#PensUltimate Interview – Tom Chorske

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 7: Tom Chorske #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates on the ice during an NHL game against the New Jersey Devils on October 7, 1999 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

 

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Tom Chorske
Position: LW • Shoots: Right
6-1, 212lb (185cm, 96kg)
Born: September 18, 1966 (Age: 50-115d) in Minneapolis, Minnesota us
Draft: Montreal, 1st round (16th overall), 1985 NHL Entry
Amateur Teams: Minnesota

When you think of the name Tom Chorske, it usually conjures up thoughts of the ‘95 New Jersey Devils and the “System” the team perfected and deployed to dismantle opposing teams all the way to the Cup Final that year and beyond.

Once you dig a little deeper into the lore of Chorske, it is no wonder why his professional career lasted a decade and saw him put his speed and prowess on display in 536 games with seven franchises. A speedy, two-way player equally apt on the defensive side of the ice, as the offensive side, will have no issues finding work.

Tom is very active and accessible on Twitter (@hockeylogic) frequently engaging with the users of the Twitterverse, offering his full and honest appraisal to the contemporary subjects in our game.

Chorske also can be found “flying the flag” of hometown American rooted hockey and never misses an opportunity to bring awareness to events that inspire and relevant to young up and coming players and fans of Hockey alike.

Here is my digital conversation with Mr. Chorske.

Can you take us back to 1985 draft and discuss your experience and memories leading up to and including draft day?

It was pretty cool and exciting to know I would be getting drafted. I was ranked mid 2nd round and was at my house waiting for the phone to ring. It was different back then, at least for me…and in Minnesota. I hadn’t thought to go to the draft and I don’t know how many other draft eligible players did go. As it turned out, Montreal had 2 picks in the first round (12th & 16th) and they picked me at 16. I was really surprised because they hadn’t shown any particular interest like some other teams and it was quite a bit higher than I was projected. That said, it was an honor to be chosen by the Habs and I knew it would be quite an experience playing for them some day.

In 1986, you were part of the first U.S team to capture a Medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship. What was that experience like for you and did you channel those memories later in your career when you part of some high stakes games?

Yeah…that was cool because it was not long after 1980 Miracle On Ice happened so we felt like we were carrying on some tradition and momentum. We knew we had done something special. I remember the bronze medal game was early on the last day of the tournament so we had to be ready to go at 7AM. As players from any country will tell you…it’s an honor to wear your country’s jersey and have a medal hung around your neck, even a bronze. Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Scott Young, Jimmy Carson, Stephen Leach, Craig Janney, Paul Ranheim, Eric Weinrich were on that team so it was a good group. The Canadiens had a bunch of future NHLers as did the Europeans. It was a glimpse into the future.

You captured the Stanley Cup with the Devils in ‘95 in a rather surprising fashion (At the time) With a glance over the roster, what do you feel were the ingredients that made the squad so deadly during the playoffs, leading into the Cup final?
Goaltending ( Martin Brodeur), balanced (mobile & tough) Defense (Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Bruce Driver, Ken Daneyko, Shawn Chambers, Tommy Albelin), ample offense, a tough system…The Trap (thanks to the redline still being in play), and most of all…team chemistry. We all had a role and embraced that role as well as supported and believed in each guy on the team to do his job. People’s ideas and opinions of the trap were off base, especially into the 2000’s. It was labeled as a boring “sit back” strategy but it was more of a strategic and energy conservation tactic. Instead of dumping and chasing and forechecking deep in the corners, if we couldn’t win the race to a loose puck then we would simply angle and force opponents to turn the puck over by making a risky or errant pass. Again, above and beyond the makeup of the team…we had a locker room culture that forged a championship team and mindset. And it lasted for years there (two more Cups!).

Can you recount for us the day you spent with the Cup and the significance of the Trophy to your personal and professional life?

