UND’s Knight is Mr. Nice GuyGRAND FORKS — When Corban Knight was a freshman, his teammates played a game — try to make Corban swear.
By: Brad Schlossman, Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — When Corban Knight was a freshman, his teammates played a game — try to make Corban swear.
They would try to rattle the happy-go-lucky Alberta native any way possible to get him to curse. They’d even try to con him into swearing by asking him to repeat something a teammate said.
“Definitely, our freshman class would push him to his limits in Walsh Hall to try to get him to swear,” classmate Carter Rowney said, laughing. “But we never heard it out of him.”
It didn’t take long for his teammates to learn that Knight is not your typical college athlete.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior is a devout Christian, the son of a pastor. He has never tried alcohol and he doesn’t curse.
He’s just a jovial popular teammate on a University of North Dakota team that will close the regular season against Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend.
“There are things he’s sacrificed for his career and his lifestyle,” roommate Joe Gleason said. “It’s pretty cool to see. A lot of people say they’ll do something like that or play the role of Mr. Nice Guy, but he takes it to a different level. He lives every aspect of his life to the fullest.
“He’s made me a better person because of it. I’ve been fortunate enough to live with him for three years. Living with someone like that, hockey aside, makes you think about more important things in life and what kind of person you can be. He’s one of those guys who has that influence on you.”
Knight also may be the best player in the country this season.
He currently ranks third in the nation in points with 44, tied with linemate Danny Kristo.
He’s second in the country with 30 assists. He’s the first player at UND to have two 30-assist seasons since NHL star Zach Parise.
Knight leads the country with 497 faceoff wins — 57 more than anyone else. He already has the school record, breaking previous high marks of Parise, Jonathan Toews and Travis Zajac.
Knight has a plus-16 rating, which is tops on the team and among the 20-best in the nation.
“He’s a two-way player, that’s his strength,” Gleason said, “but he makes some moves and some plays in tight areas that not a lot of people can make. I think his talent is something that’s overlooked in his game. If you watch one practice, you’ll see right away how good his stick is and how many moves he can make.”
Knight is in the midst of his third consecutive 40-point season. He racked up 44 as a sophomore, had 40 as a junior and already has 44 this season. The fifth-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers has turned into more of a set-up man than a goal scorer at UND.
“Trying to find a hole in his game is pretty hard,” Rowney said.
Off the ice, Knight has been one of the most popular players since he arrived on campus, even if his teammates did try to get him to lose his composure and curse.
“Hockey players are known to be bilingual,” Knight said, referring to swearing. “I’m not usually one to use that kind of language. It was definitely funny with the older guys when I got here. They couldn’t believe I didn’t swear. So, it was a shock at first when they were all trying to catch me. They expected me to drop something, but I keep it in the best I can.”
The 22-year-old Knight said he made a decision not to drink a while ago, and that his teammates have respected his decision.
“We’re at the age where we’re men,” Knight said. “Here, guys respect your decisions. If anything, guys have been very supportive of that choice. It’s definitely never been a problem and I’m really appreciative of that. The guys who come through this program care for each other.”
Knight has been UND’s most active member in the community, too. He has logged more community service hours than anyone on the team, volunteering for the Special Olympics, Northlands Rescue Mission, Altru Health System and the Grand Forks Park District.
“I can’t think of one occasion during his time here in our program where he hasn’t treated people, in any walk of life, with respect and done things the right way off the ice,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said.
But don’t mistake his nice, happy-go-lucky personality for him being a pushover on the ice. Knight is one of the most competitive players on the team.
“It’s funny — I talk to other players around the league on off weekends and in the offseason and they can’t stand him,” Gleason said. “They hate playing against him. They think he’s mean. They think he’s physical. He’s hard to stop. He wins every faceoff. It’s funny to get that perception from players around the league, because for us, it’s Nice-Guy Corban, just winning another draw or getting another assist. But for players around the league, I don’t think he’s very well liked.”
Knight arrived at UND under strange circumstances. Because of a late opening on the roster, the coaches called him two days before the start of class and asked him to come to Grand Forks.
And just as quickly as he arrived, the time is winding down on his career at UND. When asked about that after Senior Day, Knight couldn’t hold back tears.
“It’s been the best four years of my life,” Knight said. “It’s been so special. I don’t think I could ever re-pay this program for everything it has done for me.”
Knight says one of the things that he’ll miss the most is going home after class and hanging out with his best friends. He lives in the same building as five of the six seniors.
“I’m going to miss the camaraderie with my classmates,” Knight said.
Even if they are still trying to hear that elusive curse word from him.
“Honestly, I don’t ever remember getting him to swear,” Gleason said. “I’m serious. He’s called me some names before, but there isn’t a time I can remember that happening. That moment has yet to come for me. . . I still have some work to do.”