Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Knights

I certainly can’t allow the hometown team’s awesome Memorial Cup victory to go by without mention!  Growing up with the London Knights, my generation remembers the low point in Knights (and perhaps hockey) history in the mid-90’s.  They played in the ‘Ice House,’ a dilapidated arena in the back of a shopping mall on the outskirts of town near the highway.  One season they won, literally, just three games and lost 60.  (With three ties!  Remember when hockey had ties!)  They were an absolute joke of the franchise until they were purchased by the Hunter brothers.  I can only presume Pierre Turgeon was preparing to make a bid until Dale cross-checked him from behind at the boardroom conference table.

Over the last 15 years or so, the Knights morphed into laughingstock to the class of junior hockey.  The team is always competitive, always pumping out top NHL prospects, always selling out the Budweiser Gardens*, and putting London firmly on the hockey map.  The Knights won squat until the Hunters took over, and now they’ve won four OHL titles in the last 11 seasons and two Memorial Cups.

* = say what you will about the folly of cities funding private sports stadia, but in London’s case, it actually worked.  The London downtown was deader than dead for decades until the Gardens revitalized the area.

In a way, this Memorial Cup was even more impressive than the first title in 2005.  The CHL awards the Memorial Cup to a host city every year and, to ensure local interest, automatically gives the host city a spot in the four-team tournament.  Now, while the CHL picks a strong team for hosting duties so it’s not a total competitive farce, I’ve always seen this as pretty weird.  How can the hosting team be expected to keep up the intensity over an entire season when they know for a fact that their whole year will come down to 3+ games in six months’ time? 

Regardless, I wasn’t complaining when London hosted the Cup in 2005 and the Knights won it.  Still, this time around, the Knights properly won the OHL playoffs and advanced to Red Deer, where they utterly stomped their way through the round-robin matches with a 3-0 record and a 20-5 edge in goals.  The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies gave them a big scare in the final, yet the Knights pulled through with an overtime victory. 

•_•)  I guess you could say the Knights….
( •_•)>⌐■-■
(⌐■_■) ….ruined Noranda.

So here the Knights are, CHL champs once more.  If that wasn’t enough, the Knights’ best player is Mitch Marner, a Maple Leafs draft pick who ran roughshod over the league this year and is poised to eventually be making his way up to the big club.  Can Marner take some of the Knights magic to Toronto to revive the Leafs?  I think we can all agree that Nazem Kadri tried and failed, so it’s time for another Knight to ride into the kingdom.

This is easily the most exciting thing to happen in London since the Thames River became five percent less toxic.

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