On today’s episode, I have 40-44-year-old 7th fittest man in the universe, athlete, and friend Joe Corvo. Joe Corvo has been my athlete for the last four years, 4½ years now in CrossFit. It has been an amazing journey working with him.
But Joe also has an amazing story of playing in the NHL for almost over a decade at this point, and he is sharing that with you on this episode. I really love hearing Joe’s journey of things that came up for him; little chances or things that you may have taken as downfalls were actually ways that he made it further in his career.
He talks about his entire journey from youth playing hockey all the way up to retiring and getting in the sport of CrossFit. I really hope you enjoy this episode.
We had a great time doing this episode, lots of laughs, lots of good stuff, and if you like what you hear please subscribe to us on iTunes. Leave us a rating if you really love us, follow us on Instagram, anywhere that you can connect with us please do. We’d love to hear from the audience. You guys mean so much to me.
I love you all, enjoy the show.
Angelo: Hello everyone, and thanks for listening to The Alpha Hippie Podcast. On today’s episode I have 40-44 year old 7th fittest man in the universe, athlete and friend Joe Corvo. Joe Corvo has been my athlete for the last four years, 4½ years now in CrossFit. It has been an amazing journey working with him. But Joe also has an amazing story of playing in the NHL for almost over a decade at this point, and he is sharing that with you on this episode. I really love hearing Joe’s journey of things that came up for him; little chances or things that you may have taken as downfalls were actually ways that he made it further in his career.
He talks about is entire journey from youth playing hockey all the way up to retiring and getting in the sport of CrossFit. I really hope you enjoy this episode. We had a great time doing this episode, lots of laughs, lots of good stuff, and if you like what you hear please subscribe to us on iTunes. Leave us a rating if you really love us, follow us on Instagram, anywhere that you can connect with us please do. We’d love to hear from the audience. You guys mean so much to me. I love you all, enjoy the show.
Angelo: Joe Corvo in my living room. First thoughts when you walked into the apartment.
Joe: First thought- I think this carpet has been here since 1972 and it needs to be changed. Other than that it’s fine. If you just picked this habit and ripped it out you’d be good.
Angelo: We got to work on the carpet.
Joe: I said, “where are we going to sit?’ You said, “On the carpet”. I was thinking, no fucking chance of sitting on that carpet.
Angelo: It’s nice. This is our dining room table, the living room floor. You got room here; you got a bike, whatever you need.
Joe: Life is simple for some people.
Angelo: That’s it. So Joe, I find you to be one of the most fascinating humans that I’ve ever been around in my life, and not just because of your accomplishments but because of your personality is very interesting, at least form my perspective. I think it’s, not maybe interesting, but it’s just different than what most people put out there.
Joe: Yeah. I would say I don’t have much of a personality. If I had to look at myself from the outside and be like, ‘what is it about that guy?’ I don’t know what it is, because if I don’t know you I don’t really talk to you. I don’t know what it is. I guess if you say it’s interesting maybe I just make it look like it’s a mystery. It intrigues people, I don’t know.
Angelo: That works, i probably is that. As far as your personality were you always like this as far as you can remember, or was there a shift, or how did that come to be?
Joe: I can always remember being quiet and not very talkative unless it was people who I was really close to even going back to grade school. I’m not sure why, I can’t really put my finger on why but there is something inside me that I get to a line, it’s like I don’t want to put myself past that line because I’ve always been nervous about what was going to happen, like if somebody was going to laugh at me or something like that. I guess it’s what they call insecurity.
Joe: I guess there is a line of my insecurity is that I like to just tap dance to, unless I’m having some beers then I’ll step over.
Angelo: That’s awesome. That totally makes sense. When did you start playing hockey? How old were you when you first started playing?
Joe: I think I was like four, probably four years old. I can remember pushing a chair, that’s how you start [inaudible 00:04:10] my dad was that he used to play hockey on a, I would say a semi-professional level and he is a good hockey player. He just put me out there and taught me how to skate and then he became my first coach when I was 5, 6, 7, 8. I remember back in those days, I remember the first goal I ever scored. It took a little while, but I remember scoring the goal and sprinting over the bench, and my dad I looked at him and it looked like he had tears in his eyes and almost jumped over the boards, I gave him a hug. I’ll never forget that, that was like the best memory from when I was that age. It was great.
That sparked love for the whole thing. My dad being there helping me out and just walking me through everything I think kind of developed the love for the game.
Angelo: Were you good right away, or is it something you grew into? Were you just like a phenom, or how did that work?
Joe: I was myself, and there was another player on the team who I played defense and he played offense, so depending on what time of the game it was, like if we needed a goal he could skate through the whole team and go and score a goal, or I could try to skate through the whole team. It seemed like two of us were really, really good right off the bat. I think it’s because we were better skaters than a lot of the other kids, and I think that puts you ahead of the game if you are playing hockey. You are ahead of the game if you could skate better than others, and we picked that up quickly, so you become better fast.
Angelo: How often were you practicing as a kid?
Joe: I think it was three to four times a week and then you had a game or two on the weekends. That was when ice time was a hundred and a half, now it’s 400, 500 bucks for an hour. It’s not as accessible. We had a lot of practice, then there was one day dedicated to just power skating, there was really no pucks on the ice, you lined up three lines at the end of one ice and we just went through skating edges, stops and starts; just everything you can imagine on skates my dad wanted me to be able to do. So we would just do power skating for an hour one day of the week and then the rest of the days would be practice with pucks and team stuff and stuff like that.
Angelo: Did you play other sports all year round? At what point did you focus on just hockey?
Joe: You don’t have to make that decision till you are midway through high school. You don’t have to specialize until then. That’s what they say and that’s what I did. But I played hockey and then as soon as hockey was over it was switched to baseball. A lot of kids nowadays they do spring hockey, it’s like you almost have to because the coaches for the next year want to see you in the spring so they can make some sort of assessments for the fall.
Back then we didn’t play spring hockey or summer hockey, you could sign up and it was just games, like you just play a game, maybe two a month. I told my dad I don’t want to go on the ice at all in the summer. He’d be like, “you’ve got a game today”. It’d be the middle of summer and I just played a baseball game, I’d be like I don’t want to go. I loved the sport of hockey, but during baseball game I was all for baseball. I loved baseball. I think to this day I love baseball more than I like hockey.
Angelo: Do you think you could have played in major league baseball if you put your energy into that?
Joe: Guaranteed. Yeah, guaranteed. Looking back at it, at that point in high school when I had to make a decision, like are you going to play hockey, are you going to play baseball- being from the north I felt so much more comfortable playing hockey because I was around hockey. So I could easily evaluate myself based on what was around me, and I knew I was better than most. When it came to baseball I didn’t know because I knew there’s kids down in Florida down south playing all year round, and I’m like, I don’t know, those kids are going to be pretty good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself too much, but in high school I went to this camp, it was called The Team One Camp and it was all the best prospects in the US at a certain age, I think it was 13 or 14.
Angelo: Is that baseball or hockey?
Joe: Yeah. It was in the summer. So I went and every single major league scout was like, there was the backstop, they were all behind the backstop, and I was catching, and they were timing from the time I caught the ball to the time I released it to each base, and it was so overwhelming and there were kids who were better than I was. I thought at that time that we were all there and I was like, I think I might be in over my head at this point, so I made that decision to play hockey. But I think if I would have just gone on and played D1 college somewhere I would have developed right into the same or even better as those players, and I could hit, I could catch, I could play the in-field, I could pretty much do it all.
Angelo: What was your preferred position?
Joe: I loved catching; just being dirty the whole games, sweating. You are in the game because you are touching the ball so much you are thinking I’m trying to outthink the batter, trying to outthink the runners on the base picking them off.
I just loved that. You are in control of the game. Pitching would be second because I could also control the game as a pitcher, and if I would bring my hockey mentality onto the baseball field so if guys started to get cocky or crawled the plate, or they got a hit off me they were going to get hit next time or I was going to throw an inside, or I was going to strike him out. One of those three things was going to happen. First I was going to try and strike him out, and if that wasn’t going to happen I was going to hit him. I got in a lot of jarring matches, especially when I was 13, 14, 15 playing baseball that if you were an adult they probably would escalate into fist fights.
Angelo: So you were playing baseball, you are playing hockey and then, you played at Fenwick, right?
Angelo: Okay. So you played baseball at Fenwick, or hockey at Fenwick, when did you decide to just go all in on hockey?
Joe: Let me backtrack a little bit.
Joe: My dad he directed me pretty much every step of my hockey career; where I was going to play, where I was going to go. He was my coach up until the peewee level. He was my coach for four or five years beforehand. If there was opportunity to pay for a better team or a better organization he would get me in no matter what the price was, what the cost of the team was. Dads would help out if they needed, but my dad was getting me into that situation where I was playing with and against the best people. So he would steer me, same with high school. All my friends from Old Park, all my best friends they all went to Old Park and he made me go to Fenwick. I put up a huge stink probably for two weeks but a week into being at Fenwick it was like the greatest place in the world. It was all dudes. I liked it because it’s like camaraderie like a hockey team or baseball team, you could talk shit, whatever in a fucking class.
