Skip to content

Olympic opportunity ‘feels like a dream’ for Okotokian

'For me to be able to actually represent my country on the biggest sporting stage in the world, I didn’t think this would ever happen and I just think it’s going to be a mixed bag of emotions...'

Some news is simply impossible to keep to yourself. 

“I got the call from one of the guys at Hockey Canada saying that I had made the team, it was pretty incredible, you’re kind of in shock and they tell you to keep it under wraps until we announced the team,” said Okotokian Corban Knight. “I told my close family and that was a pretty cool phone call to make to my mom and dad (Jack and Laurie). It’s something I’ll never forget, being able to share that news with your parents that have been with you through thick and thin in your career. 

“It was probably earlier than I was allowed (to call), but that’s one of those things where you can’t hold that in. It was probably within seconds of hanging up the call that I called them.” 

Good news travels fast and it doesn’t get much better than earning one of 25 roster spots on the Canadian men’s hockey team for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. The roster was officially unveiled on Jan. 25.

“Being Canadian, growing up I remember the 2002 gold rush and then obviously 2010 in Vancouver, those are pretty iconic moments for any Canadian kid growing up,” said Knight, in a phone interview from Switzerland. “You just never really think the Olympics is in the cards for you. Typically, it’s the Sidney Crosby's and those guys and there’s only a couple of those kind of guys in the world, especially in Canada where it’s so competitive. 

“It was one of those things where you dream about it, certainly, but you never really think it’s going to be a reality. And now with what’s happening and this opportunity arising, it’s still feels like a dream and it truly hasn’t sunk in yet on what this opportunity really means.” 

With NHL players out of the competition officially in late-December after weeks of uncertainty, the Hockey Canada brass assembled a squad of overseas talent to play in an international tournament in Moscow last month. 

That was Knight's first window into the potential of being Beijing bound. 

“That was the first time I thought, 'Maybe this is going to happen.' Because at that time NHL teams were starting to postpone games,” he said. “And they obviously put this team in a tournament together in Moscow for a reason so that was the first inkling. 

“And things changed pretty rapidly from then on... There was a lot of nervous waiting and hoping you were going to get the call and when I actually got it that was a moment I’ll never forget.” 

The 31-year-old is one of nine Kontinental Hockey League players on the Canadian roster, an eclectic collection of longtime NHL stars in Eric Staal, Jason Demers, a number of minor-league veterans as well as young NHL prospects in netminder Devon Levi, forward Mason McTavish and 2021 first-overall draft pick Owen Power on defence. 

Staal was a member of Canada’s gold medal squad on home soil at the 2010 Games in Vancouver while Maxim Noreau, Mat Robinson and Eric O’Dell were part of Canada’s bronze-medal team from the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang. 

“Everyone was waiting to see, curious to see what route they were going to take,” Knight said. “For me, when I saw (the roster) I was really excited. I think they did a great job of having some really established guys that have great resumés and have been on every stage and a lot of younger guys that bring that energy. 

“I don’t think they just went out and picked the top scorers in every league, I really think they did an incredible job of trying to build a team. And I think we have a lot of guys that play a certain role and play it really well and for these short tournaments that’s what you have to do.” 

Knight, who moved to High River at the age of 11 when his hockey trajectory kicked into high gear, was the first Okotoks Oilers alumnus to play in an NHL game. The forward marked his NHL debut in March 2014 as a member of the Calgary Flames. 

Following his AJHL Rookie of the Year 2008-09 season in Okotoks, Knight graduated to the NCAA ranks where he played four seasons with North Dakota and was a Hobey Baker award finalist in 2013. 

After spending parts of six seasons with the Flames, Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers organizations primarily at the American Hockey League level, Knight took his talents overseas. 

He began his KHL journey in the 2019-20 season with Kazakhstan's Barys Nur-Sultan and for an encore helped Avangard Omsk to its first Gagarin Cup title in 2020-21. This season, the 6-foot-2 forward has registered 48 points in 47 games for Omsk. 

Representing Canada at the international level was a first for Knight at the December tournament. 

“That was a pretty special time for me, I’m very proud to be Canadian so to have that opportunity to actually wear the maple leaf was pretty special,” he said. “To have that experience under my belt moving forward here is really great.” 

After an eight-day training camp in Davos, Switzerland from Jan. 25-Feb. 1, the Canadian contingent will arrive in China for a pre-tournament game versus the United States on Feb. 7.  

The men’s hockey portion of the Olympic Games runs from Feb. 9-20 at the National Indoor Stadium and Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing. 

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot, the emotions that are going to go into it, a lot of excitement and just a lot of pride,” he added. “I’m very proud to be Canadian. I’ve been to a lot of different places in the world now and there’s no place like Canada.  

“For me to be able to actually represent my country on the biggest sporting stage in the world, I didn’t think this would ever happen and I just think it’s going to be a mixed bag of emotions, excitement, probably some nerves.  

“I really don’t know what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it because I know it will be something I’ll never forget." 




Comments


Remy Greer

About the Author: Remy Greer

Remy Greer is the assistant editor and sports reporter for Okotokstoday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact rgreer@okotoks.greatwest.ca
Read more