Former Oiler makes NHL debut
Hockey: Corban Knight plays first game with Calgary Flames
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Thursday, Mar 06, 2014 11:13 am
A drop of Okotoks Oil landed on NHL ice for the first time last night.
Corban Knight became the first former Okotoks Jr. A Oiler to play in an NHL game when he donned the Calgary Flames’ jersey in the team’s 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators March 5 at the Saddledome.
“That is a huge honour for me,” said Knight, a High River native. “Being from southern Alberta and the fact I played in Okotoks and I am the first player (Oiler) to do this, it means a lot.
“I think it speaks volumes about the program and how well they turn out players.”
Knight stepped out on the ice just 1:22 into the game — when a small roar from his family, High River and Okotoks friends went through the ’Dome.
He finished with 10 minutes of ice time, including 1:27 on the powerplay.
“It was everything I thought it would be and probably a little bit more — it was an incredible night, one I won’t ever forget,” said the 23-year-old graduate of Holy Trinity Academy. “To achieve the dream of playing in my first NHL game and to do it at home, in front of all my family and friends is definitely a memorable night.”
The reality of achieving a lifetime dream sunk in when he heard a song for what could have been the 1,000th time in his life.
“I started to get pretty nervous and pretty excited during that anthem, looking around and seeing I was on the bench and actually playing…” he said.
Knight centred a line between Ben Hanowski and Brian McGratton.
The former Oiler faceoff specialist won 11 of 18 draws against the Senators.
“I think I got a couple of lucky bounces of the linesman’s skate, but I thought I had a decent night,” Knight said with a smile.
He was on the ice for one goal, creating traffic in front of the net on Paul Byron’s second-period marker.
Knight got called up from the American League’s Abbotsford Heat right after their March 4 game in B.C. The first person he called was his father, Jack, in High River.
“It was a pretty cool phone call,” Knight said. “The fact it is so close to home and we grew up watching Flames games, to actually see their son is a special moment for mom and dad.
“I know my dad was pretty giddy all afternoon… My mom was saying he hasn’t seen him act like this in a long time, like a little boy I guess.”
Flames head coach Bob Hartley was happy with the win and for his new rookie and his family.
“I am very happy with his game,” Hartley said. “I know it was a big night for Corban and his family.
“What they went through last year with the flood, signing with us, training camp and investing time in Abbotsford, I think it is a great night for Corban and we won. A great win-win situation.”
The Stanley Cup winning coach had some advice for Knight to calm those first-game jitters — to treat the game not much different than when he was playing shinny on the outdoor ice near the historic old town farm in High River.
“I wished him good luck and that I was proud for him," Hartley said. “(I told him) to go out and have some fun and that’s what he did.
“He won some face-offs, played hard, he did lots of good things. I am very proud of him.”
He said it is too early to know what the immediate future is for Knight.
“I wish I could plan two weeks, but I have been in this business for too long that I am just looking to tomorrow and that is as far as I will go,” Hartley said.
Okotoks Oiler president Wayne Lauinger said Knight’s debut in the NHL is a feather in the cap for the organization.
He said Knight’s work ethic exemplified the reputation the organization has earned in hockey circles. Not necessarily for his hockey skills, but for work off the ice.
“We pride ourselves on the number of players we have who have received scholarships,” Lauinger said.
Knight earned his kinesiology degree from the University of North Dakota.
He is the fourth Oiler with ties to the NCAA powerhouse. The others being goalie Brad Eidsness, forward Derek Rodwell and current Oiler Rhett Gardner has indicated he will play at the university.
Knight said he continues to follow the Oilers and practiced with the Junior A squad last month during the American Hockey League all-star break.
Knight was the rookie of the year in the AJHL in his one year, 2008-09, with the Oilers. He had 34 goals and 38 assists. Knight was a fifth-round draft-choice by the Florida Panthers in the 2009 NHL entry draft before being traded to the Flames last summer.