Wait till next year

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

It was two days before the London Knights were to play in the Memorial Cup final.

In the midst of the media frenzy, excitement and preparation, Mark Hunter was already preparing for next year.

"You appreciate the Memorial Cup when you get to this level," said Hunter, the general manager.

"You see how tough it is and the circumstances these young men have gone through to win. People say it's harder to win than a Stanley Cup and I believe that it is."

As a result, the work never ends. Hunter was preparing for the Knights' mini-camp, which will be held Saturday at the John Labatt Centre.

Hunter expects all the team's draft choices to be there except for fourth-round pick Sam Gagner. Gagner has not yet committed to coming to London and he has other obligations.

Also at the camp will be a number of free agents and invitees. The team expects between 30 and 35 players to attend.

"It's my job to think of next year," Hunter said. "We have to prepare these young men for next year. That's what we do. We have to get the fitness right. They have to get in the right frame of mind for fitness.

"This is my job. I have a responsibility to put on an on-ice product that's good for our fans. We have to make sure they are ready when they step on that ice."

The invitees and draft choices will get an eyeful this weekend. They'll arrive for fitness assessment around 1 p.m. tomorrow.

From 5 to 6:30 p.m. tomorrow, fans will be able to meet and get autographs from the Memorial Cup champions.

Around 7 p.m., team awards will be given out. The event is open to the public.

On Saturday, the players will take to the ice for two sessions from 7:30 till 9 a.m. and from noon until 1:30 p.m.

"From those sessions, we'll put together a fitness program for them," Hunter said. "We also want them to get an idea of what it's like here. We're also recruiting.

"Hopefully young players will see what it's like to win and what they have to do to win."

Season ticket sales brisk

Anyone suspecting there might be a drop in interest in the Knights after this season's successes may have to reassess.

There were approximately 6,600 season tickets sold as of yesterday and the Knights' box office at the JLC was still busy.

There are reports that the team may decide to cap the number of season tickets sold to around 7,000 so that at least 2,000 tickets are available to the general public on a per-game basis.

Burying something in the ice before a major event has become almost standard procedure.

The Knights buried a black medallion in the ice before the Memorial Cup. Only five people knew it was buried. Engraved on the medallion was the Knights logo.

Around the logo were the words "Our Ice, Our Championship, Memorial Cup 2005."

"We didn't want a lot of people to know it was buried there," said trainer Don Brankley. "We're going to frame the medallion."

And what would have happened if the Knights lost?

"We wouldn't have told anyone and just let the medallion get thrown out with the rest of the ice," he said.


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