Angelo: That’s the thing. I went to an all-boys school too, and some people joke about it, but I’m like no, one of the problems is they let you be boys when there is only boys. You can get away with way more shit, like knocking people shit down in the halls and running around. They are just like, ‘hey, slow down’, and that was your day. But if you did that with girls you would be suspended for sure. I love it. I wonder why they don’t do that as much anymore.
Joe: I don’t know. I would probably go to an all-boys school if I went back to high school. Even there are teachers or the head guys who you hated would scream at you once they all give you a tap on the back, and be like, ’hey, what’s going on?’. It was the dudes. Back to my dad, he steered me to Fenwick so I went there and I loved it. I played hockey and baseball. I also played triple A hockey at the same time. In the winter I would double as with two teams. Literally I would play in a game up in Deerfield, take my gear off, go to the Fenwick game put my Fenwick gear on and make it just for the first period.
So I was running around a lot. But after two years at Fenwick when I was starting to get comfortable and I had friends it was time to leave, my dad found a school in Minnesota called Shattuck St. Mary’s, now it’s famous because Sidney Crosby went there, Zach Parise, all these NHL guys. He moved me there. We were the first class where they were trying to build a hockey program, first group of guys. Of course I put up a big stink. They drove me up to the school, dropped me off, I was bawling, mad at them, hated them, I didn’t want to talk to them, and a week later- the greatest place in the world.
Angelo: How were your grades in high school?
Angelo: You got good grades?
Joe: Like 3.0.
Angelo: Like you studied, you weren’t just an athlete that fucked off all that stuff.
Joe: My dad preached that, because I think the whole goal of this thing was to make it to college, to get a full ride to college. That was the whole plan. I was studying. I think I’m a pretty smart guy. I can do every USA today CrossFit puzzle.
Angelo: You are Words with Friends champion?
Joe: Yeah, I got a great average- it’s like 32 per play.
That was always a main focus wherever I went. That was my junior year at Shattuck St. Mary’s, definitely my most favorite high school year, it’s like college. I lived in a dorm, the girls lived in another dorm, the school was in the middle. There was tunnels where you go from our dorm to where the school was underground. So if it was snowing I wouldn’t go outside for a month. If I didn’t feel like going outside I wouldn’t. The class sizes were 6-10 kids, so you were getting the greatest education, and we had 24-hour access to the rink outback. It could be midnight if you want to go skate, go skate, the door is open. It was unbelievable. Then from there I brooded one more time and ended up at a junior team called the Omaha Lancers in Omaha.
Angelo: How old were you then?
Angelo: So you went two years at Fenwick, you went to Minnesota for a year, and then you moved?
Joe: Then I moved again and I ended up in Omaha.
Angelo: Why did you move this time?
Joe: The coach came and recruited me at Shattuck and asked me to play in Omaha. He was an awesome coach, my dad talked to him so I ended up going there. The week before I went there the coach who recruited me moved on to a college team and a new coach came in. I was behind the A-ball right away when I got there. By the end of the year I was one of the best players on the team. I just had to work my way in like I always had to do. I went to an all-boys school there Creighton Prep and I hated that school just because I knew nobody.
I had maybe two or three friends there but there was no hanging out with kids because from school I had a guy in the team pick me up, one of the guys who drove pick me up take me to the rink. So I never really hang out with guys. I’d play ping pong at lunch and be like drenched in sweat, and those were kind of my only friends that I played ping pong with at lunch. I didn’t walk across the stage at the end of the year. As soon as the hockey season was over, school was over and they wanted me to maybe wait a week there and work, but I was like, I got to get out of here and go home.
Angelo: Did you have this good of a work ethic that you have now as a kid?
Angelo: Do you think it’s from your dad?
Joe: Yeah, for sure. Growing up the only time really I spent with my dad it felt like was in the car or at the rink, car on the way to the rink or car on the way to baseball. Because he was working so hard in the garage, he was auto body, fixing cars for people- he was always at the garage. That was kind of our relationship growing up; he is a hard worker. I remember a specific thing that could contribute to the whole thing. I remember when we were squats, when we had power skating, I had my dad coach and I had this other coach Wally Nimenko, this guy was 6’5”, and his son was on our team as the goalie.
When we did power skating drills fi they weren’t done to a T how they wanted them you’d feel on the back of your leg ‘whap’, with a wooden stick across the back of your legs. So you knew next time I did this it’s got to be better and you can’t get away with that now. I think that really contributed to my ultra-focus when it came to little things to focus on, to get better at, I think that was a big factor in all that.
Angelo: I’m going to ask you a question, we are going to change directions but we’ll go back to this because I think this is so interesting. I grew up basically getting your face thrown into doing whatever you had to do, and kids today it just wouldn’t jive in today’s world. You know what I mean?
Joe: Oh yeah.
Angelo: How do you think that gets taught? I’m fascinated about this; I would love to know how to teach work ethic without the abuse.
Joe: I read on the internet there’s some things that, sports or physical activities that create that in a person, and one of them is farm work, like send your kids to work on a farm for a summer or something like that to really appreciate what hard work is. I’ve heard wresting is really good for the work ethic and commitment just because it’s so hard.
I think you really have to push kids regardless of if they want it or not. You just have to get them in a situation and push them to the edge to where things are so hard that they think they can’t continue, but then they have to realize that they can keep going. You just have to figure out what activities those are. I get it, what you said, kids have these walls now where they are like, ‘oh, I’m not going to do that’. Probably half the kids on my hockey team are like that. And they have the rules where you can’t give a kilo whack on the back of the legs. They have all the stuff now in place towards frustrating. I think that’s a great question. I think only putting them in a situation where they have to work hard, they have no choice, learn how to hard it is to make a dollar, or to work for nothing.
Angelo: Yeah, it’s interesting. We are back now, we finished in Omaha, you finished high school, you left a week early and you came home?
Joe: Yeah, I came home.
Angelo: Were you already with Angie at this point?
Joe: No. I met Angie that summer.
Joe: After I played she was still in high school. We were at a party and somehow we ended up in the back of her car going somewhere else and we went to one of my buddy’s house, and it was just Angie, her friend, my buddy and me, like a two-on-two type of situation. This is a way Angie puts it; they had a bet about who could grab me, and she ended up winning in the long run. She jumped at the opportunity.
Angelo: With women were you reserved like you are now? How was your attitude with women?
Joe: Obviously growing up I was taught to respect women and it was a slow process with me with women. I wasn’t like I’m jumping all over this girl. It was a slow process, I treated them with respect. It’s the same thing with Angie; lots of dating and being cautious. I wasn’t really worried about getting hurt or anything like that because that had already happened. By the time you get to senior in high school that already happens earlier, the first girl you are with she just all of a sudden, one day you look over and she’s got her arm on another dude, and you are like, ‘oh my god, I liked her so much’, and she has no idea what she did to me. It hardens you a little bit.
Angelo: For sure.
Joe: I wasn’t cautious in that way, just looking for the right person and have an open mind about it.
Angelo: Very good. So you meet Angie, then what was college like for you?
Joe: You want to hear a funny story?
Joe: Okay. So I’m in Omaha and it’s Christmas, and I went on one college visit, and it was to Weston Michigan. I’m at home for Christmas break, I’m at home with my buddies, we are having a good time, I go back to Omaha and a week later when I got back there I was supposed to go on my trip to Weston Michigan to check it out. We are playing our last game before I go on my trip and I get on a bus to go home on the road trip from wherever we were at Omaha and I got a scratch down low. I’m like, what is this? I’m sitting there in the bus and I pull down my pants a little bit and I look, and this little critter jumps off me. I’m like, what is that? I’m a 16 year old kid, I have no idea about all this stuff, so I’m just thinking to myself like, are these what they call crabs?
Sure enough that’s what it is, I’m like, I got to go on my freaking trip to Weston Michigan, I don’t know how to get rid of these or whatever. I had to leave the next morning. So I call up my buddy Dave who lives here in Chicago because I was just with my friends. I remember going over to Dave’s house, that’s the only thing I could think of. I sat on his bed, I called my buddy Dave. I’m like, “Dave, I’ve got crabs man”. He’s like, “oh yeah, I’ve had them for like three weeks”. I’m like, “are you shitting me man? You let me sit on your bed? Those things are probably all over me”. I got to go to Weston Michigan on this whole trip on the weekend and deal with this scratching the whole time.
It was super uncomfortable and embarrassing. Then when I got back to Omaha my house dad thought it was a good idea to pour gasoline all over my junk.
Angelo: Oh my god.
Joe: Gasoline. I don’t know where he read this but I listened to him. So I did that- the most pain you will ever feel. You should try it sometime if you need to torture yourself, just pour gasoline on your genitalia, it’s great.
Angelo: Jesus Christ. How did you get rid of it, or did you just go to Michigan with it?
