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Knights arrive in Saginaw after days of preparing for long tournament

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The London Knights have arrived in Saginaw Mich., but preparing for a nearly two-week trip is not easy.

“We try to cram everything from the dressing room into a few trunks and, you know, hopefully have everything,” said Chris Maton, the long-time Knights equipment manager.

The saving grace for Maton is that he has been to multiple Memorial Cup tournaments with London.

“It helps because you know what they supply, and what they don't supply,” said Maton. “One fortunate thing is it is three hours up the road. So if I happen to forget something, you know, someone can scoot back or someone coming up can bring it.”

While Maton and his off-ice team work in the dressing room packing trunks, sharpening skates and loading up bags full of sticks, the players are preparing on the ice.

They will face the Drummondville Voltigeurs in their first game of the tournament Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.

Michael Simpson is the only Knights player who has experience in this event. He was a member of last year’s Peterborough Petes team who defeated London to win the OHL Championship.

London Knights equipment manager Chris Maton wheels a trunk full of gear in preparation for the trip to the Memorial Cup in Saginaw, Mich. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

He knows how to prepare for the long tournament, which many consider the toughest trophy to win in hockey.

“I think whatever team can manage to find a way to get through it and kind of battle the little things that you have to do during that stretch,” explained Simpson, the overage goalie from London. “Sometimes sleeping in a hotel, it gets old, and it gets tiring. But, I think it is all part of it and I think the guys would take 12 days in a hotel, be able to lift that trophy.”

Some of Simpson’s teammates are leaning on him for advice, and asking what it is like to get ready for what could be a long grind.

“Hopefully they have a laundry machine,” joked Max McCue, a Knights forward. “Pack some extra underwear, extra shirts to stay fresh and stay ready to go.”

One of the unique things about the Memorial Cup is you rarely know anything about your opponents.

The Knights are fortunate to have played host Saginaw 10 times this season, but staff had to do a deep dive into the Western League (Moose Jaw) and Quebec League (Drummondville) champions.

London Knights goaltender Michael Simpson is the only player on the roster with Memorial Cup experience. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“The coaching staff will make sure everybody's ready to go,” said Mark Hunter, Knights co-owner and general manager.

He continued, “Dale [Hunter] has watched a lot of tape on Drummondville and Moose Jaw and it's something that we enjoy to do. The players will enjoy the experience at the Memorial Cup I think it is a heck of an experience, so they will soak it all in and make sure we have a chance to win the Memorial Cup.”

Back in the dressing room, Maton feels he was lucky the Knights won the series in four games, to allow extra time to prepare for the trip.

“It's great for the kids and they're all excited,” said Maton. “It's the big dance, it’s the big tournament of the year and a lot of teams don't get there. So we’re pretty fortunate that we're there and hopefully we can keep it [momentum] going.”

The tournament begins Friday with Moose Jaw taking on Saginaw.

For a full schedule of games and events, you can visit the Memorial Cup website

London Knights assistant equipment manager Brad Derrough loads sticks into a bag in preparation for the trip to the Memorial Cup in Saginaw, Mich. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

 

Here’s how to celebrate in London

If you’re looking to cheer on the London Knights from the Forest City, the city has got you covered.

Starting at 4 p.m. on May 25, the City of London will host free viewings of the Knights’ first game against the Drummondville Voltigeurs at Dundas Place, and attendees are encouraged to wear green.

“We are so proud to gather together on our beautiful, transformational street downtown and support the Ontario Hockey League Champions, our London Knights,” said Mayor Josh Morgan in a news release.

A live viewing will also take place on Dundas Place starting at 7:30 p.m. for game two against the Moose Jaw Warriors on May 27, and again at 7:30 p.m. on May 29, when the Knights face off against the Saginaw Spirit.

“Together, let’s make sure our team hears us cheer them on from the heart of our vibrant downtown,” added Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis.

Dundas Place between Ridout and Talbot streets will be closed starting the morning of May 25 until the afternoon of May 30.

Public washrooms will be available on site. 

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