Knights all business in goals department

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

It's a small thing in the overall scheme of things, but like a lot of tiny twists, the impact is large.

We refer to the London Knights' approach to celebrating a goal.

Less is more.

Like all OHL teams, the Knights' postgoal rite used to be for the on-ice guys to swoop past their bench and high-five their mates. But after former Knight (and three-time Stanley Cup winner) Brendan Shanahan took them to dinner, all that changed.

"He told us we can be different, that we don't have to do that," Corey Perry said. "So, we don't."

Instead, the Knights quickly acknowledge each other and skate back to centre ice for the faceoff, much like Shanahan's Detroit Red Wings.

The absence of a postgoal palm-pounding accomplishes a few things. First, it sends a pretty strong message to the opponent.

When they skate right back to get play resumed, they appear to be all business.

If you're the opponent, seeing the high-powered Knights lining up quickly to resume has to create some feelings of angst.

And, considering some of the runaway scores the Knights have inflicted on opponents, it also helps remove accusations they're rubbing it in.

Moreover, when a team that scores as often as the Knights eliminates the celebration, games don't take as long.

The owners don't mind that. And they don't mind the different style the no-high-fives move brings to the team.

"Nobody wants to gloat," coach Dale Hunter says.

Let's face it. The Knights are different from all other junior teams in the country. The workmanlike approach to getting back into action lends another element of class.

When a team as successful as the Knights is humming along, you tend to look at the little things that make them that way. The major things -- their offence and defence, power play, penalty-killing and goaltending -- present a sound and seamless force.

But small incidents such as the presence of mind shown by Perry help define the team. During a game against the Peterborough Petes, he played a shift with an opponent's stick.

The Knights were killing a penalty and defenceman Dan Syret broke his stick. Perry handed him his, as all good forwards are instructed to do.

But when Perry skated out toward a Petes point man, he seized the opportunity. During the point man's follow-through on the shot, Perry snatched the stick out of his hands, completed the shift and slid it toward the Petes bench when he skated off.

Incidents like that tend to grow in legend. The day may come when the story will have the Knights' leading scorer informing the shocked Petes defenceman as he snatched his stick, "I'll take that. I can handle it a bit better than you."

Trainer Don Brankley might be wondering whether his guys should snatch some more sticks, and a few sweaters, too.

Now in his 35th season with the team, he has never seen such a demand for autographed sticks and jerseys.

In fact, there has been such a demand that Brankley has had to open up an unused dressing room at the John Labatt Centre to organize the memorabilia for shipment to all the charities and individuals wanting them.

Brankley, who has missed just four games in that span due to duties with Canada's national junior team, has never seen anything like it.

Mind you, he has never seen anything like what he has been seeing on the ice from this record-smashing team, either. Not many others have, for that matter.


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