Joe: I went to Michigan with it. I just got through it. I didn’t go out and party or anything. I hustled up after we did everything and get back to the hotel room and just go nuts on myself, itching and scratching and pulling these things out. It was a whole mess man. I did get rid of them by, I shaved the whole area in front, and I thought they were all gone, you couldn’t see anymore. Then oh my god, they migrated.
Angelo: They found a new loft.
Joe: It was like the geese, they went south for the winter. They all huddled around this warm sphincter in the back.
Angelo: Oh my god.
Joe: So I had to shave that area and get it all off. It took a lot of work. It was probably over a month process to get rid of these things. Thank god I’m still not a teenager, being with different girls and exposing myself to that. That was a nightmare.
Joe: That’s my crab story.
Angelo: Everybody’s got one.
Joe: I like to think so.
Angelo: So you finished high school and then it’s Weston Michigan for you?
Angelo: Let me ask you this, at this point was your dad still guiding you in your career?
Joe: I think college was kind of up to me, it was more left up to me. I thought well, I’m two hours from home so that’s great, and I could go and look at Michigan or Michigan State because I liked the Michigan schools. I definitely didn’t want to go out east, it was just too far. Then it came down to where was I going to play right away and get a lot of ice time and get exposed to the level play and get the opportunity, and it was Michigan. I didn’t care that it wasn’t Michigan or Michigan State, or a big name, we were still all on the same conference, we were all going to play against each other, so I went there and I knew right away that I was going to be a big part of their plans. That’s why I went there.
Angelo: You were already playing defense at this point?
Angelo: Also too, going into college, was it just, okay man, this is great, I’m going to go to get free education or were you already thinking that you may play in the NHL at that point?
Joe: To be honest with you, all the way up to the point till I got called up I just never knew if that was going to be real or not. I guess I had aspirations but I would watch an NHL game and put myself in that situation and be like, ‘man, I don’t know if I could do that, those guys they are all huge’. When I breaking in the league they were all 6’ and above, and they were big dudes. In college I was 5’9”, 5’10”, so I was like, I’d be a small guy out there. I was never thinking about making it to the NHL.
I was always thinking about just getting better every year. I wanted to improve, like if I had 20 points in one year, next year I wanted to have 25 or 30. I always just wanted to get better every year. I think that’s how I approach everything. Anything I do I just want to get better at it every year I do it. That was the thought and it led into honing my skills so much that it did get me to that level, but it was never like the end goal for me.
Angelo: Okay. Were you still considered a strong skater at that point?
Joe: Oh yeah. Two things that I excelled at that separated me from other guys was my foot speed and my hands, and I can think the game really well. But foot speed and hands were like, you could be a foot in front of me about to run me over and I could get out of the way with a puck and go around you. I was just super quick and great reflexes. Those were my two pluses.
Angelo: That’s awesome. Did you work on those constantly, or were they sort of like, you get picked up early and stayed with you?
Joe: It’s funny you ask that because I have two sons; the older one has my wife’s slower twitch muscles, and you could see it on the ice.
He will push himself as foot speed, but he doesn’t have that super quick foot speed. Whereas my younger son he has my fast twitch muscles. I think you have to have that, some people have it some people don’t. I had it and I pushed it to the limit. How fast can you really be side to side, forward skating backwards? I just worked on it so much that it just became such an asset, to be able to skate yourself out of any situation is a huge key in the NHL. They are looking for guys who never get in trouble, because they are either passing their way out or they are skating a way out and they are not turning over the puck.
Angelo: Sure. What was college like for you when Angie—were you guys together even though you were away and then you were playing hockey, what was that like?
Joe: It was tough. It was tough because she was U of I, and I was at Western, and you are still trying to figure out to live your life in two different places, and there is people around you, people having fun, going to parties and stuff. It’s just difficult to have a super close relationship when you are in two different places because you are wondering what they are doing, she is probably wondering what I was doing. I think the love was always there. I never thought that we would be apart in the end, there would be a breakup and we would go on our separate ways. We were keeping in touch and she would come up and visit when she could, I went down there a couple of times, but we were just doing the best we could in the situation, kind of like buying our time until we got out of those situations and could be together later.
Angelo: How did you know that about Angie? What was Angela’s quality that made you feel that way? For Rocio I would be dating other people but if I did something really good I would want to show Rocio, and that’s how I came to the conclusion that she is the one I want to make proud, what the fuck I’m I doing? For you, what was that of Angie in you?
Joe: A short time after we met we spent so much time together this one summer. Like you said, I would rather be with her than go out with my friends. I’d rather do something with her, I’d rather go grab six movies from Block Buster and sit in the basement and watch movies. It was like I’d rather do that than go crazy. We spent so much time together that I wanted to be with her more than out just running around with friends. That was what did it for me. Once we were separated from that I wanted that back. So that told me she means a lot to me. That’s what it told me being in that situation.
Angelo: That’s awesome. Playing college hockey, in the very beginning were you one of the best in your team or did you evolve into that?
Joe: In the very beginning I was one of the better, or best defense man on the team, and they recognized that and they put me in power play situations, you know a power play?
Joe: So I played the power play, penalty kill, they were just throwing me in everything. I got all the opportunity in the world and took advantage of it. I was on the all-rookie team in the CCHA. I had 30 points or something in maybe 30 games. It was all there, they gave me all the opportunity and I just took advantage of it and run with it. I was right away one of the better players in the team.
Angelo: How does that work for hockey? You get through college and you go to a different team, how does that work for going into the NHL and all that?
Joe: My sophomore year was equally as good, we had a good team. A lot of our seniors came back. Maybe lost three or four but we put together a competitive squad and we had a great year that Christmas.
Growing up I had gotten picked to go to a lot of Team USA camps in the summer, and it’s just an evaluation camp, you don’t play any games or anything, they ask you to go out to Colorado Springs and practice. They like to see what they have available for world teams that they put in tournaments. I was going to those, and I was always the guy in the bubble, getting cut. I was always that guy if they did put a team together to go overseas end of the summer, I’d always get cut- bubble guy.
Sure enough, sophomore year comes along and Christmas break comes along and the World Junior Tournament is the biggest scouted tournament in the world. They play in different places every year; sometimes it’s in Canada, sometimes it’s in Europe, sometimes it’s in the US. I think it’s 18. 18 or under. Christmas I’m packed up ready to go home for the Christmas break, we are sitting with my buddies in our house and we are playing whatever game, and somebody breaks out a joint, and I’m like whatever. So I take a puff from the joint, I’m not kidding you, not more than 10 minutes later I get a call on the phone from the head coach of the Team USA. He is like, “hey Joe, we had a guy Josh DeWolf break his wrist in his last game before the World Junior Tournament. You are the first reserved player, do you want to play for Team USA?” I’m like, “oh yeah I want to play for Team USA”, and I had just smoked a joint. I go over there.
Backtrack, the draft the prior year I got passed over, I didn’t get drafted. I was 18- you are eligible when you are 18. I got skipped over. So it’s 20 and under side of the tournament. I got skipped over my first year, now I have the opportunity to play for Team USA in the biggest tournament in the world over Christmas and prove myself there. So I go over there and I’m just praying after every game, like I hope I don’t get drug tested because I’m probably going to test positive for Marijuana because I didn’t think I was going, but now I’m going. I made the best of the situation and it was the first silver medal Team USA ever won in that tournament, and I ended up getting the best defense for the tournament.
That propelled me, the draft came up that next summer and I got picked by the Kings 83rd overall where I got skipped over the year before. I had grown an inch- I was 5’10”. I think I was 5’11” or near 6’, so they were like, ‘oh, he is bigger than we thought, he could play. That whole situation just propelled me up. I got drafted in 97.
Angelo: After that tournament, did you think you had a chance to get drafted?
Joe: After that I did yeah. How can you turn away and not pay attention to what I did in that tournament? I thought I had a chance. From that point till June you hear things from different scouts and different teams about their interests and they have multi-level scouts who they’ll send one out to watch every one of your games. I had a guy who had the CCHA league who really vouched for me and stood up for me when it came down to at the draft table in their room. He was like, ‘we got to take this guy’. I had a guy in my corner too. You always got to have a guy in your corner.
Angelo: That’s awesome. What’s it like to get drafted in the NHL? How did you find out, what’s that whole experience like?
Joe: It was in Pittsburgh, you do interviews with tons of teams beforehand, before the day of the draft, and some of those guys are psychotic.
Angelo: In what way?
Joe: Most of the interviews I did—I think I did two or three, I did one with Saint Luis, one with another team, and then I did one with San Jose. San Jose had this guy, his name was Tim Army. His last name was Army, and he was a fucking drill sergeant. It was me and this other guy sitting in a room. They are sitting at a desk. I think they propped up the desk so it was higher, so we felt like we were looking up at this guy.
