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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Mauro Corazza thought the Island Storm needed a boost.
Five years ago, the Cornwall native affectionally known as Stats came up with a slogan for the National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada squad after watching the success of the Toronto Raptors ‘We The North’ campaign.
“I said, ‘You know what? When visiting teams come to the Eastlink Centre, it’s our house, it’s our house. This is our team, this is where we play,’” he said before Sunday’s contest with the Halifax Hurricanes.
The slogan was born.
“Whose house?” he’ll ask rhetorically during the games.
“Our house,” the fans reply.
And it has worked.
“There’s no question it gives you a spark,” Storm head coach Tim Kendrick said. “I don't think any player, or any coach, can deny that. Some will say they don't hear the crowd, and things like that. And, you know what, maybe you don’t hear them all the time, but when you’re down and you really need a lift, you sure do hear them, and you feed off of them.”
Corazza was born and raised in Trail, B.C., and worked in the NHL as an off-ice official doing statistics at Calgary Flames’ games. That is where his nickname was born.
It was also in Calgary he met his wife, Kathy, a Kinkora native. The couple moved back to the Island in 1991.
Corazza, who recently retired from Kent Building Supplies, is leaving today to fly to Surrey, B.C., to spend some time with his brother.
“Then I’m off to Trail, B.C., to spend quality time with my mom, who will be 94 in three weeks’ time,” he said.
Corazza is unsure how long his temporary absence from Storm games will be, but the NBL club sent him off in style on Sunday. He served as an honorary coach for the game, sitting with the coaching staff on the bench and interacting with the team.
“Today is kind of an emotional day for me,” Corazza said a few metres away from the bench before the game. “It’s quite an honour.”
It was a well-deserved recognition for a man, who has been there through thick and thin, wins and losses.
Corazza can be heard throughout the Eastlink Centre on game days. He doesn’t use a microphone or a loud speaker.
“There’s a lot of Listerine, a lot of gargling the next morning, but I do it for the love of the game,” he said. “I get really attached to the players and the coaching staff. I’m just a loyal, dedicated fan.”
He remembered Wade Babineau providing a spark to the hockey teams over the years as Conehead.
“I just come as myself and I just want to get the crowd into the game, give a little bit of support to the players, if we’re down or we’re up.”
Seeing the other side of the game Sunday was “quite the experience.”
“To be down there and to listen to how the coach talks to each individual when they come off the floor,” he said. “Even when they do make a mistake, the players don't get down on each other. It's like they’re jelling together.”
While Corazza will be on the West Coast, he still plans to follow the team. But those 2 p.m. Sunday matinees will mean a 10 a.m. tip-off for him.
“I hope it doesn't cut into church,” he smiled. “I wish nothing but success to this organization, to the players and the management.”
It will leave a big hole in the game-day experience.
“We’re going to miss him,” Kendrick said. “Now we need . . . some real positive fans to step up and take his place.”
While the Storm gave the fans what they wanted on Sunday – a win – Corazza gave them one more reason to stand up and cheer.
With about 1:53 left on the clock, and a comfortable lead, Corazza said those two words he is known for one more time.
“It felt wonderful,” he said, noting the fans reaction. “It’s going to be something that I will cherish for a long, long time.”
S.T.A.T.S. golf tournament has raised more than $310,000 for Autism Society of Prince Edward Island.
Mauro (Stats) Corazza has been lending a hand for more than his five-year involvement as an Island Storm super fan.
He is well-known for starting the annual S.T.A.T.S. (Swinging Together Always to Support) golf tournament.
It began 15 years ago, but for the past 13 years, the proceeds have gone to the Autism Society of Prince Edward Island.
“It’s a tournament that sells out every year,” he said. “And I’m proud to say that last year was our largest fundraiser.”
More than $30,000 was raised in 2018, bringing the tournament’s all-time total to more than $310,000. All the money stays on Prince Edward Island to support families with autistic children.
It brought a smile to his face as he was saying it.
When Corazza was working at Schurman’s Building Supplies on Allen Street, a couple of his associates had autistic children and the decision was made to make it the organization of choice for the golf tournament.
Mauro (Stats) Corazza is 1-0 during his National Basketball League of Canada coaching career.
Island Storm players were after the well-known fan to stay following Sunday’s victory where he served as an honorary coach.
“I said, ‘I’ll be here in spirit,” he said. “The last message I said to the boys was, ‘Listen, you’re 2-0 boys, it’s a brand-new season. . . You’re coming together at a perfect time of the season.
Forget about what’s happened. Forget the games you may have lost by a couple of points. But keep doing what you're doing. You beat the No. 1 team and you beat (Halifax). If you continue doing that, those Ls are going to become Ws and you’re going to be back in the top five very shortly.”