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IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
12/11/2013 - 2:00pm

By Craig Rybczynski -- Away from the clanking of cowbells and the chanting of the capacity crowd, Tim Knab shared a special moment in the vacated hallways of The Blue Cross Arena. As Cody Jamieson notched the ninth goal of the night to clinch the 2012 National Lacrosse League Championship, Tim knelt down and hugged his son, Dylan.

“Just seeing him, when I knew we had sealed the deal and finally won a championship in Rochester, is something I hope every parent can share with their child if they are interested in the sport,” said Tim. “Seeing it happen in front of you and sharing that together is one of the things I will always remember.”

“They were hugging each other and it was so touching,” said Jen Knab about the 9-6 win over Edmonton in 2012. “The emotion on both of their faces was just amazing. I was in tears because we finally won at home and for seeing the passion in their embrace.”

“Knabber,” as he is known around lacrosse circles, has shared that passion with his family, but also thousands of Knighthawks fans. For over 20 seasons, he has pulled on his no. 95 jersey, painted his face, and headed to The Blue Cross Arena to cheer for his favorite sports team, the Rochester Knighthawks.

“The first couple of games we had a team here I knew it was going to be what it is today,” he said. “Twenty years of amazing talent four or five months a year.”

His support for the team, however, goes well beyond clothing and season tickets. He founded the team’s fan club, the Khawks Krew, in 1997, which he still operates to this day. One year later, he was making his radio debut as the co-host of the longest running fan-run show in the NLL, “Hawk Talk.”

The show, founded by Eric “Gonzo” Driscoll, has featured NLL Commissioner George Daniel and some of the greatest names in lacrosse such as John Grant Jr., Casey Powell, Matt Vinc and Cody Jamieson. Through the show, Knabber has developed personal relationships with many of the players. Of course, he has his favorites like Knighthawks Hall of Famers Pat O’Toole, Duane Jacobs, Regy Thorpe and Randy Mearns, along with Grant, Matt Riter, Casey Zaph and Kevin Dance. Craig Point and Vinc rank among his current favorites. It’s a special relationship that O’Toole articulated in his NLL Hall of Fame speech Saturday.

“We most definitely fed off his energy. We all play the game and to come to the rink with all the support, when was an incredible feeling and made it a lot more fun,” said O’Toole. “Knabber was the leader of that with painting his face and getting the crowd pumped up.”

As the National Lacrosse League’s back-to-back champions celebrate their milestone season, Knab has his own memories as a fan from the inaugural season. He was much younger then, as was the professional indoor league, which was then known as the Major Indoor Lacrosse League. Knabber was one of the first Knighthawks fans when the team was announced in 1994.

“You knew these were the best players in the world, suiting up in the town that’s not normally used to seeing major league talent,” said Knab as he reminisced about the first game in January 1995. “It was amazing with the speed of the game and the scoring, and how the crowd naturally took to it,” he said. “The team responded to the fans in the stands and that’s what really got me addicted the first couple of games. Seeing that up close and the volume of pure talent is what really got my heart pumping. It’s been 20 plus years now.”

The 1997 championship still remains one of the greatest games in Knighthawks history. That game, Rochester went in the Marine Midland Arena and shutdown the mighty Buffalo Bandits 15-12 to win their first indoor title. Knabber was there as Rochester raised the Cup in only its third year in existence.

“It was a relief. In ’95, I didn’t get to make it to Philly (for the Finals). That was an amazing game that we lost in overtime, and then in ’96 Buffalo tripped us up. In 1997, to finally have a chance at a little revenge and to win in Buffalo – obviously it’s a natural rivalry being 60 miles apart – taking a victory out of that building was amazing. They were the class of the league. I knew then when we took that championship that we belonged in this league.”

He has seen hundreds of games and watched all eight of the team’s championship games. Yet, one game night in particular still stands out. The date was March 29, 2003, and the Knighthawks were hosting the rival Buffalo Bandits. Rochester took down the Bandits 18-9, but that was only part of the storyline. It was during the halftime promotion that the crowd witnessed something truly unique. Knabber made sure it was a game that Jen would never forget.

“I was shocked. I had no clue. At the end of the competition, Tim just grabbed the mic and started talking. Half the stuff I wasn’t even listening to, but then he turned around and said ‘I promised her I would never do this,’ dropped to his knee, and asked me to marry him. I was absolutely stunned. The answer was yes, of course.”

“It’s probably the most nervous I have ever been, knowing that so many people were pulling for it to come together. I pulled a necklace out that said ‘Will you marry me.’ When I pulled the ring out of my pocket she knew what was happening,” added Tim. “It was the best way and only way that I wanted to do that was in front of our lacrosse family.”

In 2006, Tim and Jen added to their own lacrosse family with the birth of Dylan. He has grown up in a household that includes two rabid Knighthawks fans. The Knab’s townhouse in Webster stands as a shrine to one of the world's oldest sports and their beloved Knighthawks. From oversized team championship photos in the man cave, to team bobbleheads and autographed lacrosse balls that fill his entertainment center, the house has all the memorabilia of a true Knighthawks fan.

It’s only appropriate then that Dylan now runs through the stands with his dad and high-fives the fans. He has thrown purple and teal beads in the crowd, appeared in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with the team and walked the corridors of the BCA in full Knighthawks regalia.

“It’s amazing to have him share the same (game) and to be just as enthusiastic for the same game as we love is awesome,” said Jen. “On game day he wakes up in the morning and the first thing out of his mouth is ‘it’s Knighthawks Day.’ It’s great that he loves it as much as we do.”

You always think in the back of your head that you want your kids to love what you love, but you want them to love what they want to love as well. Seeing how he has adopted my passion for the sports and the Knighthawks is everything I could ask,” said Tim.

These days, the Knabs have a lot to cheer about as the team has won back-to-back NLL titles for the first time in franchise history.

“It’s absolutely amazing. We had a chance to do it in the past in 1999 and 2000. Now it’s our time and I am living on top of the world,” said Knab. “No one can take those away from us. Little ol’ Rochester are the back-to-back champions and the best players in the world play here. We are truly the best in the world.”


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