This guy Tim Army sitting in the back, and they ask us a couple of questions, easy questions; why do you think you can play in the NHL? ‘Because I’ve got quick feet, quick hands.’ Then all of a sudden pops up from back there, this Tim Army, he comes to the forefront, he is like, “you think you could play in the NHL? There is no chance”, and he just starts berating us. I think he wanted to see what kind of reaction we’d have, putting us in a combat situation.
Angelo: How you handle trauma.
Joe: Yes. I stood tough and I left that room and I was like, man, I don’t know if I can play in the NHL after hearing that.
Joe: But that was in the team that drafted me in Santa Jose.
Angelo: I envisioned the guy from Back to School, remember the history teacher from Back to School?
Joe: Yeah, Sam Kinison. “Sam”. That’s pretty much how it went. I thought I was going to get drafted by Saint Luis, they had their 84th pick, LA had their 83rd so they were going to pick me next. But I was happy it was LA, I was like, wow, LA, that’s great.
Angelo: How old were you when you got drafted, 21?
Joe: I was 19 I think.
Angelo: 19, okay.
Joe: What you do is you go and buy a really corny looking suit, or what you think is a cool suit but you got it off the shelf at Marshalls. They have it at the arena; you are sitting up there just waiting for your name to be called. It starts to get super boring because everybody is getting picked, and I was there from the first pick to the 83rd, it takes a long time. Then they finally called me and you get to go down to the floor. They’ve got tables everywhere with the team’s name on them and you go to the table that picked you, and everybody shakes your hand. Your parents come down with you, and then they take you over this area. They give you the jersey, the LA Kings jersey; I put it on and took a picture with my mom and dad. Then you walk out of there, you are like, wow, I just got drafted to the NHL. The new journey begins; it’s getting there, because you don’t get drafted and play there the next year.
Angelo: What’s that journey like, or what was it like for you?
Joe: It’s not easy. What you do is that following year you go to training camp with everybody else and they test you in the gym, back then it was bench press and squatting, and basic tests. Now it’s a lot more comprehensive. If you are lucky you get in the next [inaudible 00:42:57] game back then, and I got in one, and they played me at forward. They didn’t even play me at D. they played me at forward in my first camp. I was like I don’t really know how to play forward. A kid hit me in camp, it was the only concussion I think I really had. I was out for like three seconds, because I remember him elbowing me and then going black and then waking up three or four seconds later with everybody standing around me like, ‘are you okay?’ You get up, you get back on the bench- you go out on your next shift.
They started me at forward. It was a really hard road for me in my first year. They send me down after my first game—I can go back. There is one game I played in, it was at the old LA form, there was this before they built the Staples Center. I’m super nervous. I’m with all these guys who played on the team. I get undressed in the change room and I put my under gear on, and I come out of the change room, I go grab a snack. I come out and in the middle of the room, locker room is my boot that I wore to the rink. It wasn’t a dress shoe, all these guys got on these fancy shoes on, like freaking Gucci or whatever. I got Aldo boots, they’ve got a zip on the side, and they’ve got a big chunky sole.
I come out and I see my boot in the middle of the room, and I’m like, oh my god that’s my boot, they are fucking with me. They are all waiting for me to go and grab it, they are all siting around like, let’s watch him go grab it, it’s going to be funny. Sure enough I go grab it, they have a big laugh because I have a funny shoe I guess. That sucked. Then I played in the game.
They give you this speech after the game with the GM, and he is like, “we are going to send you down to Springfield, Massachusetts, go there, improve, get better and hopefully you will be here one day”. That’s what I did. When I went down there I’m a forward, they played me at forward. I’m completely lost. I’m not going to make it to the NHL playing forward, that’s not what I know.
Angelo: How did you get back to defense?
Joe: One game, two of our defense men get hurt in the same game. At the other side of the bench they are short stuffed, they need a defense man. They are like, “hey Joe, you play D?” I’m like, “yeah, my whole fucking life”. So they sent me down there, I light it up that game. I had a goal and assist, and it was the 2nd period when they asked me to play. I light it up, and after the game the coach is like, “I didn’t know you played D”. I’m like, “yeah man, I play D, I grew up playing D”. “They told us you are a forward and we were turning you into forward.” I go that’s great. That’s the last time I ever played forward. From that game on I played D.
They had signed two or three goof balls who were maybe younger than me for $350,000 signing bonuses. Now three courses away through the season I’m out playing these guys, I’m better than them. I’m out playing them, I’m playing more. The LA recognizes that and they sent me an offer because I was on a tryout, believe it or not. I forgot to tell you that- I was on a tryout my first year. It wasn’t even a contract. I was on a PTO- it’s a player tryout making 35 grand. They sent me down this offer that a lowball, lower than these other guys already signed, and I was like, no, I’m not signing that. So I left Springfield three courses away through the season. I left Springfield, packed up all my shit and went home.
Angelo: What do you think at that point is going to happen to you?
Joe: I don’t know. I’m thinking like maybe I can go play for somebody else and finish the season out. I had an agent at the time that my dad and his cousin found for me, a guy from Canada. He said, “yeah, it’s fine if you go play in the East Coast League”, which is the league underneath the American League where I was playing. Then the NHL is above the American League. He is like, “hey, go play for the East Coast League, this team I’ve got it all lined up”. I go out there I sign this contract to play in the play house for this team Hampton Roads, it’ sin Virginia on the beach. A couple days into it I get a call from the GM in LA, he is like, ‘you know, by you signing that you are locked in with us now for three years no matter what, you can’t go. After this is over you can’t go play anywhere else, you are ours for three years’. Me signing that deal with that lower team locked me in with LA for three years no matter what.
Joe: Just rules.
Joe: My agent didn’t know the rules, he said I go play there, I couldn’t. I should have just stayed home and then I could have been a free agent and signed with a different NHL team the following year. It was the worst decision I have ever made. It wasn’t a decision I really made, it was uneducated so you can’t really call it a decision.
Angelo: After you played in that playoff season did you go back with the Kings or did you stay there?
Joe: That’s where it gets interesting. The next year I was so fed up and sickened by the whole hockey thing, the way it operated that I didn’t play the whole next year. When that playoff season ended I didn’t play all the through the winter, the next winter all the way around. I took the whole year off.
Angelo: What did you do then?
Joe: I got dark.
Angelo: Oh Jesus. Were you back home?
Joe: Yeah, I was here.
Angelo: That year you were home?
Joe: Yeah, I was here.
Angelo: Was that 21, 22?
Joe: It was 1999, 98, 99, around there. I worked at Sibilano Furniture and hung chandeliers and delivered furniture for them. Then I would go out every weekend down to the clubs. That was the routine; gym, town, laundry, gym, town, laundry. In the back of my mind I feel like I need to play but I was just so upset how it all went. By the time the next summer came around I was like, I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. I can’t be a club kid working at a furniture store the rest of my life.
They sent me the same exact deal the next summer, LA, the same signing bonus and everything, and I was like, fuck it, I’m signing it. I signed it, just started playing. The next year was in lower mass, you go to training camps and down the low mass, played the whole year in low, light it up. The next year, go to training camp, maybe play a game or two, get sent down, start playing in Manchester. I think it was one year in Manchester, one or two years in Manchester. In my second year in Manchester 26 games in they called me up. I had 26 points in 26 games, and one of the guys went down so they needed somebody.
We were in Manitoba. I will never forget Manitoba, and we were about to take our pregame nap and the phone rings. The GM for LA team was like, “Joe, the Kings they are calling you up”. No freaking way, immediately your heart starts racing. Angie is in Manchester, New Hampshire, I’m in Manitoba. We are supposed to play a game that night. So many things are flying through your head like, how I’m I going to do this? How is she going to get there? Do I need to fly my parents out? This whole shit storm starts in your head from the moment they tell you to the time you get all your gear together and get to the airport, and then fly into LA, and then you’ve got to get off the plane and play right away because the game is about to happen. It was crazy.
Then to find out that you are going to be playing against Mario Lemieux your first game. That’s a whole another thing. But I always had this mode, a safety mode, like I could play a game and play it really well and not take too many chances, and know that I was going to play solid. I went into that mode, like this is my first NHL game, I’m not going to take any chances. I’m just going to play D and play it the best I can. That’s what I did. That worked for me. Then the more comfortable you get the more chances you take with the puck or make a move around guys and then the points start coming. Then they see your offensive ability then they put you on the power play, and you are scoring or getting assist and it all just takes off from there. I had to start in safety mode and build my way up till I was comfortable.
Angelo: How long did it take you to get comfortable?
Joe: Probably took me like two weeks to get comfortable. In my head it was like the coach was telling me, ‘hey, we see what you could do, we are going to give you some leeway, we are going to give you a little rope to do things out there’. Because the team was not great, they were kind of struggling. It wasn’t like we were battling for a play house sport. They give you some rope, you just run with it.
Angelo: How long did you play in Los Angeles for?
Joe: Four years.
Angelo: Four years.
Angelo: Did you like living in Los Angeles? Where did you live in in California?
Joe: Manhattan Beach.
Angelo: That’s where the old games used to be.
