This is part of an ongoing series in which we look back on amazing moments in London Knights history. Each day, we’ll bring you a new memory leading up to the anniversaries of the team’s Memorial Cup championships in 2005 and 2016.
The “Team of the Century” never allowed themselves to believe they were as good as they actually were.
It was one of the things that made them so special. It was also what helped them to be so successful.
The 2004-05 London Knights earned the title “Team of the Century” in 2018 during the Memorial Cup’s 100th anniversary season.
That Knights team featured 11 players who would go on to play at least one game in the NHL and was long considered the best major junior hockey team ever assembled. The “Team of the Century” vote just solidified it.
On May 12, 2005, London played the Ottawa 67’s in Game 4 of the OHL Championship series.
It was the second game played in a three-day span in Ottawa and the Knights were set to take a charter flight home to be ready for Game 5 in London a day and a half later.
The Knights had arrived in Ottawa in a 1-1 series tie. London won the first game of the series 4-2 at home but had been doubled up 6-3 by the 67’s two days after that.
At that point, nothing felt certain.
But as the final buzzer sounded in what was the Ottawa Civic Centre in 2005, the scoreboard read London 4, Ottawa 1. The Knights were now one win away from the franchise’s first-ever Ontario Hockey League title and for the first time, maybe all year, they allowed themselves to exhale.
Remember this is the team that had been under the white-hot light of hockey’s biggest microscope for almost the entirety of the 2004-05 season.
The National Hockey League wasn’t playing games due to a lockout, so fans starved for their favourite game began to gravitate to the story London was creating.
The game against the 67’s ended at 9:30 p.m. that night. Shortly after 10:00, the team had boarded the bus and was headed to the Ottawa International Airport.
After any other road game, if you had climbed onto that same bus it would have been impossible to figure out whether London had won or lost.
They were businesslike. They had lofty goals. Winning a single game was not something to overtly celebrate. The Knights always wanted to win the next one and sometimes it felt as though the preparation for that next one began as soon as the last one had ended.
But that night was different.
It was part adrenaline and another part excitement. After all, most of the London players were teenagers. But there was also a whole lot of something else: relief.
The Knights had gone 59-7-2 in the regular season and to that point 15-2 in the playoffs.
They had an automatic berth in the Memorial Cup tournament but also the pressure of earning their way into it as league champions.
For the first time all year, there was finally some simple math in front of them.
All London needed to do was win one of the next three games and they would be champions..
The Knights hadn’t lost three games in a row all year.
It felt possible. It felt doable.
It was like they couldn’t wait to get home and make it happen.
The energy from the bus followed the players onto the plane and back to London, where two nights later they won their final series of the year and the first title in franchise history for the London Knights.