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It was a truly special year – and a memorable one for sports fans in London. While the Knights have become perennial contenders in the Canadian Hockey League, winning numerous division titles and multiple conference and league championships over the years, the 2004-05 season offered fans something extra special – the Knights’ first ever Memorial Cup win, which they accomplished on home ice.
There were clear early signs that magic was in the air for the Knights in 2004-05, as the team enjoyed the hottest start in Canadian Hockey League (CHL) history, going undefeated in their first 31 games (29-0-2-0). And they didn’t look back, finishing first in the OHL with a record of 59-7-2-0 (their best finish in franchise history).
Knights fans were on board from beginning to end as they cheered on a dynamic team that included future NHL star Corey Perry, who led the league in scoring. Knights followers packed the still-new John Labatt Centre (now Budweiser Gardens), averaging more than 9,000 fans per game along the way.
That support from London’s faithful fans continued to push the Knights to great things in the playoffs, as the team cruised to its first ever OHL title in the franchise’s 40-year history. And then, Knights fans got the unforgettable opportunity to watch their boys in green and gold compete for the Memorial Cup – on home ice, in London, Ontario …
The best was yet to come, and the City made sure to put on a good show for hockey lovers in the region while the Memorial Cup was in town from May 21-29, 2005. Besides the exciting hockey action, there was food, there were festivities, and there was a lot of fun – both outside the arena and inside the packed house.
The official fan zone outside featured bands and all sorts of activities while throngs of people gathered to watch the big-screen TVs. And it wasn’t confined to the arena. Upwards of 15 tents downtown were filled with fans during the festivities. Trophies from the Hockey Hall of Fame were on display, while signs and banners were plentiful on the streets.
With extra eyes on the event (the NHL lockout at the time made the Memorial Cup must-watch hockey), the Knights opened the tournament with what many consider to be the greatest hockey game ever played in London …
After falling behind 3-1 against the QMJHL’s Rimouski Océanic, which were led by future NHL superstar Sidney Crosby, the Knights fought their way back to force overtime – where they earned a 4-3 victory thanks to a game-winning goal by defenceman Marc Methot.
And days later, they made history. In a rematch against the Océanic in the final, in front of another sellout crowd, the Knights brought their best en route to a 4-0 win to earn their first ever Memorial Cup. Fireworks erupted inside the arena while the players stormed the ice to celebrate. Outside, and around the city, Knights fans were sent into a frenzy …
Downtown London was turned into a sea of green and gold, as Knights fans packed the area – and all the way down ‘Richmond Row’ – to celebrate their team’s first national championship win. Fans piled into restaurants and bars, while parties were held across the city. A Memorial Cup win hosted in your own city? It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many Knights fans.
All that was left was to hold an official parade, which the Knights did in style. Fans turned out in droves, decked out in jerseys and Knights gear. The energy was palpable, and the players and fans joined together for a celebration of a championship – and perhaps the city’s greatest hockey achievement.
In 2018, the London Knights’ 2004-05 team earned the distinguished honour of being named the ‘Team of the Century’ by the CHL and its fans. The Knights honoured the team in a special pregame ceremony, and numerous former players attended the festivities.
Said Knights General Manager Mark Hunter, recalling that storied season:
That was an incredible season filled with much excitement, many memories, and passion throughout the entire city of London and beyond.Winning the final game at home, in front of our fanbase, was something that will never be forgotten. We are very appreciative of what our fans did for us that season and continue to do every game.
Todd Devlin is a writer and editor in London. You can visit his website at www.todddevlin.com.
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