Joe: Yeah. We always rented there because it was just in astronomical prices, and I wasn’t in that contract range where I could buy the place. In hindsight I wish I would have bought the place because when I was there the prices were reasonable. I had a guy in my team buy a place for 500 grand and then sell it for 2.5, something like that. But I didn’t have the cash to start buying places like that. You could see the ocean out of my—I had a balcony, you could see dolphins jumping in the morning. I bought a long board, like skateboard down the boardwalk every day.
What was so awesome about LA is you could separate hockey life from real life. As soon as you left the rink it was like, what are we going to do today? The world is our oyster; we could do whatever we want. The sun’s out. Other teams don’t have it. It was super easy for me to separate all that. It was a lot of what you are into, like relaxation and stuff like that. It was so non-stressful, and no one knew who you were in LA at that time. In the early 2000s it was like you tell somebody you play for the Kings and they’d be like, ‘uh, basketball?’ like the Sacramento Kings. I’m like, ‘no man, do I look like I play basketball?
There is a hockey team here in LA, I don’t know if you guys know that’. The whole time when they were starting to build The Staples Center that might have been in my second year. They were building it up at that point. It was the greatest place. If you were going to play hockey that’s the greatest place in the NHL to play. Every time we rented in a different place we made sure that we could see the ocean when we woke up in the morning. That was the main thing; you wanted to have that part of it separated from the whole hockey thing.
Angelo: When did you and Angie get married?
Angelo: You were at the tail end of LA?
Joe: Yeah. I played three years there and there was a lockout, we got married right before the lockout. There was a lockout and then I played one more year and ended up signing as a free agent to Ottawa, Ontario, the opposite of LA.
Angelo: There’s no long boards there.
Joe: No, just snow boards.
Angelo: How was it when you got to Ottawa? At this time though, signing at that point you made more money than you did.
Joe: A lot more. I think at the peak in LA I was making 800 or 900, and then when I signed in Ottawa it was four years 12 5 or something like that. It was a significant jump, so there was significant more pressure than you could put on yourself.
Joe: I think signing something like that is kind of crazy, you look at the piece of paper and you are like, oh my god. The funny part is they had another new guy coming in a goalie, Martin Garber and it was in the summer. They sent me his contract and his contract was bigger than mine, but it had my name on it. I was calling my agent and I’m like, ‘did you see this?’ He’s like, ‘yeah, I see it’. He is like, ‘sign it’. I’m like, “I can’t sign it man, I can’t be that guy”. But it was two years more than what I was getting but I didn’t sign it. They sent me mine and I signed it. We had a big party. We drove up there, packed up the U-Haul and drove up there. We bought a house right away, an awesome house. We just got to work.
I think three games into training camp I took a slap shot and broke my foot. I missed the first five games of the season, which I think kind of almost made me more comfortable because they were doing well. I didn’t feel as much pressure going in as if it would be the first game. They had already started and I was just getting into it. I think my first or second game I set a record. My first or second game I set a record for most points in a game defense man for Ottawa Senator. I had 5 points in one game, I had two goals and three assists.
Joe: Insane, right?
Joe: And it was against the Leaf, so it was like this huge match up, and Bates Battaglia was on the Leafs at the time. I played high school hockey with Bates at Fenwick. So I was giving it to him the whole game just jarring on him, cross checking him. I will never forget that game- that was fun. We went on to the Stanley Cup Finals that year, we’d gone to Anaheim.
Angelo: That’s awesome.
Joe: It’s crazy.
Angelo: What’s it like playing on a NHL team like when you are successful and you are traveling, what’s that like?
Joe: Oh man, it’s the best. You charter a jet, you charter with a company all season long. You have the same people on the flight, same flight attendants who take care of you. I will give you a little snapshot of a day in NHL life on the road. You get to the destination, like say we go play in Dallas; you get to Dallas a day before everybody gets off the plane. You go back to the hotel which is of course like Ritz or Four Seasons, or something like that. You get all settled in and a bunch of guys will go out to dinner, steak house, whatever. You get your per diem; it was $100 a day, that’s more than enough to cover your dinner. Go out, have dinner, have a great dinner, go back to the hotel, maybe watch a movie or something. Get some sleep.
Wake up in the morning, you have pre-game skate, and that’s set 9 o’clock in the visiting team’s arena. You go over systems and plans of attack for the game and then you practice, have a little mini-practice, get warm, shoot, feel the puck. Come off, bus back to the hotel, this huge spread pre-game meal, filet mignon, grilled chicken, chicken parm, pastas, salads.
Angelo: Is that at the stadium or at your hotel?
Joe: At our hotel. Anything you can imagine, and if it’s not there you just ask for it and they will bring it. You eat and everybody takes a nap. You gorge yourself with pasta, and take a nap. Wake up around 3. Then there is a team snack. The room you ate before there is a whole spread of bagels, bread, peanut butter, oatmeal, everything. You have a snack, get on the bus, go to the game two hours early and just start getting into your routine. Getting warm and taping your stakes and all that stuff.
Angelo: Did you have superstitions? Did you have a flow?
Joe: Yeah. I needed to get on the bike for 5 minutes to get the legs going, and then I had to go through this leg sprinting routine, like an active warm up, and then I would play soccer for 10 or 20 minutes. We played two-touch; do you know what two-touch is?
Joe: Everybody stands in a big circle and one guy starts up by throwing it to a guy and he can touch it once to another guy or he can touch it twice to another guy. Then that guy same thing, so on and so forth until one guy messes up and then that guy’s out.
Angelo: Got it.
Joe: You have to try and get to balls, you can’t let it drop. If you let it drop you Ro Sham Bo to see which guy is out. It gets funny. We play that for a while, it’s fun, then you play the game. After the game there’s 20 pizzas in the locker room after, so you can eat pizza. In Montreal it’s hot dogs, because they have these hot dogs on a piece of bread. They are really good and they are famous for them. They have the hot dogs. Then you just drive to the plane, you get on the plane and it’s this whole spread of food. Depending on what the menu is it’s all there. All the seats are leather first class type situation. There’s card tables, you could sit at card tables and play cards with guys. I liked to do that- that was fun. Then some guys just liked to sit quiet.
There’s beers on the plane and there’s beers on the bus after the game if you want to have a beer and talk about the game. Everything is there. It’s all first class, that’s how I can describe it. It’s just all first class. The guys take your bags and put them on the plane. They take your bags and put them on the bus, you never touch your hockey bag. It’s crazy.
Angelo: It’s awesome. At this point what was it like to be a husband and a father and being in the NHL?
Joe: It was different. The long road trips got to you by the end of the 10 days. It really starts to get to you. You just want to be home, you are sick of the packing your suitcase in the room and moving on to the next place and getting into a place late. You just get sick of it. Then when you get home it’s like you are with your family, as soon as you are done practicing in the morning right to the family, to lunch, to hanging out all day, to dinner, and spending as much time as you can with them. You really wouldn’t see guys or hang out with guys if you had a family, you really wouldn’t see guys when you are at home unless there was some sort of team dinner or team functions set up, just because you are spending so much time with your family. One extreme you are spending all this time with the guys and then the other extreme you are spending a lot of time with your family. But it’s great; lots of eating out and lots of lunches. It’s fun.
Angelo: How long were you in Ottawa for?
Joe: A year and a half.
Angelo: It was a three year contract or four years?
Joe: Four years.
Angelo: Then they traded you?
Joe: Yeah. I kind of asked for a trade.
To look back at it I don’t know if I should have, I don’t know if I really wanted out, but I made a demand. I was like, I want to play in more situations on the ice for power play penalty kill, and if that’s not going to happen here then I want to go somewhere else where it’s going to happen. So that was the situation and the GM was super awesome, totally understood and he found a team, Bryan Murray, he passed away I think last year of cancer. One of the greatest hockey guys I have ever come across in terms of management of people. He was unbelievable. He made it happen and traded me to Carolina and things fell completely apart in Ottawa, and in Carolina things were great for me.
Looking back at it I kind of wish that I would have stayed in Ottawa with the boys. I know we were going through a rough skid, but I think we could have turned it around. I got traded and felt like I bailed and they really went and tanked and struggled. Carolina really went well for me. My first game against Ottawa after being traded I had a hat trick. The first hat trick in Carolina history for defense man and it was against my old team. I kind of felt bad about it, but I got the plaque up my wall, it reminds me. I look at it and I smile.
Angelo: How was it for Angie moving to these places, was she just with it, or how was that as a family?
Joe: She wanted out of Ottawa. The year I played there in 07 they set a record for snowfall, and we are talking about one of the coldest snow capitals in the world. It snowed every single day. We spent so much time in our house because we had Maddox, who was just walking, and Kim was—they were only 18 months apart. We spent so much time sitting on the floor in the play room playing with these kids. That was the routine. We didn’t go out to eat much because it was snowing all the time. It was such a hustle to get them all bundled up and go somewhere, and going downtown was out of the question.