Like most I took the Cup around my city (Minneapolis) visiting the places that had played a part in shaping my hockey career (and places I knew would be fun “gatherings”). Bloomington Ice Garden, Bunny’s Bar & Grill, KFAN Sports Radio station, The Loon Cafe. I also hosted a big reception for all my friends and family (and apparently a bunch of their friends too). Hundreds of people showed up at The Calhoun Beach Club near where I grew up. The City of Minneapolis even declared it “Stanley Cup Day” or something like that..?

During the 1998-1999 season you suited up for three different teams (Islanders, Capitals, Flames) Was it difficult for you making those transitions from team to team and city to city for you and your family?

The transitions were tough and I was dealing with an injury (abdominal sports related hernia) that led to surgery in Washington. My wife and I hadn’t started our family yet so it was just her and I. It was inconvenient but not too hard as we didn’t have kids yet.

After you retired in 2002, you returned to the University of Minnesota to complete your Undergraduate Degree. How was that experience for you? And did you always intended to complete your education, once you retired?

Part of the “deal” I made with my parents when I left college after 3 years and signed with Montreal was that I would still get my degree some day. It was a great experience…I was smarter the second time around! I finally made the Honor Roll (in my 30’s).

What is your “take”on the NHLPA/NHL’s “Exit” programs and Do you feel that an initiative of that sort is long overdue?

These types of programs are extremely important but they are not easy to execute. Varying demand and needs and locations of where players end up living (scattered around the world). Players need to be proactive and do some of the “work” themselves while they are playing and in the community and they are going to end up living and working or operating in. Which might mean doing it in the off season. But that’s tough to pull off too. And a fair amount of guys don’t have to work again. Like I said, its tough to pull it all together.

With the World Cup of Hockey making a triumphant return this season and the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang (Republic of Korea) still undecided. What are your thoughts on current NHL’ers participating in the Qualifying games (Considering the NHL may not be an active participant at the games) and what is your personal opinion WCH or Olympics?

Tough call…a lot of variables to consider. Not sure I can cover them all. I guess one idea would be to limit the players who play to Professionals with less than 3 full seasons and amateurs. That way you can see some high profile players and future stars without putting so many players/teams at risk. Some (not all) older players and veteran superstars don’t seem very passionate about playing anyway. But I do love the extra events from an entertainment standpoint.

Can you share any special memories from your time with the Penguins organization (on the ice or off)

A great Halloween party, [I] enjoyed the city of Pittsburgh; good sports town and fans. Jaromir Jagr’s paychecks blew me away. But the most important story and lasting memory I have is that my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and given 3 months to live so I asked to leave the team. Craig Patrick and Mario Lemieux were so gracious and supportive..I can’t say enough to thank them and show my gratitude. My dad died about 3 months later, the day after the Pens lost in the playoffs, which he and I were following closely. Herb Brooks, the coach of the Pens at the time, showed up at my dad’s funeral, which meant a lot to me too. So there you have a few.

What was your favorite rink to play in?

Madison Square Garden

Who was/were the fiercest competitor(s) you faced?

Mark Messier, Wendel Clark

Most painful injury?

Tie: Dislocated shoulder, deflected puck hit me below left eye.

What are you doing these days? (Please feel free to mention any personal projects or endeavours that you are involved with.)

I work sales and Business Development for a small company called Computer Forensic Services. We support all types of investigations and lawsuits by finding deleted, altered, stolen data and/or files from devices (smartphones, tablets, desktops, thumbdrives, external hard drives, game consoles, etc). We work with law enforcement, law firms, judicial system, and directly with companies (HR and General Counsel). Yes it’s true…even if you delete it, we might find it! And if you downloaded it…we can usually tell. I’m also an analyst on the Minnesota Wild’s TV pre/post game show on Fox Sports North called Wild Live. I typically coach one of our kids (son 15, daughter 13, son 10) hockey teams. I’m active with the MN chapter of NHL Alumni Assoc. Which keeps me busy golfing, skating, and appearing at events.

Thanks for reading and be on the look for more exciting and exclusive interviews with Penguins Alumni right here.

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