Faith Lutheran showcasing high school game in Las Vegas
As the Vegas Golden Knights continue to push the game forward at the NHL level, Faith Lutheran High School is mirroring that situation at the high school level in Las Vegas.
Now in its second season as a program, the Crusaders play regularly to capacity crowds at City National Arena, the Golden Knights practice facility that is located just two blocks from the school’s campus.
“Getting between 800 and 1000 fans packed around the glass is common at our Friday night home games,” said Faith Lutheran manager of hockey operations Craig Thornton. “Our growth plans are very focused. We have no desire to be the biggest – we are strictly focused on the quality of our product. We have been blessed to have both City National Arena and the Jr. Golden Knights’ support from Day 1.”
Coached by Las Vegas hockey legend and ex-NHL goalie Pokey Reddick and assisted by Joel Blasko and Shane Hnidy, also an ex-NHL veteran, Faith Lutheran has received media attention from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS Sports Radio and Knight Life (the Golden Knights TV pregame show).
“It’s always a little bit harder when you first start a program,” said Reddick. “The second year is a different level. We’re playing a lot of D-I games whereas last year, we played a lot of D-II games. We’ve really been able to see where we’re at this season skating Division I and we’ve held our own, currently above .500. Our biggest goal is to have an all-Faith team where all the players go to the same school. We have about 90 percent of our team this year that attend Faith.
“Having this program is a huge step to seeing the game grow in Nevada. As of right now, we’re trying to do the best we can, and I think that’s working. Craig and I work well together. He handles the off-ice portion of the club, while I handle the teams.”
Thornton noted that getting the Faith program off the ground was an eye-opener for many Las Vegas hockey fans.
“People were very surprised,” said Thornton. “This year, people came and saw 800-1000 people watching a D-I varsity hockey game and said, ‘Wow. This is the real deal, Pokey Reddick really is the coach here, look at all these people, look at those uniforms.’ We take enormous pride in everything we do here. We don’t cut corners in any way. Our attention to detail matters. For instance, our uniforms are made by NHL teams’ manufacturers, and we also put a lot of time and resources into our home games, not just three periods and off the ice. From professional announcers to having full introductions, bringing in live guests singing the national anthem, ice cuts between periods and always four officials, things of this nature give our student-athletes the best experience possible.
“Again, the overall quality of the product is very important to us. Last year, our inaugural season we were gung-ho out of the gate, searching high and low for opponents to skate against. This year, we’re fine-tuning things, and teams as far away as Canada have approached us requesting games.
“Next season, were looking at the possibility of joining the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL). After looking at leagues in Arizona and Utah as well, we feel our program, which skates under the Jr. Knights sanction, would fit well with the ADHSHL. Matt Blanchart runs a quality program.”
Thornton also noted that Faith has mirrored the hockey program of the school’s 40-plus-year reputation.
“What Faith Lutheran offers is a top-notch Christian education in an outstanding academic environment, where over 95 percent of our graduates are accepted to colleges and universities around the country,” Thornton said. “And now, we offer varsity hockey as well.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Feb. 20, 2020)