In it to win it



For many of us, it borders on religion. Every game, no matter the time, the weather, or the other commitments, we’re there watching.

It dictates our mood, bringing us some of our greatest joy and some of our deepest sadness.

At times it really does feel like we live for our sports team.

Here in Vancouver we’re blessed to have some of the most passionate fans around, and as a thoroughbred sports fanatic himself, Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Brad Knighton knows just how important it is to support your team.

“My whole life I’ve grown up around playing sports, watching sports, and going to sports games,” says Knighton, who grew up in Richmond, Virginia. “It’s a big part of my life.”

Away from the soccer world Knighton counts himself as a big fan of the NFL’s New England Patriots. Pats owner Robert Kraft also owns Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution, so when Knighton made the Revolution roster in 2007 after an open tryout, he was more than a little excited.

That thrill went beyond just the thrill of earning his first professional contract. Boston, after all, is renowned as a big time sports town. In the last 10 years the city has seen the Red Sox (MLB), Celtics (NBA), Bruins (NHL), and Patriots (NFL) all win championships.

“It was great being able to go live and play in Boston for three years and to go see, for example, two World Series games,” says Knighton. “And of course, to go see the Patriots play.”

After leaving Massachusetts, Knighton went to play in Philadelphia for the expansion Union, and he remembers the fans in Philly being fantastic that first year.

Still though, after living and playing in a pair of the greatest sport cities in North America, he ranks the people of Vancouver top of his list.

“The fans here are second-to-none, the best that I’ve seen,” praises Knighton, husband to wife Britney and father to 15-month-old daughter Olivia.

That support for the ‘Caps has impressed the shot stopper from day one. When he first arrived the team was coming off a tough inaugural season on the field, but the fans were always there.

“If you can start a culture and winning tradition in a city, obviously the fans are going to come,” says the 6-foot-2 goalkeeper. “But it’s even more impressive when you already have that base when times are tough and the fan support is still going to be there. That’s what you look for in a really strong franchise.”

Knighton is certainly a very proud American, but the move to the Great White North has only continued to foster his deep sports passion.

“Being educated and well rounded in sports is something I pride myself on. Vancouver is a big sports town, whether it be hockey or the BC Lions or us, or anything for that matter, I think a lot of people here are really knowledgeable about sports in general. It’s nice to be able to interact and to talk sports.”

As a man who’s well versed in the world of sports, he knows that internal competition and depth drives a winning team. With that in mind, he knows that having two excellent goalkeepers with he and Joe Cannon can only benefit the ‘Caps. It’s an attitude he says runs throughout the squad.

“Everyone on the team wants to be better than they were the day before. That’s what breeds winning and that’s the mentality that you want to have in any great sports city.”

As far as benchmarks go, he leaves no doubt about his focus. He is here to win trophies, and he emphasizes that he and his teammates are driven for success. No excuses.

“The coaching staff are given the resources that they have to bring in the players that they think fit that mould of a winning team and it’s our job, us as players, to come together and build that winning mentality in the locker room and to show that on the field every weekend.”

With that said, he also recognizes that no matter how hard you try, things don’t always go your way. He mentions 2007 when his Patriots perfect season was ruined in the Super Bowl by a miracle ball-to-helmet catch by Giants receiver David Tyree.

“As they say, it’s a game of inches and you need a bit of luck sometimes. But if you do the small things right and the team and the fans stick together and maintain the same goals, then you’re going to have a winning side no matter what.”