Bring on the Storm. The Green Machine is ready.
After a glorious regular season in which the London Knights set 21 Canadian Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League records, the playoffs finally begin tonight at the John Labatt Centre and the excitement surrounding the team goes up a notch, if possible.
"It's been unreal," said Knights' centre Drew Larman.
"This city is amazing. This rink is amazing. I really want to do well and bring something good to this city."
Larman said losing is "not an option."
The best-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarter-final, against the Guelph Storm, is the first step on the road to the Memorial Cup, which begins May 21 at the JLC with the Knights as hosts.
When the Knights hit the ice tonight, they'll also hit a wall of green.
The team asked fans to wear green at home playoff games and by all accounts, there will be such a sea of green, players may feel a little seasick.
"They'll all be dressed up in green and that will be a little intimidating at first," Knights' defenceman Marc Methot said.
"A lot of us are just really nervous right now."
Green T-shirts with the Knights crest and the words Welcome to the House of Green go on sale this morning at the JLC souvenir store and Source for Sports on Wharncliffe Road.
Source for Sports owner Colin Hopper said every other call to the store since the Knights announced the selling of the shirts for charity last Thursday has been about the shirts.
"This is maybe the biggest thing we've had at our store. We've created a monster, but it's a good monster," said Hopper, who expected "hundreds" of people to stand in line to buy the shirts today.
He expects demand for the 5,000 shirts available will be so high that scalpers might even be selling them tonight to turn a profit.
More shirts will be printed over the weekend, he said.
At the JLC yesterday, the Knights weren't the only ones prepping for the game.
Vince Vella, the facility's director of operations, and two of his staff were also in playoff mode as they talked about the ice condition and updating the 112 1,000-watt bowl lights that encircle the rink.
"It's the time of year we're all waiting for," he said. "Hopefully, we can contribute to the team in some small way."
Across King Street, Frank Guercio, manager of La Casa, was also excited about the start of playoffs.
He expects his restaurant to be as busy as it has been every night the Knights played this season.
"It's 10 per cent at least, if not more, of an increase because of the success of our fabulous team," Guercio said.
"There's a great buzz in the air. It's beautiful to watch."
Guercio said while he hasn't had to bring in extra staff on game nights, he has hired more people to work during the Memorial Cup.
At Everything Tea on Talbot, Martha McAlister said she's also been reaping the benefits of the Knights' success at attracting crowds, even though she's closed by game time.
"People coming to the games are looking in the window and if they see something they like, they come back.
"I think it's positive for the whole of London."