, doing extra bikes, extra shooting, stick handling, he wants to watch video every day one-on-one, he’s always journaling, recapping the day,” Frazer said. “You want guys like that because those are the guys who set your culture. When you have guys like him doing all that stuff, it’s contagious.”
Corbet says the early arrivals sets the tone for the day and allows himself to be fully engaged by the time their routine is in full swing. Part of that routine for him starts the night before, when the 17-year-old journals before going to bed about his plan of attack for the next day.
Corbet says he picked up the journaling from Frazer who told him Jimmy Hamblin did the same exercise when he donned the orange and black. Hamblin used to write down three goals for the day every morning. In his own adaptation, Corbet journals the night before and writes down what he wants to accomplish on and off the ice and how he’s going to complete it.
“If I can have that plan the night before and bring it to the rink the next morning, I’ve already thought about it overnight subconsciously,” Corbet said. “Then I can figure out ways to apply it in the morning. When you have a direct plan you get a lot more work done, which is what I’m trying to do, max out my work day.”
The desire to maximize his day comes from Corbet’s want to be at his best for the Tigers and his teammates. It’s the same reason the natural defenceman hasn’t hesitated to play forward with the lineup missing Brayden Boehm and Cayden Lindstrom.
Corbet says he is there to respond to any demands and sees it as an opportunity to fill a role and make himself a better defenceman in the process.
“When any opportunity rises, I have to make the most of it and just keep building right now, especially for playoffs and the next year,” Corbet said. “Whatever I can do every single day to make myself a greater defenceman. If that’s playing forward, then I’ll take the positives out of that and apply it to my defensive game.”
It’s a mindset Frazer says can be contagious within a team and isn’t lost on the coaches.
“He’s one of the most unselfish people we’ve ever had,” Frazer said. “It’s not easy to do what he’s doing because he’s grown up playing defence his whole life. We asked him, we’d like him to play forward and he didn’t bat an eye, so he played forward for a while and he got a game on defence in Red Deer and it was the best game he’s played as a defender.
“Because like a lot of things here, you can take things one of two ways, you can sulk about stuff, or whatever is thrown at you, you can just learn from it and get better.”
Frazer says he’s seen the lesson learned from Corbet of how important it is to find an outlet pass and get open as a winger. He says it’s something the young defenceman will be better for knowing when he’s a full-time defender in the future.
Head coach Willie Desjardins says Corbet is an example of what they want their culture as a team to be.
“I can’t really give much more of a compliment to a guy than that, he does things right,” Desjardins said. “He steps up in games too for the boys, he’s really come a long ways. I just love his compete, I love how he plays and it’s great to see him get an opportunity. It’s tough because if we have a full lineup, maybe you didn’t get a chance to play, so that’s really hard. But even if he’s not playing, he’s still 100 per cent behind the team and you don’t get that all the time. He’s pretty unique and a pretty special player.”
Beyond stepping up and becoming a forward, Corbet has also started to embrace a fighting role in his game, dropping the gloves seven times in 35 games this season, adding to his 45 penalty minutes, two goals and four-point stat line.
The Calgary product says he’s had no fear embracing the fighting role and takes pride in knowing he can provide a spark or comfort for his teammates on the ice.
“I can help provide a bit of more of an edge to our team and maybe give our guys a lot of energy and comfort on the ice knowing I can protect them,” Corbet said. “It’s pretty fun and definitely great for getting the crowd into it and getting our players all jazzed up.”
Tigers 20-year-old defencmean Rhett Parsons recognizes the path Corbet is on. Parsons never found himself having to step up and play forward but has answered the bell whenever asked in his 200-game career. He says Corbet’s team mentality and willingness to step up has him as one of their hardest working players.
“Him stepping up, coming in and doing whatever it takes to win is huge for everyone,” Parsons said.