She lacked the consistent career numbers shared by this year’s top three Kazmaier finalists. Team Canada claimed that her inferior skating skills kept her from consideration on the national team—although putting her school before Canada’s Under-22 squad probably influenced its decision. And her best effort wasn’t enough for Harvard to win the national championship, as the Crimson fell for the third straight year in the title game.
So why did the ESPY Awards choose Nicole Corriero to represent women’s hockey in the category of Best College Female Athlete?
“I wonder that myself!” exclaims Corriero. “I mean, I can think of a bunch of other top hockey players, or top collegiate athletes who could have been there instead of me. I guess, in the end, it came down to bra size, and as we know, I pretty much have them all beat.”
The forward nicknamed “Cleave” by her teammates will have the opportunity to test out that theory when she heads to the Playboy Mansion in L.A. for a pre-award show party the night before the show for celebrities and ESPY nominees.
Although the venue will offer a host of potential clientele for the aspiring lawyer, there’s one celebrity in particular whom Corriero’s hoping to meet—Kiefer Sutherland, who plays Agent Jack Bauer on her favorite TV show, “24.”
“All I want him to say is ‘the following award presentation takes place between 9:30 and 9:31 p.m.,’” Corriero says. “It actually doesn’t even have to be for my award.”
Sutherland has presented in the past, however, so the possibility remains. For extra luck—both to receive the award and meet Sutherland—Corriero has turned to long-time friend and teammate Ashley Banfield, just as she has throughout her career.
“When we were 13 years old, whenever I got a new stick or a new blade, or was in a scoring rut, I’d give my stick to her, and she’d give it a little ‘magic,’” Corriero says. “It sounds corny, but we’ve done it ever since. Anyways, I think its only fair to say that that played a huge part in my success this year.”
”For good luck in the ESPYs, I mailed Ash a Ray Bourque bobblehead. Why? No idea. It just felt like the right thing to do,” she says.
While she has to leave such matters to fate and lady luck (and as many fan votes as she can get), some things will take care of themselves. The ESPY’s, for instance, will provide Corriero’s outfit for the award show.
“I can walk down the red carpet and tell reporters, ‘I’m wearing Calvin Klein,’ and they can turn to the cameramen and say, ‘Who the hell was she?’”
In case they don’t know, here’s the case for Corriero—one final time.
MAGIC STICK, MAGIC MIC
The ESPY Awards, created in 1993, “commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances.”
No one put on a performance quite like Nicole Corriero during the 2004-2005 season.
Minnesota line-mates Krissy Wendell—the Kazmaier winner—and Natalie Darwitz—the Frozen Four MVP—finished ahead of Corriero in total points scored, but the Crimson captain grabbed the headlines by breaking the single-season record for goals scored, hitting the back of the net 59 times.
And while, even as she scored goal after goal, neither she nor her team realized how close she was to setting the NCAA women’s hockey record, Corriero’s ascent to the top of the charts was anything but quiet. It usually isn’t when you account for more than 60 percent of your team’s total offense.
With six hat tricks, 19 multiple-goal games, and a point scored in all but three, her offensive explosion coined a new phrase—getting Corriero’d—which didn’t just mean getting scored on multiple times, but getting completely dominated.
Never was that more apparent than during the NCAA Quarterfinals against Mercyhurst. She resurrected her team time and again, scoring four goals to keep Harvard’s championship drive alive to chants of “Scor-ri-ero” from the Harvard faithful. Then she assisted on the game-winner to give the Crimson a 5-4 victory in triple overtime on a night worthy of an ESPY nomination for best sports performance.
Even University President Lawrence H. Summers had his fists pumping in celebration.
But the numbers, as impressive as they are, don’t tell the whole story of what Corriero meant to the Crimson.
“She helped to bring a team that was struggling to post .500 before December to the NCAA championship game,” Banfield says. “She asks for excellence from her teammates but not before demanding it in herself. She is a tough competitor and a classy player—in victory and defeat.”
“And, most importantly, her acceptance speech would be unforgettable.”
Known for giving new life to her team on the ice, Corriero has also been known to be the life of the party—or, as the case may be, the banquet—due to her often unintentionally comically genius speeches.
“It’s not so much what she says, but how she says it,” Banfield explains. “It’s the way she gets embarrassed when she wins an award, or the way her personal accomplishments shock even her.”
