The late Don Brankley served as the trainer of the London Knights from 1970 until 2008.
His enormous personality made his name known all over the Ontario Hockey League.
Now, his name will serve to recognize and celebrate the best of the best from the Knights organization.
The inaugural class features Walt McKechnie, Dennis Maruk, Dave Lowry, Chris Taylor, Tim Taylor and Robbie Schremp, and the group will be honoured and inducted on Tuesday as London plays host to the Guelph Storm. You can listen to the game on 980 CFPL starting with the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m.
“We are incredibly proud to have created this opportunity to recognize those who have achieved outstanding accomplishments during their careers in London,” said Knights Vice-President and General Manager Mark Hunter. “We are also honoured to be able to remember Don with this initiative. Don was a key member in each of these players’ careers and was instrumental to their success.”
Fans attending the game are asked to be in their seats early in order to be a part of the ceremony.
Walt McKechnie’s career in London came as a member of the Nationals from 1963-67. He recorded 100 points in just 95 regular season games with the Nationals and starred in the 1966 WOHL playoffs when he put up 17 points in just six games.
The London native was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first-ever NHL Amateur Draft. NHL teams drafted 16-year olds that year and McKechnie went sixth overall. He began a 16-year National Hockey League career in Minnesota in 1968 and played for California, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, Colorado and eventually with the Maple Leafs. McKechnie played a total of 955 NHL games and in retirement opened the very famous McKeck’s Tap and Grill in Haliburton, Ont.
Not many players can score 60 goals in a season.
Dennis Maruk did it in both the OHL with the London Knights in 1974-75 and then with the Washington Capitals in 1981-82. He is one of just 20 players in NHL history to score that many in one year. Maruk ended his NHL career with 356 goals in 888 games with Washington, Cleveland, Minnesota and the California Golden Seals, but was a star with the Knights right from the very beginning.
Maruk was named the league’s rookie of the year in 1972-73 and then won the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 1974-75. Maruk also helped Canada to win bronze at the 1978 World Hockey Championship, where he scored six times in 10 games.
Even with all of his individual successes, team success was tough to come by for Maruk. California and Cleveland had their struggles as franchises and Washington was still growing after a hard start as an expansion team. He didn’t see the playoffs in the NHL until his eighth season in the league. He helped Minnesota make it to the Conference finals in 1984 where they ran into Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, who were on their way to their first Stanley Cup.
Like Maruk, Lowry had a 60-goal season for the Knights in 1984-85. Lowry recorded 60 goals and 60 assists that year to finish eighth in OHL scoring. The sharp-shooter from from Sudbury was an 8th round pick of the Knights coming into the Ontario Hockey League and earned everything he achieved. He could played skilled and he could play tough and that versatility made him a selection of the Vancouver Canucks in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. He played 19 seasons in the National Hockey League, totaling 1084 games played. Lowry was a big part of the Florida Panthers’ magical run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996 and got there again on another improbable journey in 2004 with the Calgary Flames. The Flames went all the way to game seven before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Following his playing career, Lowry got into coaching. He has served as an assistant, associate and head coach of the Calgary Hitmen and as the head coach of the Victoria Royals in the WHL. Lowry is presently an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings. He has also served as both an assistant and head coach of Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Tim was the first of the Taylor brothers to play for the Knights. He split the 1986-87 season between London and his hometown Stratford Cullitons, before making the jump to the OHL full-time the next season. Taylor’s junior career ramped up to a 114-point season in 1988-89 that saw him record 80 assists and post 46 playoff points in just 21 games.
He carried the Knights to the semi-finals before losing in a hard-fought seven games to Stan Drulia, Bryan Fogarty and the Niagara Falls Thunder. Taylor finished sixth in league scoring that year. After that, Taylor began his professional career with the Baltimore Skipjacks, the AHL affiliate of the Capitals, who had drafted him in the second round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft. Taylor did not play for Washington, but did play for the Detroit Red Wings and was a part of their 1997 Stanley Cup Championship. Taylor helped the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2004.
He finished his career in Tampa and was named captain for the final two seasons he spent with them.
There have only been a few players at the major junior level who were able to put up points like Chris Taylor did.
He is still second all-time with 378 career points as a Knight, edged out by Corey Perry in 2005, who ended his career with 380. Taylor is from Stratford, and was the definition of consistency through the final three years of his career as a Knight. Between 1989 and 1992, he posted goal totals of 45, 50 and 48 and point totals of 105, 128 and 122. Taylor was a second round pick of the New York Islanders in 1990 and played 149 games in the NHL.
Taylor won two Turner Cups in the International Hockey League in 1995 and 1996 with the Islanders’ affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies, and went on to become one of the most famous players in the history of the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League, spending nine seasons with them.
Rob Schremp scored so many points in the Ontario Hockey League that he ranks 12th all-time in league scoring. Fans who watched him play will always picture Schremp set up at the top of the right circle, ready to unleash a slap shot at opposing goalies who were cringing at the thought of getting in front of it. Schremp was also a magician with the puck and showed off as much razzle-dazzle as the game would allow.
He had 383 career OHL points, and 332 of them came with the Knights. The Syracuse, N.Y. native was part of London’s Memorial Cup champion “Team of the Century” in 2004-05, but as special as that year was, Schremp absolutely exploded in his final season in the OHL. He led the league in goals, assists, points, playoff assists and playoff points, and led the Knights back to the OHL championship series.
Schremp was selected in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry draft by the Edmonton Oilers and played 114 NHL games with the Oilers, the New York Islanders and the Atlanta Thrashers before terrorizing Europe and the American Hockey League until last season. Schremp announced his retirement from hockey earlier this year.