LONDON -- Amid the cigar smoke, deafening music and general mayhem in the London Knights' dressing room last night, Corey Perry sized up his season.
"There's only one thing left I can do this year -- go out and win the Memorial Cup," he said. "That's our next step. This just proves to everybody that we could do what people put pressure on us to do. They expected us to win the OHL championship, and we did it. We're going to the Cup through the front door."
For the first time in their 40-year history, the Knights captured the OHL title, beating the Ottawa 67's 6-2 before a delirious crowd of 9,090 at the John Labatt Centre. Clad mostly in Knights green, the throng was on its feet with two minutes left and didn't stop cheering until well after captain Danny Syvret was handed the J. Ross Robertson Cup by OHL commissioner David Branch.
The Knights, losers of only nine of 86 games since the 2004-05 season began, won the best-of-seven in five games. Along the way to the final, they set a pile of OHL and Canadian Hockey League records, including a 31-game unbeaten streak to start the season.
Perry was not only named the most outstanding player in the OHL during the regular season, but won the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as the OHL playoff MVP. His fingerprints were also on Canada's gold-medal win at the world junior. All of this came after he signed with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks last September.
But for Perry and Syvret, having their names associated with the first OHL crown in London was enough. Ditto for coach Dale Hunter, who promised an OHL title when he and his brother, Mark, bought the team five years ago.
"It was on everybody's mind," Dale Hunter said. "Forty years is a long time. It's huge for the team and for London, period. We came close a couple of times, but this year we put it all together."
Bryan Rodney, with two goals, Josh Beaulieu, David Bolland, Dan Fritsche and Rob Schremp scored for the Knights. Bryan Bickell and Mark Mancari scored for the 67's, who took some solace in knowing they still qualified for the Memorial Cup, which London is playing host to, beginning this weekend.
"Once you lose in the playoffs, what team gets to keep going?" Ottawa captain Will Colbert said. "We're pretty lucky to have a second chance. I'm proud of everything we have done, but we could have given London a better run."
The Knights, ranked No. 1 in the CHL since the start of the season, will open the tournament against Sidney Crosby and the Quebec league champion Rimouski Oceanic. Ottawa will play the Western league champion Kelowna Rockets, next Sunday.