“She’s so humble—I don’t think she’s ever prepared a speech in her life. She gets up to the podium and does ‘open-mike.’ It’s probably the most refreshing thing at a banquet—a truly hilarious performance.”
All that stands between the 2005 ESPY awards and hilarity are the voters.
“The word on the street is that she would be willing to add some life to the party by ‘falling’ up the stairs if she won,” senior Jennifer Raimondi says. “If that isn’t a reason to vote for her, I’m not sure what is.”
Corriero admits she went on a mass-emailing spree of her own to procure votes, which may be made on the ESPY Award’s website, but credits her roommates and family with spreading the news far and wide. She is especially proud of Kelly Noon—a friend and former women’s lacrosse player—and Banfield for allegedly bombarding the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with flyers about the ESPYs.
Not all of her support came from Harvard, however.
“I have already voted [for Corriero] from numerous computers,” says friend and Dartmouth senior Tiffany Hagge. “I forwarded the voting link to my teammates and I would guess that they will all vote for her, especially those that know her. I think there is a healthy respect between Dartmouth and Harvard, and I think if a Dartmouth player were nominated for something, most Harvard players would do the same and vote.”
Although her teammates and friends are convinced Corriero deserves the ESPY, she faces an uphill battle because of both stiff competition and the relatively small size of the women’s hockey fan base as compared to women’s basketball or softball.
The past three—and the only three—award-winners in the category of Best College Female Athlete have been women’s basketball players from Connecticut: Sue Bird in 2002 and Diana Taurasi in 2003 and 2004. This year, LSU forward Seimone Augustus represents women’s basketball.
But Corriero’s faithful remain undeterred.
“Nicki is the only finalist to set a record on both the men’s and women’s side of her sport,” Hagge says. “When Seimone Augustus can dunk, then we’ll see.”
In addition to Augustus, Corriero is competing against UCLA gymnast Kristen Maloney, Texas softball pitcher Cat Osterman, and Notre Dame soccer forward Katie Thorlakson.
Despite her own impressive resume, Corriero maintains her humility even through hamming it up.
“I don’t want to say I don’t think I should win, but I just think that being a part of this group is an incredible distinction in and of itself, so I’m perfectly content to be a nominee,” she says. “Everyone has different abilities that made them stand out in such a way to be recognized by ESPN, and so to say that mine are more worthy of note than someone else’s is unfair. I’ll leave that up to the voters!”
While Augustus and Osterman draw fans from the more popular sports, Thorlakson poses a different problem for Corriero. Not only is she a fellow Canadian, but she also hails from the same hometown—Langley, British Columbia—and attended the same high school—Walnut Grove—as Corriero’s former teammate, Raimondi.
“Katie and I go way back, we were on the same soccer team when we were seven,” Raimondi says. “From then on, we played almost every sport either together or against one another; she even played hockey for a while. We ended up going to the same high school and we’re still friends.”
Though Raimondi may split her allegiance equally between her two friends, Banfield doesn’t foresee any problems splitting the Canadian vote.
“Canadians love ice hockey. It defines our culture and brings our people together,” she says. “With the NHL on hold, the people need a hockey player to believe in. They need a hero. They need Nicole Corriero.”
THE FINAL SCORE
The ESPY Awards will likely mark the end of Corriero’s hockey career, but rather than focus on what might have or should have been hers, she emphasizes the high note on which she is fortunate to close that career. Win or lose, she’s out to have fun in Los Angeles.
“At this point, it’s not about redemption,” she says. “I honestly feel content with my hockey career and everything that has come with it. Whether or not I get nominated for an ESPY is not going to change that,” she says. “What it does do, however, is give me an incredible opportunity to be a part of something I never dreamed of doing.”
“And furthermore, it opens the door for me to finally realize my dream of becoming a Playboy Playmate.”
This is the second consecutive year that fans will determine the winners through online voting, which began June 24 and ends July 8. Fans can vote for Corriero at the following link: http://espn.go.com/espy2005/s/05femalecollegenominees.html.
The ESPY Awards will be held on Wednesday, July 13 at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. The award show will air on ESPN on Sunday, July 17 at 9pm ET.
—Staff writer John R. Hein can be reached at email@example.com.