Gene Chiarello drew the biggest cheer at the John Labatt Centre last night, proving London Knights fans haven't forgotten his goaltending in 1999. Chiarello, now 25, backstopped the Knights that year to within one win of reaching the Memorial Cup for the first time in franchise history.
The Knights will finally make it this season -- their 40th anniversary -- as host team.
"I'd like to congratulate the big green machine for their run this year," Chiarello told the crowd during a pregame ceremony in which he represented the Knights alumni in presenting a cheque for $14,963.25 to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
The money was raised at a summer golf tournament.
Chiarello has battled a brain tumour but received a clean bills of health Oct. 21 and last Tuesday following his second surgery July 9.
He's returned to his studies at the University of New Brunswick, where he's also playing hockey again.
"I never thought I would graduate. Now I'm graduating in the springtime with a history degree," he said during a visit to the press box.
The Sault Ste. Marie native plans to pursue a master's in education degree.
Leafs TV was following Chiarello last night for a one-hour documentary that will air at a later date.
He spoke to the crowd of walking into the old Ice House as a 17-year-old rookie.
"I saw three banners hanging from the rafters -- Darryl Sittler, Rob Ramage and Brad Marsh. I made a promise to myself that whether I was here for four weeks or for 40 years, I want people to remember me.
"Through all the trials and tribulations I've faced, I've realized the people here have remembered me, and that's very important to me."