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A self-described “Army brat,” Walleye forward Pat Knowlton didn’t exactly grow up in a hockey hotbed.
Knowlton, 26, said his father Jim served in the military, and the family moved every year or two. The one constant for Pat and his four brothers was hockey.
“We lived in places like Kansas, North Carolina, and Virginia where hockey isn’t big at all,” Knowlton said.
“But my dad would drive us an hour-and-a-half to practice if he had to. We all played hockey.”
Knowtlon’s father played hockey at West Point, and only a shoulder injury derailed a similar path for Pat, the second-oldest son in the family.
“Hockey is what I always wanted to do,” said Knowlton, who was signed by Toledo on Jan. 9.
The forward’s path in pro hockey career has been equally transient. Knowlton, who was born in Colorado Springs, Colo., has played for five teams in five different states during his three-year career.
Before landing in Toledo, Knowlton’s most recent stop was in Florida, where he was playing for the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the lower-tier Southern Professional Hockey League.
“I lived a relaxed life down there,” Knowlton said. “I’d hit the beach every day. Skimboarding was a pregame routine.”
Knowlton had already enjoyed a productive season in the SPHL. He scored 15 goals and notched 13 assists in 26 games.
At the time, Toledo was essentially looking for bodies to fill out a roster that had been raided by call-ups to the American Hockey League after the settlement of the NHL lockout.
The Walleye happened to be on a three-game road trip in Florida at the time.
“One morning I got a call from my agent saying I was going to play in Toledo,” Knowlton said. “They said get your gear and head out. It was a little crazy for me.
“I didn’t know anything about Toledo. It was a leap of faith.”
The Walleye signed Knowlton, along with a defenseman and forward, in what was expected to be a stopgap measure.
Knowlton had an assist in his first game in a Walleye uniform and had another helper in his third game.
“I thought I played pretty well and the coaching staff agreed,” Knowlton said. “It worked out great. I couldn’t be in a better situation. This is what I live for — playing at the highest level I can play at.”
Knowlton has 11 points in 20 games with Toledo with two goals and nine assists. Knowlton also played in the ECHL in Gwinnett and Colorado. “I’ve played in a lot of barns and they do it right in Toledo,” he said.
Knowlton also found himself thrust into the middle of a playoff race. With 16 games left in the regular season, the Walleye (30-19-7) have 67 points and sit sixth in the Eastern Conference. The top eight of the 14 teams qualify for the postseason.
“It’s exciting to be a part of this,” Knowlton said. “It will be a nail-biter. Only eight teams will make it, so every point is going to count. This is what you play the game for.”
Toledo, in second place in the North Division, lost ground on first-place Cincinnati with a 2-1 overtime loss at home on Sunday. The Walleye went 1-1-1 during a three-game homestand, collecting three of the available six points.
“The results weren’t what we wanted, but we’re playing good hockey,” Knowlton said. “We know how hard we have to work. Every guy in the room wants to win every game. I think we’ll get hot down the stretch, and we’ll go into the playoffs in good position.”
Knowlton is in only the second full year of his pro career after playing in college at Sacred Heart University. He served as a captain there and averaged more than a point per game in 2009-10 with 13 goals and 26 assists in 37 games.
Knowlton had committed to go to West Point but a torn labrum in his shoulder required surgery.
“It ended up changing my route,” Knowlton said. “Now I don’t want to take anything for granted. I love being in Toledo. There’s no better place to play. This has opened doors for me. I’m living a dream.”
FISH TALES: Toledo will play four games in five days this week. The Walleye are on the road today at Fort Wayne and Thursday at Evansville before returning home on Saturday and Sunday. ... Forward Trevor Parkes and goalie Jimmy Spratt rejoined the team Tuesday after being reassigned. Both were sent down from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. ... Parkes has appeared in three games with the Walleye, notching two goals and two assists. Parkes, a native of Fort Erie, Ontario, has skated in 34 games with Grand Rapids this season, posting three goals and six assists. ... Spratt, who signed a player tryout agreement Sunday with Grand Rapids, has appeared in one game for Toledo. He has a 2.98 goals-against average. ... This weekend the organization is holding its annual “Pink in the Rink” event to raise money and awareness about breast cancer. The players will wear pink jerseys that will be auctioned off following the game, the ice surface will be painted pink, and the first 2,000 fans will receive pink glow wands.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.