Ring would cap scout's long career

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

After 33 years of scouring the province for junior hockey players, London Knights chief scout John McDonald is still looking for his first Memorial Cup ring.

Sure, he was part of Hamilton's Cup-winning club in 1976 as the team's Ottawa-area scout, but the champion Fincups gave their promising, young bird dog a watch instead of a ring.

McDonald still wears the old Fincups ticker with "1976 Memorial Cup champions" engraved on the back.

"They had rings back then, but I don't know what happened," the 72-year-old retired detective grinned.

"The Memorial Cup was in Montreal that year. I didn't get a ring but I had the time of my life there.

"It was a great week."

The Fincups -- coached by the late Bert Templeton and including future NHLers Dale McCourt, Al Secord, Willie Huber and Ric Seiling -- beat the New Westminster Bruins 5-2 in the final that year. It was the second straight trip to the then three-team tournament for the Western champion Bruins, who went on to win the Cup in 1977 and '78.

"New Westminster had Barry Beck on defence," McDonald said. "We had some real skilled players like McCourt. I don't want to say the hockey is better now than it was then, but the players are certainly bigger and faster today. It's still the same in terms of a team that has made it this far must have a lot of character because that's what it takes to get to the Cup."

It also takes good fortune.

McDonald went on to scout five years for Ottawa but the 67's were mired in a Memorial Cup drought during his tenure. He also built the foundation for the Belleville Bulls' Cup appearance in 1999 by drafting stars Justin Papineau and Ryan Ready, but he had moved on by the time the team matured and beat London in seven games to qualify.

"I know it's not easy to get to the Cup. This is my second now and I consider myself lucky," McDonald said.

"I know it doesn't happen every year."

The Knights' 12-man scouting staff will be at the tournament this week, a reward for their efforts in helping build the team.

"It's always a great feeling to get to go because it means you're winning," McDonald said.

"There's not much you can do now but watch -- the draft is over -- but it's nice to be here."

McDonald has been to only four Cups -- the two where he worked for the teams involved and a couple others in his hometown.

"I went when it was in Ottawa and Hull and a few others in the area but I don't travel around when it's out West or in Quebec," he said.

If the Knights can pull out a Cup victory, McDonald will have earned that long-sought first ring.


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