As a longtime hockey player, Shayne Corson has had a successful career as both a professional athlete and an advocate for healthy physical and mental fitness. In the years since his retirement, Shayne has made it his mission to encourage people to speak up and talk about any mental health issues they might be going through – a cause close to his heart, given that he admittedly struggles with anxiety and panic attacks on top of living with ulcerative colitis. But even while battling these adversities, Shayne remains open to discussing how hockey has helped him both physically and mentally – and how it needs to change as well.
We had the opportunity to talk to Shayne about his career in hockey, social causes, and how he thinks the sport can become more inclusive for everyone.
Why did you choose hockey? What was it about the sport itself that drew you in?
Like a lot of young Canadian kids, I watched Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night with my dad. I loved hockey right away – the speed, the contact, but most of all the aspect of team play.
What can hockey do to become more inclusive for everyone?
There is systematic racism that needs to be addressed in hockey and there needs to be a willingness to call it out, from the top to the bottom. People need to be educated about it – when you know better, you have the opportunity to do better. I also think there needs to be more financial support for kids who need it – everyone that wants to play should get the chance. I’d like to see it become a more diverse sport. Representation matters.
What role do you believe sports plays in mental health?
Mental health’s role in sports is a double-edged sword. It’s great to go out there and get some exercise and bond with teammates, but there is way too much pressure on some of our younger players – mainly, and sadly, coming from adults in their lives. At the end of the day, it’s a game, and it should be enjoyed for the fitness, mastery of skill, and camaraderie of playing on a team. Perhaps the pandemic will have a silver lining and get kids out on the outdoor rinks playing hockey for the sheer joy of the game – away from a lot of politics and pressure of organized leagues.
What are some other social causes that are close to your heart?
I am passionate about mental health, and I’m also happy to be involved with Hockey Helps the Homeless, an organization which raises awareness and financial support for the homeless through education, fundraising, and by partnering with local homeless support agencies. It has really opened my eyes how untreated mental health and societal problems have a great effect on homelessness in our country.
What do you feel is the biggest success of your careers so far?
Of course, reaching my goal and dream of playing in the NHL. But honestly, it’s also being able to use the platform I have to speak out about my challenges, and having opportunities to talk to people one on one to tell them they are not alone in their struggles and there is help out there for them. Knowing it has made a difference in even a few lives has been the biggest source of satisfaction and meaning for me in my life.
Shayne Corson is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.