Knights moving into hotel for tourney

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

The Memorial Cup is more than five weeks off and, after sweeping the Windsor Spitfires last night, the London Knights will be getting their hotel reservations in early.

That's right, hotel reservations. The host team will act just like the other three teams during the May 20-29 tournament by moving out of their billets and staying in a downtown hotel within walking distance of the John Labatt Centre.

Like the other teams, they will bus to and from practice at the Western Fair Sports Centre.

In the past, some host teams have sought to escape the hubbub surrounding the national junior final by getting out of town and busing in for games and practices. The Knights are going to be just like everyone else.

There are two ways of looking at it, coach Dale Hunter says, each with merits.

Moving to cottage country might provide a calming atmosphere, but that could be at the expense of what he wants to engender in the team.

"We want them to experience all the excitement of the Memorial Cup. All the tents and the atmosphere, we want them to get a feel for it all."

It's for that reason the players will be in the hotel.

"The hotel is part of it. We want to give them the full experience," Hunter said. "There are two ways of looking at it (solitude or excitement), but we feel they'll get the most out of it this way."

In the past, both junior and NHL teams have opted for taking sanctuary at some remote locale during important series.

The theory is that removal of as many distractions as possible will help players focus and bond as a team.

The flip side is that if a team hasn't bonded by the end of a long season, a break in the boonies won't do it.

When his Peterborough Petes were in the Memorial Cup in Montreal, coach Gary Green hustled the team out of town to a Laurentians resort to escape. It made some sense to move teenagers out of Montreal in the mid-'70s.

But if you ask the players, unless they are avid bird-watchers or enjoy being among the flora and fauna, they'd rather be where the action is.


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