I don’t know if you know this- in Ottawa, but the rink is 30 minutes from downtown, and downtown is really the only fun place to go, to eat and stuff. We wouldn’t even go down there. We spent the whole winter in our house, and I think it drove her crazy. I think I was at a point too where I was like we’ve got to get out of here. She was and still is, if we go on a trip now she is packing all the suitcases for the kids, getting all that stuff packed. She is packing a snack bag. That’s how it was when we would move from place to place, she would line up the whole house; what needed to go where, pack up boxes, she would oversee the move. She is the general in that regard, she takes care of all that stuff.
I wasn’t able to do that stuff, because when you get traded you have to go that day. You’ve got to go, you can’t stay and pack up the house, pack up the car, and pack up the kids. You’ve got to go. So I had to go right down to Carolina and play that night. She got it all done. She has always got it all done. She is unbelievable at that stuff. She doesn’t stress me out about it. She kind of takes all that stress and deals with it, and says, ‘yeah, don’t worry about it, we’ll get it all down there, just look for a place to live.’
Angelo: How long were you in Carolina for?
Joe: Man, I don’t know, probably for 4 years. I think it was like two, and then somewhere else, and then one, and then somewhere else, and then one or something like that. It was kind of scattered, but we kept the house there for 5 or 6 years. When I first got there they were not doing well, we were fighting to make a playoff spot, and we missed it on the last day to make a playoff, which was a huge comeback, because when I got there they weren’t in the playoffs or near the edge. We were really close at the end, one win away. If we would have won the last game of season we would have been in the playoffs. But they were really happy with it and I still had 2 years more left in my deal. I played there, I loved playing there. It was almost the same as LA, they won a cup in 05, so they were more prevalent in the area and they were the only pro sports team but still you could go places and people didn’t know who you were.
Ottawa it was insane, I’d go to Quiznos and I could hear people talking too people talking behind me and like, ‘hey, that’s Joe Corvo right there’, everywhere, every single step of the way in Ottawa. You could love that or hate it. I think there’s guys that hate it, I liked it. If you are doing well it’s the greatest thing in the world, if you suck…
Angelo: It doesn’t do it. Did you find CrossFit in Carolina, is that were you picked it up?
Joe: Yeah, I picked it up there. I think my last year there the coach there— I think he is an assistant now for, maybe Montreal or something, he was a drunk, I hated him. He didn’t play me a lot, like he would healthy-scratch me, that means you are healthy and you just don’t play in the lineup, like you don’t fit in. He would do that to me and it just drove me crazy, so I needed some sort of other outlet, so I just started making CrossFit my main focus rather than going to the rink and being miserable and not playing.
Angelo: This was towards the end of your career?
Joe: Yeah, it was two years. I had found CrossFit and then I played that season and then one more season and I was done. Since I found CrossFit it was like I don’t want to play hockey anymore really. I mean, if I could squeeze a couple more dollars out of it and tuck it away, and dig a hole and bury it where no one could find it, right?
Angelo: That’s it, you love that.
Joe: I love that.
Angelo: It’s your move.
Joe: CrossFit too [inaudible 1:11:50] I went to, an ex-army ranger opened it. I really loved it in the beginning. Being a hockey player I’m like, I could do this, no problem. Cleans, I got this. Little did I know you put too much weight on the bar and you try and clean and you don’t have wrist mobility you are going to break your wrist. Sure enough it was clean day and I went for a clean and it was heavy it twisted my wrist, and it was in season. I was like, I can’t do this- if I break my writs I’m in trouble working out. So I left and a week later he called me on the telephone himself, he is like, “where did you go man?” I’m like, I can’t hurt myself. He is like, “come back in and we’ll take it slow, we’ll make sure you don’t get hurt”. So I went back and it just evolved from there. But I like to say I didn’t really start doing CrossFit until September 9th 2014.
Angelo: Oh jeeze, we’ll get into that. When did you decide to retire from hockey?
Joe: The moment I decided to retire I was in Ottawa my last year in 2014 and it was the trade deadline, so there was a lot of movement, and we were at the Heritage Classic, it’s an outdoor game, it was my first outdoor game that I have ever been a part of. I knew I wasn’t playing. We were in Vancouver. I treated it like a vacation. It was fun. I had a lot of fun. Then when that game ended the trade deadline started and they came to me and they were like, ‘we are going to send you to Binghamton, New York, they are a minor league team’. I’m like, ‘no way, I’m not going to Binghamton. I’m not going to New York to play freaking in the minors again’.
So they worked out a deal with The Wolves for me to come back to Chicago and I was like, that’s perfect. I started playing here. Let me backtrack. The moment I knew I was not going to play hockey anymore was when they sent me down to where the Wolves were going to play, and that was in Abbotsford. It’s just over the border north of Washington State. It’s Abbotsford Canada like it’s in BC. I got to that hotel room and it was a holiday inn or something. I looked around the room, I took a picture of the room and I sent it to my wife, I’m like, “this isn’t going to last”. Going from what we were doing, like Four Seasons, plane flights, food, all that stuff, now I’m in Abbotsford in a freaking holiday inn about to eat at the hotel bar that’s got garbage food. I was like, I’m just going to play this out the rest of the year and I’m done for sure. Even then my heart wasn’t still in it when we went back to Chicago and started playing games, the coaches there could tell.
Angelo: What changed?
Joe: The competition. I had this nagging injury and guys were out to just run me over in the American League. Like they had something to prove, like this guy came from the NHL, we are just going to dump it in his corner and run the fuck out of him till he doesn’t want to get the puck anymore. I was like I don’t want to play like that. I don’t want someone coming up from behind me and hitting me from behind and paralyzing me. At this point in my career it’s not worth it to me. That was the main thing. Because I wanted to CrossFit and I didn’t want to end up hurt. So I was like, fuck it, I’m not letting some numbskull come up behind me and crash me and fucking paralyze me. My heart wasn’t in it, so I was done.
Angelo: Then you started doing CrossFit.
Joe: Yeah, I was at bulldog. We were just doing Invictus right off the board. There is really no one monitoring us, it was like you came in, went to the corner of the gym and you did your thing and you left.
Angelo: How did you find out about me?
Joe: I was looking for another gym that was close that was CrossFit, something that was close to my house. I won’t say I’ lazy but I just hate traveling for things, to do things. I hate when it takes just as much time to get somewhere and to do what you are going to do there. It drives me crazy. So I was like I’ve got to find a gym that’s close. I’m going to go check this place out. Patman and I we went in there. He wanted to start doing CrossFit too, he was interested in it and he wanted to see what it was like. We walked in and I remember meeting you and telling you my aspirations ad that stuff. I remember walking and I remember it was Lorraine and Quinn, I remember hearing her say “who the fuck are those guys?” as we were leaving. I was like, oh, we’ve got some interesting people there. But Lorraine is great. That was the start of it, you remember it, right?
Angelo: Yeah. Honestly I was like, this guy is an ex-NHL player, he thinks he wants to go to the fucking CrossFit Games; this guy is not going to listen to half the shit I fucking tell him all the fucking time. I think I said it too, I’m like, ‘dude, you’ve got to listen to what the fuck I say’. Something like that, something along those lines. Then it was real raw.
Joe: Yeah. I should have had you call John [inaudible 1:18:00] because he saw and he is like, “if I had 200 members like you I’d have the best gym in the world”, he is like, “you are one in a million, I’ll point you in a direction and you’ll fucking do it. You’ll do whatever I say”. I think that’s what you did know about me, and you’ve said it before, you are like, “Joe, I could write anything I want for you and I know you are going to do it, but we need to know that it’s good for you and it’s quality work”. I think that’s a positive quality about me, I’m willing to do anything to a point I guess.
Angelo: You know, from a coaching perspective you want feedback but you don’t want opinions, if that makes sense.
Angelo: Like, I don’t give a shit what you think of this I just care how your body feels while you are doing it. I think they are two different things.
Joe: Yeah. I feel good about the person I am when it comes to training and how I listen to things and try to incorporate them. I think I’m doing all the right things and trying to have a good relationship with you and trying to get better. We have our little things, I have my little attitude problems.
Angelo: It’s the greatest.
Joe: My little fits. My little fits, ‘I just need 15 minutes man, get away from me’.
Angelo: Every single athlete though that I have coached anything good or higher level that you would say of anything, they always have one thing that’s just…
Joe: Got to be, right?
Angelo: Like Becca, Becca shows up to the competition three hours before the competition to warm up. She is the warrior.
Mitchell I have to beg her to warm up and you just get a little pissed off when things aren’t great. As weird as that sounds, in anything in your life there is the light of it and there is the shadow of it, and I think that everybody just has that shadow side of their greatness. If you don’t I’m willing to bet you just haven’t found your greatness yet. I think you just need to have the balance of both of those worlds.
Joe: Yeah, balance is the key. Sometimes I get so hard on myself that I feel like I want to explode inside. It’s almost like a panicky feeling when I think I didn’t do what I think I should have done, it’s like this ball of self-loathing and anger at myself that it’s almost too much to handle. That gets projected outward in my face and my body language, and it’s always been like that. It’s always going to be a work in progress.
