Worth wait in green and gold

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

It didn't take the London Knights long to figure out they had something special.

Just how special, though, they're continuing to learn.

The first inkling came during preseason dryland training. David Meckler was a 19-year-old American from Yale who decided his best chance at playing in the NHL was to come to the OHL.

Meckler arrived in great shape. During one of those timed runs, he was one of the fastest to finish when he noticed some others were struggling. Back he went on the course to encourage them, to run with them, to offer his support.

A month later, the Knights picked Meckler as an alternate captain, quite an honour for a guy who was a newcomer.

The Knights choose well. Not only has Meckler become a vital part of their success because of his all-round ability, he's the consummate team player.

If the unexpected happens and he doesn't get a chance to crack the Los Angeles Kings organization next season, he'd be favoured to take over the captaincy from his roommate Rob Drummond.

"That's how I was taught . . . team first," Meckler said.

"I was taught if you want to have a good team, you have to be close and believe in each other. It's not only playing with each other, but be best friends off the ice."

Meckler has repaid this team time and again. If he was on the Antiques Roadshow, he'd be the item that someone purchased for $100, only to find out it's real worth is $100,000.

Sam Gagner and Pat Kane got most of the offseason signing publicity, and deservedly so. But without Meckler, the Knights would have had a massive hole in their lineup impossible to fill.

Power forwards who can score are a precious commodity.

Meckler leads the OHL in playoff goals with 13. When the Knights were struggling against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he was a vocal leader off the ice and lead by example on the ice.

Meckler was scoring big goals, blocking shots, killing penalties, or doing a lot of the dirty work in the corners.

He's cut from a different cloth. He played a year a Yale before being drafted by the Kings. Leaving school to come to the OHL was not an easy decision. He was interested in entering medicine. He had the marks. He made the all-academic Ivy League team while at university.

"I want to become a surgeon," he said. "I've always been interested in medicine and surgery.

"I'm going back to school whenever hockey is over. Either medical school or law school, depending on my age, but I'm going back."

Education is big on the Meckler family agenda.

Both parents are lawyers. His mother retired after giving birth to his sister, but his father is a partner in one of the biggest and most prestigious law firms in Meckler's home town of Chicago.

Meckler's dad represented former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Mike Smith in a contract dispute with the team.

"He's with a well-known firm but I don't know about any of his cases," Meckler said. "He leaves his work at the office."

But he's Meckler's most supportive fan. No matter where he plays, dad gets to all the games.

"When I came here, I didn't think there was any way he would make every game, but he surprised me. It's an amazing feeling to have that kind of support from him."

And Meckler wants to clear up one misconception. His family does not own a plane.

"One of his partners in the law firm, who is a great friend of his, is a pilot and owns his own plane," Meckler said. "He loves to fly and flies my dad around.

"I'd love to have a plane. My dad wishes he had a plane. He has to fly commercial."

Meckler admits leaving school was the "hardest decision I ever made."

"It took about a month. We exhausted the issue to make the right decision. Now, 75 games and deep into the playoffs, it should have been the easiest decision in my life. It should have been a no-brainer. My only regret is I did not come here when I was younger."

The Hunters are probably sorry about that as well.

Meckler is having the time of his life. He's been accepted with "open arms." He lives in a house with Drummond and their two cats, Ice and Puck.

Who cleans?

"We share duties down the middle," Drummond said.

Who cooks?

"We have KD every once in a while," Drummond said.

"But we just bought a barbecue," Meckler said. "We have hamburgers and hot dogs. We're working our way up to chicken and steaks."

Who does the laundry?

"Branks," they said together of longtime Knights trainer Don Brankley.

Meckler's focus is now on the Plymouth Whalers. The Knights and Whalers open the Western Conference final tonight at the John Labatt Centre.

"This will truly test our team," Meckler said. "We got through the last series (with the Greyhounds) by playing good a couple of periods, taking a couple of periods off.

"It's not going to work against Plymouth. We have to put the first period in Game 7 and the third period in Game 7 together and play like that for 60 minutes every game. If we do that and play with desperation, we can win the series.

"I don't want this to end. Game 7 the other night, I was worried because this is the best time of my life and I want it to go on forever. It's been amazing."


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