Knights from 40 years get to share OHL title

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

The walls were alive in the London Knights dressing room Saturday night.

The pictures tell a story of 40 years of major junior hockey in this city.

If those pictures could speak, the players would be congratulating this current group of Knights for finally achieving what none who had worn the green and gold had accomplished.

The OHL championship trophy, the J. Ross Robertson Cup, sat in the middle of the room beside the Knights logo that's woven into the carpet.

Trainer Don Brankley, a constant over the past 35 seasons, said this championship is for everyone who's worn the uniform. A number of alumni were at the John Labatt Centre on Saturday.

"That sweater makes it a common denominator for everyone, it doesn't matter when you put it on," Brankley said of the feeling that can be shared by everyone who's played for the Knights.

He said even though there was never a championship until now, the pride has always been there.

"If you played for the London Knights, you're always a London Knight," he said.

"The events we've had over the years, the golf tournaments, the charity events, they can all sit down in one room and they all have the London Knights in common.

"Whether it's Brendan Shanahan (now playing in the NHL) or some guy who works in a factory, to Brendan it doesn't matter, to the other guy it doesn't matter, they're all ex-London Knights.

"They wear it on their sleeve and in their hearts because when they play here it's three really big years in their lives and it's great memories."

Brankley said this will give the players just one more thing to talk about the next time they meet. Many will be in London to participate in Memorial Cup festivities.

"I know from my pro guys they talk junior, they don't talk NHL. Don't get me wrong, the NHL is great, but it's a business.

"When they're here, they're young, they're passionate. They're all broke. They're just kids. A lot of guys have married their girlfriends from here. Half the time when they went out the girlfriends had to pay."

It's easy to see Brankley's passion when he talks.

"Everyone has one thing in common and it's that crest, except for the four years when we had that Mickey Mouse crest (Knightro)," he said.

"I love the green and gold. I did not like that eggplant and whatever (teal). Green and gold is in my heart. I even bled green and gold when we had those colours."

Knights scoring leader Corey Perry said there isn't a day that the players don't look at those pictures on the walls.

"You see Branks, he had the biggest smile on his face," Perry said during Saturday's celebration. "He's been here the longest, 35 years. This is for him and the rest of the guys that used to play here."


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