Angelo: You got to me end of 2014, so basically 2015 season. Then we really understood that you were not going to be competing with the 25 guys and we had to go back to the drawing board.
Joe: Maybe it took like a year.
Angelo: We got to put you in the longer plan.
Joe: I’m like, ‘I’m in not doing this right?’
Angelo: You were just too young. 2017 was your first year for masters and what did you finished in the qualifier, 22 after we shook up? It was right there.
Joe: Yeah, 22.
Angelo: 22. That was a very intense qualifier out of all of them. We kept trying the most, that was really hard, and you were right on the cast.
Joe: Yeah, it was the handstand pushup for sure cost me. Then I think if I would have got two more muscle-ups in the longer chipper.
Angelo: In the longer chipper, yeah.
Joe: I would have made it, just two more.
Angelo: Yeah, it was very close.
Joe: I just couldn’t do it.
Angelo: The only thing that was nice though at least for me was you knew at that point, we just had to face a couple of things and it was going to work out. At that point too it’s like, when somebody comes to you, you are trying to bring up everything, a little bit of everything and then you are like, wait, I only need to bring up a couple of things, this is much easier. Even though we had to make sure you were ready to do this again and all that stuff, but training from 2017 and 2018 to me was much easier because everything else we knew was there, we just had to tweak these little things.
Joe: Totally. When you finish in 22nd, and I want to get better every year, I knew I was going to get better and I knew that better was going to be that many spots to get me in. Like you said, you just keep doing it, keep doing what you are doing and tweak those couple of things and you are going to be fine. You kept calling me a CrossFit Games athlete before I even made it which helped too.
Angelo: You had the caliber of it and you were definitely athletic. The thing too is overall you’ve had your aches but we’ve stayed really healthy, all things considered for that. Then we got into 2018 and I didn’t know—open I knew you were killing it, we knew we were there, and then I don’t know if that made me put a lot of pressure on myself to like, ‘okay, you did really good in this qualifier, we can’t shit the bed now’, like if you are 60th nobody gives a shit, but if you are up there, I think you’ve won the region, it’s like, okay here we go. Then we did all the workouts and then we decided to redo the one, the chest-to- bar power clean one. You did two of them; you did the short one, the shoulder over and chest-to-bar, was that last year?
Joe: The year before.
Angelo: So this one was the power clean and chest-to-bar. Did we do any other ones?
Joe: I don’t think so.
Angelo: I don’t think so, I think we did just one.
Joe: Yeah, we crushed the handstand walk, double under raw one, crushed that one, crushed the rope climb one.
Angelo: The rope climb one was glorious.
Joe: That was great, especially with LJ, LJ was sitting there?
Angelo: Yeah, we did it there because that was the perfect…
Joe: “You did the first one legless?” I’m like, “yeah man.”
Angelo: That was the strategy. I was like, “Joe, did you just do this one like that? You’ll be fine in a workout. It’s probably going to be faster anyway.” And it was, it really worked out to be that way.
Joe: Then we did the one with Kevin and Mitchell, snatch.
Joe: And the handstand pushups, which was good because it wasn’t a deficit handstand pushup, so we’d get through those. Then that last one, we had the perfect plan.
Angelo: We actually did. But also too this year, we had better people to do the qualifiers with you.
Angelo: You had Kevin and Mitchell.
There was someone in any of the workouts that you needed to be pushed. Like you did that one with Mitchell, that handstand walk one because you knew if you let up on those double under in the handstand walk she was going to beat you. Your role was your only advantage. We had that one and then we put together the most perfect plan for the power clean or the chest-to-bar and power clean to the very end.
Joe: To the very end. Then blood and crying…
Angelo: You stall walk, oh my god, I didn’t know what to say. At that point I’m like, what do I say to this guy, hey, it’s going to be okay? I don’t even know what to say at that point.
Joe: I looked at you and I said, I just lost the CrossFit Games right there. I thought I did. My body felt like it couldn’t handle that weight if it came down on me, at that point. My CNS was so done, that if I tried to squat clean I don’t know what would have happened.
Angelo: In hindsight it should have been like, okay, you missed this one, you are still killing your score, take 20 seconds, get yourself together instead of being like, ‘this was so perfect and that was the ending’.
Joe: Complete panic.
Angelo: Oh my god, we all did, everybody in the room. Zack was holding the camera, Pat was in the corner shitting his pants, I’m judging you and I’m like—for four rounds, 100 pull-ups, and 30 power cleans it was absolutely brilliant, and then at the end everything fell of and we were just like, alright, we are going to submit this and see how it goes.
Joe: The clock is still running on that workout.
Angelo: Still not done, Joe has not competed, it’s take two of that event. Then we saw the scores coming out.
Joe: Because the year before I started at 2 and then it ticked to 5 and then it ticked to 7, and then it just kept ticking down and down, and when it got near 20 I knew I was in trouble. We were out to dinner at Skrine Chops and I’m like, don’t look at it anymore, just stop looking at it, because Pat was with me and they kept looking at it. Then when it does settle that was 22, great. But this time it wasn’t ticking, it was sticking.
Angelo: There wasn’t many moves, and then when it got closer to you I’m like, even if somebody comes in here we are fine.
Joe: Dude, I went home and started pounding beer. I got home after that workout, Pat went home and showered, I went home gathered myself. My wife came home, I basically cried on her shoulder and she is like, “you made it, don’t even fucking worry about that one workout. You made it.” I did not in any way believe, I’m like the same thing is going to happen that happened last year; I’m going to tick down the list and be right on that edge, right on the edge. Then Pat came over, it was probably 2 o’clock in the afternoon, we just started throwing beers down and just trying to forget about it. Then more people started coming over and they started getting into it and watching it and it got crazy, just got crazy.
Angelo: Oh gosh. Then you made it, and then it was like, here we are, let’s get ready for the CrossFit Games.
Angelo: You lucked out too with having Mitchell getting ready for the CrossFit Games. Not all the time, but to have her…
Joe: For the regional.
Angelo: For the regional and post regional. The trials and stuff like that, it really worked out well to have that level of training.
Joe: I’m really glad I got the chance to push her on that muscle-up biathlon.
Angelo: You crushed her.
Joe: “Joe just stop, just stop”.
Angelo: Mitchell was in really good shape. Mitchell was in her best fitness ever, there is no question about that. She was ready for that. You train and then we went to the games. What was your experience like? It’s kind of funny too if you look at this; you’ve had moments where you are on the bubble like in hockey you were on the bubble and then a year after something good happened and then you made it. Then 2017 you were on the bubble, 2018 you made it and now we were at the games. What was that experience like for you? I know your hotel wasn’t so great, but how was everything else? You know what; you’ve got to tell the people your story of the house.
Joe: Oh my god. You and I were trying to figure out who’s going to stay where. So I booked those rooms early and then I got to thinking about it and I’m on the computer and I’m like, I want a house somewhere, some space, I don’t want to be in a hotel. So I find this Airbnb place. I’ve never been up to the Madison area so I have no idea in relation to where the games are where these places are, but it seemed close enough.
But in hindsight it was like a solid 30-35 minute drive. Angie is in California with Kim at a baseball tournament, so I’m taking my son and his friend down there with me on Sunday. I get this Airbnb place, it’s all setup, paid way too much for it. So we get down there, I’m driving through farms, and I get to this house I’m like, oh boy. There is a lot of woods around it so immediately I’m thinking to text, dear text, the kids because I brought their BB guns and shit. We open the door to get in, it’s open. I take a step in and I look around the house I’m like, oh Jesus, it smells like cat piss. All the furniture is from the 80s, nothing has been redone in this house. There is clutter everywhere, you know, people who like to put their dining room table down and then they will pull 60 pictures and statuettes on it, the statuettes and pictures were on everything, every surface in the place.
Moving all our stuff in I grab the food and I open the fridge to put the food in because I thought I had my own fridge, the fridge is full of fucking shit. There is an open salad bag and Saline in there. There is a sweet potato in there that looked like it had been in there for 3-5 months. It was shriveled just sitting by itself in there. I threw it away. I didn’t think anybody was going to eat it because the lady wasn’t home yet. I’m trying to get all this shit settled and there is strike 2 already, I’m like, this is going to be terrible. We go look at the boys’ bedrooms; the bedrooms are so small that one of the beds in the bedroom is like a little mini bed. I’ve never seen one before in my life. It would be like for a 5-year old child of that size bed. It was short and small, I’m like, where are the boys going to stay? They keep their bag in the main room.
