The Forest City goes green and gold on Friday night, as the puck drops on the London Knights home opener at Budweiser Gardens against the Erie Otters.
Not only will the team be riding high on the momentum of their second Mastercard Memorial Cup win in franchise history, they’re starting the season as the top ranked team in the CHL.
The team is missing some of their biggest players who are at NHL training camps, including Mitch Marner, but Knights co-owner, president and head coach Dale Hunter wants them to succeed.
“For us, every kid’s dream is to play in the National Hockey League so I’m not going to say, ‘come back to junior,’ I’m going to say ‘if you make it, stay, if not, come back and we’ll win again’ and try to teach the kids how to play to make it next year,” he said.
In Marner’s absence, the Knights will lean on Max Jones, Cliff Pu and Janne Kuokkanen, another new addition.
Hunter is looking forward to the banner raising ceremony.
“They raise the banner so that the fans can see it and cheer for it,” he said. “It’s a special day when you raise the banner because it’s so hard to win, the kids have to sacrifice so much to win.”
Former Knight Brandon Prust is training with the Toronto Maple Leafs trying to win a spot on the roster, but Friday he’ll be reminiscing about how the team helped him realize his hockey dreams.
“I was always a huge Knights fan and kind of always dreamed of playing with the Knights and then it happened and it was pretty cool,” he said. “I grew up going to London Knights games every Friday night with my Dad for as long as I can remember. I think he started taking me when I was four years old.”
The team has won the OHL title 3 times in the past 4 years, and it’s worth noting Friday’s game against the Erie Otters serves as a rematch of the OHL western conference finals that London won 4 games to none.
Last season will be hard to beat. The Knights beat Rouyn-Noranda in overtime to win the Mastercard Memorial Cup, the second in franchise history.
London won 51 games in the regular season, the fourth time they’ve eclipsed the 50-win mark, and ended the season by winning 17 playoff games in a row, a record.
AM980 is the new broadcast home for the London Knights. AM980 has entered into an agreement to be the official broadcaster of the London Knights starting in the 2016-17 season and for the following four seasons.
Mike Stubbs returns to do play-by-play with Jim Van Horne providing colour commentary.
The game against the Erie Otters starts at 7:30 p.m., but coverage on AM980 begins at 6:30p.m. with “Game Knight.”
(photo courtesy of @GoLondonKnights Twitter account)