Vote snubs Knights boss

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

The Ontario Hockey League snubbed a record-breaking season -- which included only seven losses in the regular season -- when naming its executive of the year yesterday.

London Knights general manager Mark Hunter, who has built what many are saying is one of the best teams in major junior history, lost out to Owen Sound Attack GM Michael Futa.

The Free Press learned the vote went 3-2 for Futa.

Voting is conducted by the league's executive council, which consists of commissioner David Branch; Sarnia Sting co-owner Robert Ciccarelli, who chairs the league's board of governors; Brampton Battalion owner Scott Abbott; Erie Otters managing partner Sherry Bassin; and Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt.

Futa is the league's nominee for Canadian Hockey League executive of the year, which will be announced during the CHL awards luncheon on Tuesday at the Hilton Hotel, part of the Memorial Cup festivities.

Hunter's brother Dale was named OHL coach of the year in voting by the coaches and GMs and is a nominee for the CHL award, which he won last year.

Mark Hunter won OHL executive of the year last year.

"You have people who pick it and you know Dale and I well enough by now to know we don't lose a lot of sleep over something like this," Mark Hunter said.

"Mike Futa is a great guy. There's not much more to say."

Futa was selected after the Attack had a franchise-best 40-18-7-3 season, finishing second overall -- 30 points behind the Knights.

One source, who asked not to be identified, suggested there's a mentality in the OHL "that we can't give them (the Knights) everything" when it comes to awards.

Besides Dale Hunter's coach of the year, Corey Perry was named the league's most outstanding player and Danny Syvret top defenceman.

Perry and Syvret are also nominees for the CHL awards.

Players were surprised that their GM wasn't honoured, with everything taken into consideration -- such as the CHL record 31-game unbeaten streak, best winning percentage in CHL history, most wins in OHL history, fewest goals against, fewest road losses, most shutouts . . . and the list goes on.

"Are you serious?" said Rob Schremp. "Mr. Futa is a good GM, but Mark Hunter has put together one of the best teams in junior hockey. He won it last year and I think he did twice the job this year.

"Maybe they gave it to Mr. Futa because Mark won last year. Maybe that's what they're going on, but I don't agree with it."

Syvret, the Knights captain, looked on the bright side.

"You can't win every award," he said.

"We're going for the big team award. Individual awards are good for the individual that receives them, but it's an entire team that makes a single player better.

"It's tough to just look at single awards right now when we still have the Memorial Cup ahead of us.

"Mark has put together a great organization and Mr. Futa is just starting to do that in Owen Sound."

The Knights were back on the ice yesterday, preparing for their Memorial Cup opener on Saturday night against the Rimouski Oceanic.

Goalie Adam Dennis, who tweaked his groin during the OHL championship series against the Ottawa 67's, didn't participate in the regular workout but did skate before the others went on.

He was in net for Monday's optional practice.

"He's OK," Dale Hunter said.

A decision will likely be made tomorrow on who will start in goal against the Oceanic.


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