Insider: How A Trip To An NHL Game Was A Turning Point For Cory Conacher

The road for Cory Conacher has never been an easy one. Before coming to Tampa, Conacher has had to fight through all kinds of adversity. There was one point in his career though that may have been a turning point, a time when a player who was in a bit of a slump turned his career around. What was this one event that may have changed the direction of Conacher’s career, and help him regain that confidence to ultimately achieve his NHL dream?

Going to an NHL hockey game.

The trip to a Buffalo Sabres hockey game, arranged by Conacher’s agent, Todd Reynolds, was during a time when Conacher was going through a rough patch in his career. Conacher was a senior at Canisius at the time, and he found himself getting benched, something that had not happened since he was a freshman in college. The goal was to get Conacher to work on his defense, and play more of a two way game. Still for Conacher, losing playing time was not something that was good for the confidence.

“At the time, it was just one of those slumps you get in,” Conacher said. “Basically it wasn’t anything off the ice. It all had to do with on the ice. I actually kept getting sat. The one senior night, the one night, we had a game I got sat. It was the first time I got sat since I was a freshman.”

At a time when Conacher was struggling to find his way, he went to the game, and got a single message from his agent, a message that has stuck with him as he has made his way to the NHL.

“We went to the game, he mentioned he could see me out on that ice,” Conacher said. “He said he could see me scoring goals with the guys that are out there. It definitely opened something up. It gave me that confidence that I needed to just keep going and to keep motivated to make it to this level. I am so thankful for an agent like him; he has been a good friend and a great agent. It’s important to have that with your agent. It’s been good, short career I have had with him so far. Hopefully I can make it a long one, and I am sure we will be good friends in the long run, and it will be a good relationship to have.”

When Conacher heard that message from his agent and friend, it was a wakeup call for him, something he felt that he needed at that point in his career, and something that he has used moving forward as he made his way up the ladder to achieve his NHL dream.

“It was a wakeup call,” Conacher said. “I think I needed it. Him taking me to the game was definitely something that helped me as well. Like I said, build that confidence in me. To keep going and keep developing and keep getting motivated from the little things, and actually see myself and visualize myself in the NHL someday.”

Reynolds thinks back on that time, remembering the Canisius coaching staff trying to mold Conacher as a player and to change some habits that Conacher had that would end up hurting him if he did not change his ways.

“The coaching staff was trying to get him to buy in defensively,” Reynolds said. “They were trying to get him to be more responsible defensively. There was no question about his offensive talent and abilities. It was more; I think something Cory would be pretty thankful for now when he looks back and says hey, these guys are trying to prepare me for the next level and teach him to be more responsible defensively.”

“He was maybe cheating a bit too much is an often used expression by coaches,” Reynolds said. “Leaving the zone early, whatever it happens to be. They wanted him to be better in that area, so they sat him out. That’s probably around the time he was feeling pretty down and low and we went to the game together in Buffalo, which was like a home game to him of course because it is so close to campus, and watched the game. I told him he was not far off from playing at this level, you have the ability to, but you have to be a 200 foot player, you have to play both sides of the puck, because if you can’t a coach is not going to tolerate you. There are just too many players out there, so you have to be better in that area.  His coaches, Dave Smith and B.J. Adams at Canisus were telling him the same thing, so it wasn’t like it was a revelation from me, he was being told that by his coaches. Sometimes to hear it from two or three different places is helpful.”

“Sometimes looking a guy in the eye, and saying with conviction, it’s not fabricated, it’s not made up, you are not saying it to make the player feel good about himself, but you are saying it because you truly believe it,” Reynolds said. “You look at a guy and say’ I believe in you, you are going to play in the National Hockey League. I don’t know if it is going to happen next year, or if it is going to take three or four years to work your way up there. But you are going to play there one day. You have the ability. I have seen many players, I have worked in this industry for years. You have the talent to play at that level. The only thing that is going to prevent you from playing there is you.”

“To his credit, it was a turning point,” Reynolds said. “He bought in, he was just relentless out there, tenacious. He took his game to another level.”

For an NHL player, or any professional athlete, there really is no more important relationship than that of the player and his agent, and for Conacher, it was that relationship that got him through that tough time in his career.

“Oh yeah,” Conacher said. “[Reynolds] has been so great to me. He has been saying that all along. He said, you know, you are going to sign a big contract one day and make sure you remember a guy like me. He was saying all that stuff.”