As a self-described social butterfly, Morris resident Haley Corrigan has never had much of an issue with shyness. The outgoing sophomore at Bradley University was a four-year varsity member of the MCHS Pom squad, and dancing in front of hundreds, and often thousands, of fans became second nature during her time in high school and while dancing at Mueller’s School of Dance.
However, when she received an offer to take over as the emcee of the Peoria Rivermen, an AHL affiliate of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, being in the limelight took on new meaning. With a microphone thrust into her hand, Haley no longer had the buffer of simply being down on the field or on the ice. Instead, she became an integral part of the fan experience. And though she is far from bashful, with the Peoria Rivermen hoping to provide all-around family fun – the mission statement of most minor league sports franchises – it was hard not to be initially overcome by nerves.
“It was a little scary at first, knowing that I would be on a microphone and would be having my voice heard by the entire stadium,” Corrigan said.
Haley got her start with the Rivermen as an ice girl after moving down to Peoria for school in the fall of 2011. Her older sister, Dana, was with the Rivermen as an ice girl that year and despite having only skated a few times in her life, Haley decided to borrow a pair of skates from a friend and give it a try, too.
She took to the ice rather quickly, although she did take at least one tumble that she can remember.
“I had never really skated before. At most, I had skated once or twice at the skating rink and that was probably five years ago,” Corrigan said. “When the ice has just been Zamboni’d, it’s really slippery. And I was pulling a rug off for the pregame and I ended up slipping and falling right on my butt, which was hilarious afterwards, but not at the time. Luckily, I don’t think anyone saw me.”
As an ice girl, Haley would assist the emcee with her duties by dancing with kids on the ice and throwing T-shirts out to the crowd. They’d also help out with some of the on-ice games that the Rivermen run during intermissions and breaks.
Going back for her second year at Bradley, Haley took over the emcee’s role for the Peoria Rivermen. As the emcee, Haley’s responsibilities have certainly increased, but just like when she was an ice girl, the general job description requires her to stay loose and keep it fun.
“It’s definitely a lot more responsibility,” Corrigan said. “It’s a very new situation for me. Last year, as an ice girl, we were really there more for assistance and to be a crowd-pleaser. This year, we have a new boss who is great, and he wants me to be MUCH more involved with the crowd, much more involved with promotion, and really getting my voice out there.
“I do all the promotion. I ad lib during the entire game (on the microphone). I pick the contestants for all the games. I do the games on the ice with the contestants, and then there are parties with season ticket holders. I do it all.”
That long list of responsibilities keeps Haley incredibly busy during the season and, so far she’s impressed her new boss, Mickey Gray.
Gray came over from U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, where he was the director of game operations, and took the exact same position with the Peoria Rivermen in July.
Since then, he’s been surprised with what Haley has been able to do as the Rivermen’s emcee in such a short period of time.
“She’s basically in charge of all our promotions, in the stands and on the ice. She’s really our point of contact with the fans,” Gray said. “We’re all very ecstatic with the job that she’s done. She only has 14 or 15 games of experience under her belt, but she has performed like someone who has much more experience than that. You can really see her every day getting better and better.”
Despite that relative lack of experience, it’s really no surprise to see her growing into that role. The sociable Morris girl has always been comfortable meeting and engaging with people.
As a little girl here in Morris, Haley joined dance to be closer to her friends.
“Basically all my friends were already in dance, so I kinda wanted to join because of them,” Corrigan said. “I started out at Mueller’s, and in sixth grade I was just in hip hop. But then I got more into it and started doing all of the categories of dance: jazz, hip hop, tap, and ballet.”
As a freshman she tried out for the esteemed MCHS Poms squad, and she made varsity. During her four years dancing for poms, Haley and her team won what Haley estimated to be 11 state championships in the various categories and governing agencies of competitive high school dance in Illinois.
“Poms was basically my life in high school,” Corrigan said. “Everything revolved around poms for me. I’d spend most of my week thinking about dancing with poms. Competitions were always very serious and meant a lot to all of us. We were all really great friends, and we worked our butts off to help get that program where it is today.”
Eventually, the combination of poms, school, and wanting to get a part-time job meant that Haley had to cut dancing at Mueller’s out of the equation. She got a job working at a local tanning salon as a junior, but still through her heart into dancing at the high school.
After graduating, she made the decision to continue her education at Bradley University, where her older sister, Dana, goes and Dana’s twin brother T.J. also went for a time. She gave some thought to joining their cheerleading squad before opting to join the Gamma Phi Beta sorority with her big sister instead. Still eager to dance, she also joined a hip hop dance troupe called Lost Soles.
“Lost Soles was all hip hop, but it’s a different form of hip hop dancing, so it’s really cool. We choreographed everything that we danced and we went to a few shows,” Corrigan said.
Unfortunately, starting her new job as the emcee for the Peoria Rivermen meant that she had to give up dancing with the Lost Soles for the time being. However, as the emcee, Haley is thriving.
She loves interacting with children – she wants to major in elementary education with a concentration in English – and she gets to do so on a regular basis at the Peoria Civic Center. And as she continues to gain more experience, she continues to improve.
“She has gotten much better at ad libbing. For every game we have a script that she kinda follows, but I told her early on that I didn’t want to write out exactly what she was going to be saying. Now, all I do is tell her what promotions we’re doing, and then she’s able to run the show by herself,” Gray said.
The result has been even more confidence for an already vivacious and outgoing girl.
“I’ve always kinda put myself out there, because that’s just how I’ve always been,” Corrigan said. “It has made me so much less nervous to be in front of people. Now, I can sing a song in front of thousands of people and I wouldn’t be embarrassed. It’s really helped me step out of my comfort zone and experience a lot of new things.”
As a teacher, Haley probably won’t have to sing in front of thousands of people, but being able to capture an audience is something that will certainly come in handy. Especially in a room full of kindergarteners or second graders like the one she hopes to be teaching in a few years.