'Champs' still has a ring to it

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

We're just about there, just about at the end of the ceremonies for the Memorial Cup champion London Knights.

Yesterday, the Knights participated in their golf tournament. Last night, Mark and Dale Hunter, the majority owners of the Knights, presented team membrers with their championship rings.

After a spring and summer of ceremony and celebration, all that's left is the raising of championship banners at the John Labatt Centre and that will probably happen Sept. 23, the Knights' Ontario Hockey League home opener.

The top of the ring has the words Memorial Cup Champions 2005 around it. In the centre is a replica of the Memorial Cup studded in diamonds. One side of the ring is the ring owner's name and number and position and the Knights logo.

The other side will have OHL Champions with the numbers 79-9-2 representing the Knights overall record and 29-0-2 which is the Canadian Hockey League record established by the Knights for going most games without a defeat from the start of a season.

There will be 55 rings handed out.

The cost, at least for now, will remain a secret.

But there was some bad news for the Knights during the day's celebrations. Sam Gagner, the Knights fourth-round selection in the OHL draft, has decided to play in Sioux City in the United States Hockey League.

The Knights have been working Gagner hard. The 16-year-old forward, the son of former NHL player Dave Gagner, would have gone much sooner in the draft, but teams were worried he wouldn't report. The Knights didn't have a second or third round pick. They took Cory Syvret in the first round.

"I talked to him and he's going to play in Sioux City and then see what's going to happen," said Mark Hunter. "He may wind up going to university or he may come here and play. But this year he's definitely not coming here. It hurts. There aren't many 16-year-olds who can do well in this league, but he was one of them."

Just how much rebuilding the Knights do will depend a great deal on the overage players who come back. They did a lot of wheeling and dealing with young players and draft choices to become the dominant team they were last year.

Most people believe that Danny Syvret, despite not being signed yet by the Edmonton Oilers, will eventually wind up with their American Hockey League team. One position the Knights believed they wouldn't have to worry about was in net with either Gerald Coleman or Adam Dennis coming back. Coleman has signed with Tampa Bay. Dennis was supposed to be back as an over-age player, but he was a surprise draft of the Buffalo Sabres. If Dennis sticks, the Knights are into a major rebuilding job.

"We expect to have Rob Schremp and Dave Bolland back as well, but you just never know," said Hunter.

Drew Larman, a solid defensive centre who was one of the Knights hardest working players, earned an invitation to the Florida Panthers rookie camp.

"Mike Keenan (Panthers general manager) loves tough, position players, so I'm just going to go work as hard as I can and try to make an impression," said Larman. "I knew if I worked hard, I'd get a shot somewhere."

As for the Memorial Cup?

"I got to spend a few days with it," he said. "It was great. I took it to my billet's house, showed my friends. One night I even slept with it. When you work that hard for something, you might as well enjoy it."


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