Amid all the smiling faces in the London Knights dressing room on Sunday night, none beamed brighter than the team's former goalie, Gene Chiarello.
The 26-year-old Sault Ste. Marie native, one of the most popular Knights in team history, congratulated the players on their Memorial Cup win and couldn't wait to kick-start the celebrations.
Chiarello, who endured a battle to beat a brain tumour, paid a visit during Cup week and was seen buzzing through the city on his motorcycle. He looked great and couldn't have been more energized by the Cup triumph.
"I'm the biggest London Knights fan there is," he said. "I'm so happy for the people of London. They have been waiting 40 years for this and I'm glad to be able to be here to watch it."
Chiarello played four seasons here and backstopped the Knights to within one game of a Memorial Cup appearance in 1999. But the team lost the seventh game of the OHL final to Belleville.
After that heartbreaking loss, there was a lingering feeling with Knights fans that might have been the team's best chance to play on major junior hockey's biggest stage at the Cup tournament.
Then came the 2004-05 season.
"I'm so happy to be in the dressing room right now," Chiarello said. "I was in the dressing room in the Soo as a kid when the Greyhounds won it 1993, and it was just like this."
Chiarello, who played three seasons at the University of New Brunswick but had his college career cut short by his battle with cancer, has made plans to enrol this fall at the University of Windsor.
He would have to sit out a year of hockey but his dream is to play again. Those who know him best won't put it past him.
Not many can put anything past Gene Chiarello.