Cory Anderson made mark on, off ice with Hat Tricks
Cory Anderson knew right away that he and Danbury were going to be a good fit.
Nearly three years after turning pro with the Hat Tricks, Anderson said his initial impressions were spot on.
“I’ll never forget, it was the team’s first year (2019) and we had a team meet and greet to introduce the players to the fans, and right away I felt the love the fans had for Danbury hockey,” Anderson said. “It felt like something I could just fall into. And I did. It’s special and an honor to play for these fans.”
Now back at his Bakersfield, California home, Anderson conceded that he may have played his final game for the Hat Tricks and those fans in Danbury.
The 28-year-old received his EMT certificate and is planning to become a firefighter. That means his days as a full-time hockey player are over. He said there’s a chance he could be a part-time player like Nicola Levesque, for example, was this season for the Hat Tricks, but he’s not sure that will be an option for him.
If indeed this is closure on his tenure in Danbury, Anderson is pleased with how it all played out.
“When you’re playing in this type of developmental league and the level we’re at, a lot of it has to do with playing for the fans and playing for the community,” Anderson explained. “This was exactly what I was looking for.”
Anderson earned the nickname “Scorey” for his offensive exploits with the Hat Tricks. He is second in franchise history with 56 goals in 85 games.
Despite a string of injuries this season, Anderson was third on the Hat Tricks and 12th in the FPHL with a career-high 32 goals in 49 games.
“Cory is just a tremendous person first and foremost and he’s a heckuva’ athlete, a truck on the ice, has a cannon of a shot,” Hat Tricks general manager Billy McCreary said. “But what really sticks out is his involvement in the community, the excitement he brings to the fan base, his interactions with the fans, the kids and parents alike.”
Scoring a lot of goals is one thing. But connecting on a personal level with the fans is what made Anderson so popular in Danbury.
“He came here and embraced the fans with open arms,” Hat Tricks forward Steve Mele said. “He was always one of the first guys to take pictures with people, talk with people and really soak in the whole experience.”
As such, McCreary holds Anderson up as an example of what a Hat Tricks player should be.
“At this level connecting with the fans and inspiring people on and off the ice, that’s what this is all about,” McCreary said. “There’ve been some pretty tremendous stories about how Cory has done everything in his power to better people’s lives. And that’s kind of what our culture is all about, giving everything we have on the ice and inspiring kids and people in the community off the ice. Cory personifies that.”
Anderson arrived as a rookie from nearby Manhattanville College for the Hat Tricks’ inaugural season in 2019-20. He had 41 points (24 goals, 17 assists) and 85 penalty minutes in 36 games. He scored big goals and stood up for his teammates.
He also learned from the veterans on the team, who were building the all-in culture McCreary sought before the season was shut down prematurely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
And after the Hat Tricks did not play at all in 2020-21 because of the pandemic, Anderson was one of several players who committed to return this season to try and win the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Those veteran guys our first year, they molded the mentality of what we have going on in Danbury, kind of a swagger and confidence,” Anderson said. “That’s why we had such success that first year. And that bled into us, guys like me and Jonny [Ruiz], and that mentality stuck with us and then we preached it to our locker room this year.”
With Anderson, Ruiz, Mele, forward Gordy Bonnel and defensemen Aaron Atwell and Steve Brown back this season, the Hat Tricks finished third in the league and were a dominating 24-6-0 on home ice at Danbury Arena.
They rallied to defeat the Binghamton Black Bears in the first round of the playoffs before being swept in the best-of-3 semifinals by the Columbus River Dragons.
That exit from the playoffs still stings for Anderson.
“It was really disappointing and sad, too, because I think we knew in the room that we had what it takes to get that job done,” said Anderson, who played through a PCL injury and had one assist in four postseason games.
Anderson said it was an honor to wear an alternate captain’s “A” on his sweater this season and to join his good friend Ruiz, the Hat Tricks captain, in a leadership role.
“Stepping into a role as a leader, you have eyes on you all the time, so all you want to do is be a good teammate at the end of the day, be someone the guys can rely on,” Anderson explained. “I definitely hope I left a mark on some guys.”
That Cory Anderson left a positive mark on those he’s left behind in Danbury, both teammates and those in the community, is undeniable.
“He’ll have those big goals to get you going, if he needs to throw his hands he will and his voice in the locker room was big, when he spoke, people listened,” Ruiz said. “And then the impact he made off the ice was just as big as the one he made on the ice.”
Three thousand miles away, Anderson reflected with pride on his time with the Hat Tricks.
“I hope the fans remember me as someone who gave everything he had on the ice all the time and was passionate about the game,” he said. “And I hope I did the city proud because I will cherish my time in Danbury forever.”