London Knights fans, clad with jerseys, foam fingers, and all around green attire welcomed home the team, 24 hours after their heart-stopping overtime win for the Memorial Cup.
The Knights landed just after 4 p.m. Monday and rode the team bus down Oxford St. and south on Richmond St., complete with a police escort, to Victoria Park.
Hundreds of fans waited patiently, but couldn’t contain themselves for when the Knights stepped off the bus.
Co-captains Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak carried the Memorial Cup in to the bandshell at Victoria Park.
Coach Dale Hunter spoke to the Knights’ faithful, garnering cheers every time he stopped for a breath.
“We started off a little slow, but we came back and beat Owen Sound. And then everybody though Kitchener was going to beat us, and we swept them. Then Erie beat us in the last game to win first place, but we swept them too in the playoffs. Then we were playing Niagara, they were supposed to be bigger and tougher than us, but we swept them too.”
Hunter called the Memorial Cup final “the game of all games,” saying it may go down as one of the best in the tournament’s history.
“It was a heck of a game. Posts, I got more grey hair because of it,” he said. “But the kids dug deep. When you’re down a goal late in the game, the other team’s protecting, it’s the toughest one to come back (from). We dug in deep, they never quit, they’re all great character guys. You win with character, and that’s what these boys all have. We’re very proud of them, they worked their tail off.”
Meanwhile, Marner shared the stage with Dvorak, but it was Marner who took care of speaking duties.
“We just want to say thank you for all the support this past year. You guys have been amazing all year long,” said Marner. “Three years of being here, I’ve never been in an arena that’s as close to as loud as ours.”
The crowd chanted “M-V-P” as Marner found his words.
“Two years ago and obviously we didn’t get the turnout we did. But this year we brought something back for you guys. It’s ours now, and next year’s going to be a whole other challenge but we’re ready for it and we want to bring it back to you guys again.”
Fans of all ages crowded in to surround the bandshell to see and hear the team they cheered on for the 2015/2016 season.
Peter Deryk said he’s been a fan of the Knights since 1972, and this is one of the most memorable moments he can recall.
“I was at home, I was jumping up and down like crazy,” he said. “That particular game was because the opposing team was an excellent team as well. Whereas some of the other games weren’t as good as this particular one because the opposition wasn’t as good. So I think this one was up there at the very top.”
Like Deryk, fan Jim Stevens says you can’t put into words the excitement about this year’s team.
“I still don’t know how that puck went in, and I don’t really care. Now it’s history and we get to say thank you to the guys once again.”
Next year’s Memorial Cup will be held in Windsor.