Community spirit resonates with Knight

by Grant Notenbomer || AHL On The Beat Archive

Who is this guy?

It’s a question often asked when a man stands out beyond what is normal. It can be used negatively, like when somebody you don’t know sits down at your table, and interrupts a private conversation you’re having. It can also be used positively, like when somebody goes above and beyond expectations, and stands out for all the right reasons.

For the Abbotsford Heat, Corban Knight without a doubt fits the positive end of the spectrum.

Knight is in his first year of professional hockey coming from the University of North Dakota, where he was in the top three in team scoring over the course of the last three seasons. That success has certainly translated to the pros as well, where he sits seventh in team scoring with the Heat at 38 points (14-24-48) in 63 games. He has even earned a call-up to the Calgary Flames, where he played seven games and scored his first NHL goal in front of friends and family.

“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Knight recalled. “When I got the call (to Calgary), it was pretty surreal. When the coach (Heat head coach Troy G. Ward) is looking for you, it’s usually not a good thing, but I went in there and he had a smile on his face and told me the good news. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Being a good teammate comes easily for Knight as well, along with humility.

“It’s pretty easy to be a good teammate with the quality guys we have in this room. The leadership on the team makes it so easy to just come in and be yourself. When it comes to game time, you just try to be the best teammate you can be for them.”

While Knight’s on-ice contributions have certainly propelled the Heat to a good season, it’s his work off the ice this past summer in his hometown of High River, Alta., that has inspired him to bring that community-minded effort to the Heat and the city of Abbotsford.

High River, which sits about an hour’s drive from Calgary, got the worst of a major flash flood last summer, and that included the Knight household.

“It was a tough summer for the family; we were evacuated for seven months,” Knight said. “Having to start over, it was tough. Thankfully, we had lots of help from the community and government. When the flood first happened, it was crazy to see the damage.”

The task ahead of the Knight family was a daunting one, but it helped Corban truly see in action what community is all about.

“When we first got back, it felt like it was going to take years to repair, but it was amazing to see how many people came and volunteered,” Knight said. “That kind of stuff was really touching: people who don’t even know you but are willing to take time out of their summer to help complete strangers. For me, you just sit back and say, wow, that’s pretty special to see that kindness.”

It evidently sparked an internal fire to live a professional career in a similar way. Knight has participated in over 80 percent of the Heat’s appearances in the city of Abbotsford, including visiting hospitals, encouraging active play, reading to children at schools, and sharing his Christian beliefs to over 200 fans at a post-game event. Most of his motivation comes from the trials that his family faced last summer.

“If [complete strangers] can spend months helping rebuild our home, I can do something small like going to a school or a seniors’ home and hang out for an hour,” Knight said. “It’s pretty important when you look at the big picture. It’s a very rewarding thing to see how much people appreciate you taking time out of your day to do that. It’s nice to give back.”

For his contributions to the city he works in, Knight earned the privilege of being the Abbotsford Heat’s nominee for the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. He’s also an invaluable asset both on and off the ice for the Heat.

So, who is this guy?

Well, it depends who you ask. If you ask the citizens of High River and Abbotsford, he’s a leader in bringing a positive change everywhere he goes. If you ask Knight though, he’ll probably just point the praise elsewhere and continue his work quietly.