Knights have date with history, Hall

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:01 AM ET

One step away from being alone with history.

The London Knights will look to take that step tomorrow night.

A win over the Guelph Storm at the John Labatt Centre will give the Knights the Canadian Hockey League record for the longest undefeated streak.

No more sharing with the Brandon Wheat Kings, who went 29 games without a loss in 1978-79.

The Knights got to 29 with a 5-3 win over the Kitchener Rangers last night. Win tomorrow and it's 30.

History did not come easily to the Knights. They earned it. The Rangers have become a hated rival and are a tough team to play.

The Kitchener Auditorium was bursting at the seams as every nook and cranny held a hockey fan fascinated by the idea of either watching the Knights stretch their undefeated streak or seeing the Rangers make the Knights just another footnote in history.

In the end, the game broke the Knights' way and allowed them to write an unpredictable chapter in junior hockey history.

But nothing as unpredictable as the chapter being written in the life of the Knights' Kelly Thomson.

Last year, he was overweight, unknown and toiling in Tier 2 junior hockey in Sault Ste. Marie.

Some time in the next few days, his stick will be in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Thomson, who has worked hard to stick around in the game, scored the winning goal last night. It was his third goal in three games and his second winner.

He was almost in shock after being told his stick was headed to the Hall of Fame.

"It's beyond me," he said. "I'm speechless."

Knights equipment manager Chris Maton came into the dressing room and asked Thomson for his stick.

"Jeff (Whitfield, a Knights defenceman) said to Mats, 'That's just sick. You can't joke about a thing like that. That's really sick.'

"Me, of all people."

Thomson looked around at his teammates waiting to board the team bus and shook his head.

"If they take my stick, they should take the stick of every player on this team because all those sticks belong in the Hall of Fame," he said.

The atmosphere around the arena was sizzling, more reminiscent of a seventh game of a playoff series than the 29th game of a season.

In fact, the atmosphere was reminiscent of a professional game with scores of agents, television crews and media descending on the arena.

The game was playoff-like. Every puck along the boards sparked a battle. There was clutching, grabbing and stickwork.

Were the Knights ready? Without doubt. They got off the bus facing a slew of television cameras. Since all the talk of records began, every game they've played has been a pressure situation.

It would be too easy to measure the success of this streak in terms of wins and ties. The true rewards will be reaped in May when the Knights participate in the Memorial Cup. They will already be familiar with the glare of the spotlight, the media and the idea of being under the microscope.

Some believe the Knights haven't faced adversity yet. They may not have faced the adversity of a lose- and-out, but what they've accomplished can't be done without responding to difficult situations.

Establishing this kind of streak in any sport is difficult.

But establishing it in junior hockey, where inconsistency is the rule rather than the exception, makes it all the more extraordinary.

Desire has much to do with the success.

"(Dale Hunter) played 19 years in the NHL and he never quit on one shift, let alone a game," said captain Danny Syvret, who fought the flu and spent time between periods vomiting.

You don't put together this kind of streak without overcoming adversity, responding to pressure and paying a price physically and emotionally.

The Knights have done it.

That's why they are within grasp of history.


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