There is a pool outback they go swimming, come back in. Oh wait, they go swimming, I go out to watch them swim. I’m sitting in the gazebo out there and all of a sudden there is a cat scratching up my leg that lives in the gazebo and I’m allergic to cats, I’m like, oh great, I’m going to start sneezing and have a breakout. That’s strike 3, so let me go inside and find out when the lady comes in. She is this giant 6’ lady, she is old and she is introducing herself and she is telling me what’s off limits in the house, ‘you can’t go over here, this is my area. I’m going to be right here in this bedroom’. Turns out, it’s not even our house privately; we are sharing this whole house with her with this lady that I don’t even know. I got two kids with me and they are super uncomfortable, they are like, “is she going to be sitting with us on the couch while we play Fortnight?” I’m like, “I hope not.”
Night time comes she goes in her bedroom, we can hear her TV, we can hear what she is watching. I can hear her occasionally come out get a snack in the kitchen. We are sitting right there in the living room, and I’m like, hey, this is great. “Do you need anything?” “No, we are fine, just a little privacy”. So we are living with this woman. I call Angie and she is in California, and I tell her all about it, I sent her pictures of the closets. All the closets in the bedrooms had her stuff in them. One of the closets was full of dolls, Annabel dolls, you open it up and the kids were like, “oh my god, shut it.” These dolls, scary dolls in one of the closets that the boys were going to sleep in. I send pictures to Angie of everything and she is like, “well, I’m going to send this to Airbnb tomorrow morning and we are going to get out of this. What you need to do is pack up all the shit and get out of there”.
I’m like, I don’t know, it’s 11:30 now at night, I’m like, I don’t know if I can get out. I’m terrified that she is going to hear me and come and out and be like, “where are you going?” She must have been sleeping. I packed up everything super quiet. The boys came down from upstairs and were like, “dad, what are you doing?” I’m like, “we are packing this shit, we are getting the fuck out of here. Now start helping.” So they start grabbing all their stuff. “Make sure you get all your codes, your PlayStation, all that stuff.” They get all their stuff, they bring it out to the car. I repacked the whole car, it’s 11:45.
They get in the car, I look back in the back sit I’m like, “you guys got everything?” They are like, “yeah.” I’m like, “you’ll never see it again if it’s still here”. “Yeah, we got everything.” We fucking took off. Angie called the hotel that was a lot closer, they had a room. We got in the hotel and the next morning Angie sent all the pictures to Airbnb and dealt with that. Sure enough they gave me all my money back for all that because it was not what was said in the description. I guess she violated maybe four or five things that weren’t mentioned in the description. I’ll never do Airbnb again. I think they need to have someone go, like when someone posts a place to stay they need to have someone from Airbnb go and make sure that it’s legit what they say it is. I just don’t trust it now. That was day 1.
Angelo: That’s how you started.
Joe: Day 1. It couldn’t have gotten any worse from there, it only had to get better. We were in the hotel and then the next day I went and got all my gear, there was early check-in on Sunday. That was unbelievable. It was just like all these stations, they are giving you stuff, knee sleeves, gear outfits, trying shoes on, trying lifters on, getting head bands, wrist bands, it was awesome. It was like having your own little private fitting team. It was great, and all the stuff that you can want. That was funny. You walk out with two boxes and a bag. It was fun. That made everything that happened the day before, I just forgot about it.
Angelo: Overall, how would you describe your CrossFit Games experience competing?
Joe: Man, it can be stressful. You are just dealing with so much; you are dealing with the events, you are dealing with eating at the right times, you are dealing with warming up, stretching, lifting up to your weights before a certain event, timing, rest- there are just so many variables that you are dealing with that you have to manage. I think when you get to those last events of the competition I think they kind of wear on you. It’s almost like you are spent before you should be if you worry about too many things. But the overall experience the guys were all great in my division, all good guys. Neal Maddox kind of kept to himself. He talked a little before or after the event, but when he was warming up and stuff it was almost like he considered himself a step above everybody, which he was, the guy is an animal.
But everybody else it seemed like there was a group that was—Junkyard dog is just trying to get the scraps from the big dog, whatever he throws out of his mouth, ‘let’s try and get some of that’. That kept us together. There were some good dudes. I keep in touch with one of the guys. I know a couple of guys that said that they are not going to do it again. But overall it was a great experience. That makes it worth it, it’s almost like being back in the hockey situation where it’s like you are all competing, you are on the same thing, you are all in the trenches and you have that in common, and that’s what you use and you build camaraderie out of that.
Because when you look at it it’s not like you know when you are working out where everybody is because you are so focused on what you are doing. You are so myopic that you can’t look around. You can’t. You are all on the same boat; you are trying to do the best you can. It’s like there is no hatred in it, there is no anger that a guy finished before you because really it’s you who maybe not proficient at a certain thing, that’s the reason you are not in front of him, not because he is an overall better guy.
Angelo: Or pushing you back.
Joe: Mmh, and it’s great because you could beat them in one event and they will beat you in another event, so it’s like back and forth type of stuff.
Angelo: Did they officially name you 7th?
Joe: I don’t know if they changed it on the website, but everybody gets bumped down because the guy who finished 4th got his medal for 3rd, we all got bumped down. I’d be 7th, Jason Grab he was 4th he finished 3rd they sent him his medal in the mail. He took a picture of it and posted on Facebook.
Angelo: Very cool, officially 7th.
Angelo: Fittest 40-44 year old in the universe.
Joe: Yeah. I think I told you this, but my son Maddox when we were driving up to Madison I turned the radio down, I do , “Maddox be honest with me, where do you think I’m going to finish- I qualified 11th, where do you think I’ll finish in the CrossFit Games?” He goes, “Mmh, 7th.” Sure enough, I know it didn’t happen right away but when all the dust settled 7th place, the kid is smart. I have some sort of connection to that number for some reason, 7.
Angelo: It’s your number.
Joe: That is my number.
Angelo: Now do you feel same, less, or more pressure to do it again?
Joe: I don’t feel any pressure at all. I still have the drive to make it, but I’m at a point in my head where if I don’t make it it’s okay. It’s okay. I wanted to make it really, really bad that first time. That was my goal when I walked through in the gym in 2014. I made it, now it’s like I’m just going to do the things, I’m going to do what you programmed, I’m going to do the things to get better, I’m going to have that drive to make it, but if I don’t make it, guess what- I’ll be in the gym the next day. Maybe I’ll be doing class, maybe I’ll be doing the stuff you write for me. I’m okay with whatever it is, I’m okay with it. My goal was to make it.
I’ll never set my goal to win it because to be honest with you I don’t think I could win it. I think I can only get so good at certain things because my shoulders bug me so much that I’m always working through pain. I think that kind of puts a ceiling on how much I can achieve. I’ll never set my goal to win it. If I do make it this year I’ll try and improve on the 7th finish and try to get under that. That would be good enough for me.
Angelo: That’s it. You will be 42 or 43 in June?
Joe: 42 in June. I was thinking about this, I’m like, I could probably win it if I’m 46 or 45 to 49 maybe, when all the other guys are just like, ‘fuck it, I’m not doing this anymore’.
Angelo: The body gave out.
Joe: I’m still going. I’m going to make everybody else quit.
Angelo: You are like the Iron Man of CrossFit, you win by default. There’s two people in the 45-49 this year guys.
Joe: Yeah, that’s how it’s going to happen. That’s okay.
Angelo: That’s great. Joe, thank you for coming by and sharing this awesome life of yours.
Joe: No problem man, it’s been fun.
Angelo: I’ve been thinking about this ever since I asked you on the show; I want to say as far as my coaching career you are my greatest accomplishment and partly because of the CrossFit games, but more so of how you’ve grown as a man and what you just were able to articulate about if you make it if you don’t make it. I love to think that I’m a part of that growth. It is by far in a way my greatest coaching accomplishment- you, so thank you.
Joe: I appreciate that. You know I love you. You are right; you are not only a coach to me like numbers, whatever that is, what it is, but just all the other stuff is more important to me; how I handle things, my mindset, everyday life, how I handle things. That’s been a big change in the last, maybe last year and a half. It’s always the growth experience going through what we did at the CrossFit Games and improving on that, I’m trying to improve on that. It’s huge for me because now as a man when I do go into situations where I’m going to be hard on myself I have that little switch like, you are right here in my head saying, ‘no, don’t go that way, do it the right way.’ I thank you for that. It’s just made me a better athlete and being able to handle difficult situations on the fly and just being a better man about it. Thank you for that. Like I said, you are not just my CrossFit coach in the gym, I listen to a lot of things you say and I see the way you are living and I take bits and pieces of that and try to use that in my everyday life too.
Angelo: Awesome, everything but my carpet choice.
Angelo: Everything but the fucking carpet.
Joe: Yeah, I’ll talk to Frank. Maybe we’ll get some new carpet in here, Uncle Frank.
Angelo: Shout out to Uncle Frank.
You’ve been listening to The Alpha Hippie Podcast.
Angelo: Thanks for listening to The Alpha Hippie Podcast everyone. Again, if you are enjoying the show please subscribe and give us a rating on iTunes, my guest and I really appreciate the feedback. And if you are on Instagram follow us at @thealphahippie to see what’s going on in our world, upcoming shows, and all our news. See you next time.
1:45:45 End of show.