Championship a fairy-tale story

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

A storybook season never has enough storybook endings.

It would have been a disappointment had there not been one on the night the London Knights finally won an Ontario Hockey League championship.

As they have all season, the Knights didn't disappoint.

A London native was the catalyst in a 6-2 win over the Ottawa 67's. Bryan Rodney scored two goals and added an assist.

He was one of the first players to clutch the J. Ross Robertson Cup after it was handed to team captain Danny Syvret. Rodney took it, lifted it over his head and kissed it.

"The first time I won it, it was with Ottawa and I never grabbed the cup then," Rodney said. "I thought I was going to get back there. Little did I know how hard it was going to be. I was fortunate enough to get that chance again. It was overwhelming when I got to grab the cup."

London exorcised a 40-year-old demon. It's been a history that has seen them win precious few titles. Now an OHL championship banner will fly in the John Labatt Centre.

As the Knights stretched out their lead to 6-2 in the third period, when there was no longer any doubt about the result, the building took on a raw energy. The players on the bench couldn't sit, willing the time to fly by. Two minutes from the end the fans gave the Knights a standing ovation. It lasted through stoppages of play, gained in intensity with the announcement of one minute left in the game. With 19 seconds left the players on the bench removed their helmets and began hugging each other. From 9.18 p.m., when the final buzzer went, until 9.25 p.m., when commissioner Dave Branch began the awards presentation, the JLC thundered with an ovation.

"It was an unbelievable feeling," said Brandon Prust. "I wish I could have taken the cup and skated around the rink, looking at everybody in here. But I went over to where my parents are in my family section and raised it up to them. It was pretty unbelievable."

There is one more plateau to climb to truly complete this storybook season. That begins next weekend when the Knights join the Rimouski Oceanic, Kelowna Rockets and the 67's in the Memorial Cup tournament here.

But that's later. For now they will bask in the joy of having achieved their goal of going into the Memorial Cup by the front door.

"When you play on a bad team that hasn't made the playoffs in two or three years, it's a different feeling when you're expected to win every game," said Rodney, who came from the Kingston Frontenacs before the season started. "The fact we finished off the season by winning the OHL championship is that much sweeter."

Since the Knights returned home with a 3-1 lead in the series, the anticipation, the desire for a win at home, has been almost excruciating.

Knights forward Kelly Thomson is a Londoner. His journey to the championship has taken as many turns as the Knights have found ways to lose in the past. Last year Thomson was an overweight, underachieving player playing Tier II with the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds. He was as far from the big time as anyone could be. Today he is a member of an OHL champion.

"For a franchise to be around 40 years and not to have won it, to do it in our barn, to be from London and be a part of this is something special," said Thomson. "I know all the guys from London are going to take a lot of pride in it. We know how much of a hockey city this is and how long people have been waiting for it."

Just another fairy-tale story in season of fairy-tales.

"That's exactly what it is, a fairy-tale," said Rodney. "It's hard to believe right now."

To those who waited all that time, it still may be unbelievable. But it happened, it's real. The Knights and the city earned the right to enjoy it.


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