Assistant coach Knight uses own flaws to instill coaching values at Syracuse

first_imgBrendon Knight didn’t have a team to play for.His junior hockey league team had just lost its final game, and there were no Division I college hockey offers waiting for him. So he drove over 2,000 miles across Canada to Calgary and lived with his uncle while working a dead-end job filling orders in a grocery store warehouse.“I just found myself surrounded by my coworkers that had been working at that job for like 15–20 years and I was looking at them saying to myself, ‘I don’t want to end up like these guys,’” Knight said.SUNY-Potsdam assistant coach Jay Green heard Knight wasn’t playing anywhere and called him. Desperate just to play again, Knight accepted the offer.Twenty years later, Knight is in his third season as an assistant with Syracuse. After playing for the Bears, and then for Isle of Wight Raiders in the England Premier League, Knight began his coaching career. At SU, Knight focuses on the forwards and special teams units, including an improved penalty kill unit that has killed off 86 percent of opponent’s power plays in the last six games.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textKnight teaches his players to not make the mistakes that he made when he played. Though he had trouble with listening to coaches when he was younger, as a coach he’s tried to connect with the players and show them they still have a lot to learn.“He does a good job of showing he knows the game and he’s a caring guy,” SU head coach Paul Flanagan said. “I know he’s created a very good bond with (the players) as a group.”Despite being talented, boasting soft hands and an accurate shot, Knight frustrated a lot of coaches.When Knight would slack off during games, his father, John Knight, would yell “hustle” from the stands. But because no one in Quebec knew what the word meant, they thought John Knight was calling his son an asshole.A stubborn Knight thought he knew more than those trying to help him — including his parents and coaches.“If you’re the biggest fish in the pond, you’re not the biggest fish in the ocean,” John Knight said. “But if you’re the biggest fish in the pond, it’s hard to convince the kid to grow.”Too small for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which he was drafted into at 16, Knight wanted to play for a college in the United States.He received letters from D-I programs including Harvard, but unfamiliar with the NCAA recruiting system, Knight thought they were generic letters and he never followed up on the schools’ inquiries.“I wasn’t exactly the hardest worker off the ice,” Knight said. “I didn’t really put in a lot of time. I relied heavily on my so-called talent, I guess, and that only brought me so far.”At the age of 18, Knight wasn’t playing hockey in Calgary and felt that something was missing.So he had his dad shipped his hockey equipment to him and Knight started playing in a local men’s league. For the first time in his life, he started working out. After just nine months, he started playing for SUNY-Potsdam.Success with Potsdam soothed Knight’s relationship with the sport and after college he spent a year playing in England. For the first time in his career, he was put on the penalty kill and asked to be a two-way player, blocking shots for the first time.Knight was planning for another year in Europe when Potsdam called again about a coaching position. Wanting to extend his career with the sport that had consumed his life, Knight retired from playing in 2002 to start his career behind the bench.After three years coaching at Potsdam, then six at Hamilton, Knight made his way to Syracuse in 2012.Now, he tries to use his own strained relationship with coaches and hot shot mentality from his playing career as a cautionary tale to his current players.“I think that’s the biggest mistake with the young hockey players today, they think that they know it all,” Knight said. “And I’m here to tell them that we don’t … I don’t know if it works all the time but hopefully a couple of them understand that.” Comments Published on January 20, 2015 at 12:07 am Contact Jon: jrmettus@syr.edu | @jmettus Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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