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Corbeil knows multiple sports Bandits defenseman also plays hockey

Chris Corbeil is the Buffalo Bandits' answer to such two-sport standouts as Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders.

Corbeil has earned regular duty on the defensive unit of the Bandits, which will play in Minnesota against the Swarm today (2 p.m., Versus, Radio 1520 AM). In his "spare" time, he also plays college hockey in Canada.

"I go to school at the University of Western Ontario [in London], where I'm enrolled in business school. That keeps me busy. I do that Monday through Friday. When I'm not [in Buffalo], I play for the varsity hockey team. It takes up a lot of time, and I have to make a lot of sacrifices."

Corbeil plays left wing for the Mustangs when the Bandits' schedule permits. He's squeezed in 19 games this season, scoring five goals and four assists.

"It's funny -- they [Mustang teammates] want to get down to a game, but with their schedule they are never able to," he said. "They kid me a bit about it [playing both sports], that the Bandits are my first priority."

The two-sport approach is nothing new to Corbeil, who was born in London. He wasn't handed a hockey stick when he was born, but it was close.

"I've always been a hockey player," the 22-year-old said. "Ironically, I got started in lacrosse through hockey. I was playing minor hockey in Burlington, Ontario, and the lacrosse team was short a couple of guys. It was coached by one of the parents on the team.

"I came out [to a lacrosse practice] with really no idea of what I was doing that first time. I didn't know how to put on the equipment. I was mostly wearing hockey gear. I loved it from the second I hit the floor. I was a bit of a natural at it with the speed. It worked out great, and I've been playing ever since."

Loving lacrosse is one thing; playing it for pay is quite another. Corbeil says now that the possibility of playing at the indoor game's highest level didn't cross his mind for quite a while.

"My midget coach, for whatever reason, did interviews with all the kids on the team in my last year," Corbeil said. "He asked if I had any aspirations to play pro. I just laughed and said, 'Of course, I'd love to play pro, but I don't think I'm actually good enough to do it.'

"I was fortunate enough that in my last year of junior, we hosted the Minot Cup in Brampton. That gave me a lot of exposure, and let me showcase my skills to a lot of the scouts."

The Bandits apparently were paying attention. They took him in the second round of the National Lacrosse League Entry Draft in 2009.

"We wanted to bring players to the team who could fit in, and we were looking for a left-handed defenseman," said Derek Graham, the Bandits' assistant general manager.

Corbeil arrived in training camp with low expectations about receiving playing time. The Bandits rarely use young players in important game situations.

"We got him into camp, and found that he was a very quick learner," Graham said.

"He's come along a lot farther than I expected," Graham said. "It usually takes rookies a couple of years to get their feet wet. He's become one of the top players in the league."

Graham isn't the only one to notice Corbeil's rapid growth as a player. One sign came two weeks ago, when he was picked as the National Lacrosse League's Defensive Player of the Week for his work in the win against the Boston Blazers. He had five loose balls and scored an empty-net goal in Buffalo's 12-10 victory.

. "A lot of other teams, they make their rookies sit and wait," Corbeil said. "Here they threw me to the wolves. It's eat or be fed. To think how far I've come, it's pretty crazy."

The Bandits enter today's game with a 7-3 record and a three-game winning streak. They are very much alive in the race to grab first place in the East. A win today would clinch a playoff berth; the same is true for Minnesota.

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com

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