Monday, December 9, 2013

Jim Corsi, The Man Behind The Numbers

"Corsi Italy's Hero in Tie With Canada" 
This was the headline by Canadian Press on April 22, 1982 after Italy earned a surprising 3-3 draw with Team Canada at the 1982 World Hockey Championships. On the strength of 55 saves by Montreal native Jim Corsi and a goal and two assists by ex-Washington Capital Rick Bragnolo, Italy shocked a stacked team of Canadian professionals.

That year, Canada was represented by stars Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Mike Gartner, Darryl Sittler, Bobby Clarke, Bob Gainey, Bobby Smith and Kevin Lowe. "Obviously we weren't ready for the game," said a dejected Smith. "Even as much as we said we did, we didn't take this team seriously enough, and it showed. It cost us a big point and it will hurt us dearly when the tournament is over."
Bob Gainey added,"Corsi played a strong game in goal. He was getting the clean shots. Then when he had to make the save, he did and kept us off the boards."

Jim Corsi, the creator of the statistical evaluation system that bears his name was an ex-teammate of Gretzky and Lowe just two years prior. In the Oilers inaugural NHL season of 1979/80, Corsi played 26 games posting a 3.65 Goals Against Average splitting duties mainly with Dave Dryden and Ed Mio. The season before, Corsi led the WHA with 3 shutouts for the Quebec Nordiques. 

Below is the box score for the '82 World Championship game.

April 21, 1982
Canada 3, Italy 3
First Period
1. CAN Barber 14:51
2. ITA Farelli (Bragnolo) 19:57
Penalty - Tomassoni 18:18
Second Period
3. CAN Gainey (Hartsburg, Smith) 14:40
4. ITA Bragnolo (Bellio) 19:58
Penalties - Barber 9:08, Manno 18:31
Third Period
5. ITA Priondolo (Bragnolo, Tenisi) 2:28
6. CAN Van Boxmeer (Smith) 6:39
Penalties - Bragnolo 6:03, Ciccarelli 8:10
Shots On Goal
CAN 17 22 16 - 55
ITA 11 7 7 - 23
Attendance - 4,178

Interestingly, along with Bob Manno who was an All-Star for Toronto that season, Italy also boasted  a Slap Shot legend on their defence. Detroit native Guido Tenisi played all seven games for Italy after having portrayed the non-speaking Billy Charlesbois in the classic movie Slap Shot.

Corsi continued as a pro in the Italian league until retiring in 1992 and represented Italy in 8 different World Championships. He'd return to Montreal in the 90's and put his Concordia University engineering degree to use as he became a math and science teacher as well as coaching goaltending on the side. He coached for Concordia, McGill, St. Mike's Majors and Canadian Women's team before joining the Buffalo Sabres full-time in the early 2000's. 

The genesis of of his analytic system began while he was wrapping up his playing career in Varese, Italy and was further developed by Gabriel Desjardins of Corsi states, "I was trying to measure the amount of work that a goalie does, this fella (Desjardins) tied it into the work that players do, and he was kind enough to say it was based on my work originally.  Hence, we have this Corsi number."

As advanced hockey analytics gain popularity and acceptance, it's nice to know the man behind the Corsi number was an actual player and goaltender no-less, who saw and analyzed the game from the trenches and not just a number cruncher. Jim Corsi was and is both.

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