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EMOTIONS IN CHECK 2002 INCIDENT HELPED KINGS' CORVO CHANGE OUTLOOK ON LIFE.

Byline: Rich Hammond Staff Writer

Joe Corvo knows some still view him as a criminal, the angry young man who beat up a woman in a restaurant. It's nothing he shies from, or tries to excuse, even now that he's an established NHL defenseman.

It has been more than three years since that incident, and Corvo has come to an understanding as to why it took place. The rage Corvo had been internalizing for years found a release on that fateful evening.

Unfortunate? Yes, but it might also have been the night that turned Corvo's life around.

``Whether it be a minor or a major incident, something was going to happen to me, and it wasn't going to be good,'' Corvo said this week. ``Maybe I'm driving a car under the influence and get in an accident and kill somebody or kill myself. So I'll take what happened to me, and I'll accept it and go forward.''

By every measure, this has been the best of Corvo's three NHL seasons. Entering tonight's game against Edmonton, Corvo has 11 goals and 26 points, tied for sixth on the Kings in both categories.

It's no coincidence, because the past 18 months or so have marked the best period of Corvo's life.

``I think he's much more stable with his personality,'' Kings coach Andy Murray said. ``I think he feels better about himself these days, and his belief system in himself is much stronger.''

Not until recently did Corvo learn how to show emotion in a positive way. For years, he would sulk after losses, unable to talk even to Angela, his wife and high-school sweetheart, about his feelings. Instead, he allowed them, and other day-to-day problems, to build up inside without any healthy outlet.

Anger-management counseling sessions, ordered by the courts when Corvo pleaded guilty to assault chargers in October 2003, began as a chore but turned into a life-changing experience for Corvo. The birth of the couple's first child, a son named Cameron, a year later, also made Corvo, now 28, happier and more mature.

``He's completely different,'' Angela Corvo said. ``It's everything. I make fun of him because for a long time with my parents ... it's not that he didn't like them, but he was kind of shy and standoffish. Now he's always giving my mom hugs and calling her Mom. He has completely changed as a person.''

But first, Corvo had to hit rock bottom. According to the police report, in the early-morning hours of Nov. 13, 2002, Corvo, then a member of the Kings minor-league affiliate in Manchester, N.H., grabbed the buttocks of a woman in a Boston restaurant and was asked to leave. He returned a short time later.

The report said Corvo then hit the woman in the face and kicked her as she lay on the ground. A year later, Corvo received a three-year suspended sentence and the counseling. A civil lawsuit is pending.

Weekly sessions with a counselor in Chicago, near Corvo's hometown, started well and got progressively better, to the point that Corvo began to understand why he finally snapped that night in Boston.

``My whole life, I had always been super hard on myself,'' Corvo said. ``As things progressed, it just kind of got worse. I can't put a single event on it. I can't blame it on my parents or blame it on anybody. That's just how I was. I can remember when I was 12, playing (baseball) in the Bronco World Series, we lost the championship game and it affected me for months.

``Somewhere along the way I developed into a negative person, always thinking negatively and balling up anger inside of me and not having outlets for that.''

The counseling sessions went so well that Corvo made plans to continue them by telephone if last season's lockout had ended. There was no court-mandated length to the counseling, but Corvo went for a full year.

And he found outlets. When feelings of anger or frustration surfaced, Corvo began punching a heavy bag. When Corvo returned to Los Angeles from Illinois to prepare for this season, the heavy bag stayed behind but he turned to pen and paper, writing down the negative thoughts just to get them out of his head.

``I started to see changes right away,'' Angela Corvo said. ``I was always a little concerned, not from the standpoint of our relationship so much but because of the way his attitude affected him in hockey.''

The Kings took some public criticism for sticking with Corvo - they suspended him for three games after his guilty plea - but now have been rewarded with a maturing, talented defenseman.

``I think everybody makes mistakes, and you like to see people get a second chance,'' general manager Dave Taylor said. ``He's certainly moving in the right direction. Joe, to me, seems a little more relaxed and outgoing. He's always been competitive, but now he's a little more confident as well.''

It shows on the ice. In the past, Corvo would make a mistake and think about it for the next few shifts - maybe the entire game - and his play would suffer from the snowball effect.

Now, thanks to his new attitude, Corvo is playing with more confidence, and letting go of things easier.

``If you watch games where I don't play so well, sometimes I spend the whole game dwelling on a mistake I made early in the game,'' Corvo said. ``My first couple years, I wasn't really recognizing that and letting it go and I was having more mediocre-to-bad games than I would like.''

Things are getting better, though. In the Kings' victory over the Mighty Ducks on Monday, Corvo scored the deciding goal in the shootout, and afterward Angela, who is due to deliver their second son in May, was there to meet him and described Corvo's mood this way: ``It was like he was glowing.''

Angela Corvo said Monday's game was the first time Cameron recognized his father on television, during a postgame interview, and Corvo said becoming a father has further stabilized his life.

``If I think about (family) going into a game, the games are so easy to play,'' Corvo said. ``There's no pressure. I just say to myself, `If you make a mistake, oh well, it's just a mistake.' It's not like you're going to die right there. There's so much positive stuff I get to go home to. It's great.

``In some peoples' eyes, I'll always be the bad guy. I can't change that. It was a mistake that I made, and I'm still paying for it. I can't pretend it didn't happen. But right now, I'm comfortable with myself.''

Rich Hammond, (818) 713-3611

rich.hammond(at)dailynews.com

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2 photos, box

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(1 -- 2 -- color) A more positive outlook has helped Kings defenseman Joe Corvo thrive this season, with 11 goals and 26 assists.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

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KINGS vs. EDMONTON
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 26, 2006
Words:1159
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