Las Vegas hockey craze hits Faith Lutheran

Justin Emerson-Las Vegas Sun
Colin Driscoll was all smiles after Faith Lutheran’s inaugural home hockey game earlier this month. Driscoll, a senior, picked up hockey when the Vegas Golden Knights came to town last year. But at his age and with his lack of experience, it would have been virtually impossible for Discoll to make a club or junior team, so when his school announced it was forming the state’s only high school hockey team, he jumped at the opportunity.
“Starting in August, being able to play for my own team and seeing all my friends out there has been just amazing,” he said. “Going through this has taught me a lot, and I’ve been able to play more than I could ever dream of. ”The Crusaders are 3-0-1 on the season and sold out their first home game Dec. 14 at City National Arena. After the Christmas break, they’ll hit the road again for three games before returning to City National to host Utah County Independent-South for a 6:30 p.m. game Jan. 11. It’s all part of a hockey revolution sparked by the Golden Knights.

“It’s something brand new. It’s grassroots,” Faith Lutheran coach Eldon “Pokey” Reddick said. “We’re the first team and actually it’s a great feeling for the community, great for the kids. With the Golden Knights on board, it was just a matter of time.” If Reddick’s name sounds familiar to hockey fans, it’s because he’s a former NHL goalie, playing parts of six seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers. He played with the IHL’s Las Vegas Thunder and has been coaching youth hockey in the valley for 15 years. Faith Lutheran tasked Reddick, who also coaches Faith Lutheran’s middle school team, with creating a hockey development model — from learn-to-skate programs through the high school team. And if the private school realizes its vision, it will be a destination for hockey talent across the country.

“We want to build this to be a national presence where we can procure high-quality hockey players from the East Coast that are looking to go west through our program,” General Manager Craig Thornton said. “When you think of high-end hockey, we want people to go, ‘Oh, Faith Lutheran, Vegas, I’ve heard of that. Big-time hockey program.’”

Once Faith Lutheran took the ice, speculation immediately turned to other schools in the area forming teams and hopes of a high school league.
Bishop Gorman High School, another private school, seems like the obvious choice for the next school to add a team. Bishop Gorman Athletic Director Grant Rice said there was some interest a few years ago in forming a team, but nothing came of it. But that was before the arrival of the Golden Knights.
“With the new interest in hockey in Las Vegas, you never know,” Rice said.

For now, Faith Lutheran is playing schools from Utah and Arizona, with an expanded schedule planned for next season.
The team raised money for travel, uniforms and other needs, through fundraisers, merchandise sales and a $500-per-player fee. The Golden Knights Foundation donated ice time at City National, where the team will play 10 home games and practices.
Perhaps one day, a former Faith Lutheran player will make a college or NHL team. For now, the Crusaders are happy just giving kids a chance to get on the ice and compete. “Faith gave me the opportunity to play, and it’s been amazing,” Driscoll said. “It’s a milestone for us.”