|League||Ontario Hockey League|
|Home arena||Budweiser Gardens|
|Colours||Green, yellow, black, and white|
|General manager||Mark Hunter|
|Head coach||Dale Hunter|
|Affiliate(s)||London Nationals, St. Thomas Stars|
|Playoff championships||Memorial Cup: 2005, 2016|
OHL: 2005, 2012, 2013, 2016
The London Knights are a junior ice hockey team from London, Ontario, Canada, playing in the Ontario Hockey League, one of the leagues of the Canadian Hockey League. The Knights started out in 1965 as the London Nationals but changed to their current name in 1968. The Knights have won two Memorial Cup championships.
The London Nationals were granted a franchise in the OHA for the 1965–66 season under the ownership of the London Gardens arena, with the Toronto Maple Leafs controlling the team's players. Upon the collapse of the Metro Junior A League in 1963, the Leafs were left with only one sponsored OHA team, the Toronto Marlboros, with which to place their prospects. The team in London replaced the old Toronto St. Michael's Majors, who had folded a couple of years earlier. The Leafs originally wanted the Nationals to begin play in 1963–64, but it wasn't until a year later that the Nats became the Leafs' second team.
The Nationals were named for their sponsor, the Canadian National Recreation Association, an organization of Canadian National Railways employees, and took their uniforms as copies of those of the Maple Leafs, except for the words "London Nationals" spelled out on the Leaf instead of the familiar Toronto Maple Leafs script.
Brian Murphy played the most games for the Nationals, 98 in total over three seasons. Garry Unger led the team in career goals with 42 in only 50 games. Walt McKechnie was their all-time point leader with 26 goals, and 74 assists, totalling 100 points.
After three seasons, direct NHL sponsorship of junior teams ended. The team and Gardens was sold to businessman Howard Darwin for $500,000, who renamed the team to the Knights and changed the colours to green and gold.
In 1968, businessman Howard Darwin bought the London Nationals (he also owned the Ottawa 67's) as the era of NHL sponsorship of junior hockey ended. Darwin wanted to give a fresh look to the team, and so held a contest to rename the team. Londoner Brian Logie suggested the name Knights, and the team's colours were changed to green, white and gold. In 1970 the team also hired trainer Don Brankley, who stayed with the team until retiring at the end of the 2007–08 season. The team grew from a chronic also-ran in the late 1960s and early 1970s to a contender near the end of the decade. The highlight of the Darwin era came in 1976–77, when a powerful Knights team led by future NHLers Rob Ramage, Brad Marsh and Dino Ciccarelli defeated the St. Catharines Fincups in the conference final on an overtime goal by Dan Eastman to advance to the OHL final against the 67's. However, the 67's were triumphant in six games in the league final. Following the retirement of long time head coach Bill Long following the 1979–80 season the franchise struggled to find success under new coach Paul McIntosh. Don Boyd was hired as McIntosh's replacement starting the 1983–84 season and the Knights fortunes began to improve. The Knights finished second in the Emms Division during the 1984–85 season lead by future NHL players Brian Bradley, Dave Lowry, Jeff Reese, Bob Halkidis and Jim Sandlak. Despite the team's depth, they were eliminated 3 games to 1 by the Hamilton Steelhawks in the second round of the playoffs. The following two seasons saw the team struggle under the newly hired head coach Wayne Maxner in spite of the emergence of future NHL star Brendan Shanahan. The 1985–86 team grabbed the final playoff spot in the Emms division during the last weekend of the regular season before exiting the playoffs 4-0-1 against the North Bay Centennials, while the 1986–87 Knights failed to qualify for the playoffs.
In 1986 Howard Darwin sold the Knights and the arena to Paris, Ontario businessmen Jack Robillard, Al Martin and Bob Willson. The trio also owned the Hamilton Steelhawks. The Knights were sold for a dollar but the London Gardens was sold at market value. The new ownership group modified the team's logo, which incorporated black into the color scheme and renovated the Gardens. Under their stewardship the Knights would go on a run of success. Between 1987 and 1993 the team would finish no lower than third in the Emms Division, including a division title in 1989–90. However, regular season success did not translate into playoff success, as the Knights would never make the league final in these years.
In 1994 the Knights were sold to St. Thomas, Ontario, real estate developer Doug Tarry, Sr. He died before the team had played a game under his ownership, and the team was inherited by his son, Doug Tarry, Jr. Upon taking command, Tarry carried out further renovations on the Gardens including a name change to the "London Ice House." He also alienated a fair portion of the team's fan base by changing the team's colours from green, gold and black to eggplant and teal, and changing the logo to a cartoon logo instantly and derisively nicknamed "Spiderknight" by the faithful.
The Knights' 1995–96 OHL season went down as the worst in the history of the Canadian Hockey League. The Knights set a new record for futility by finishing with nine points and a 3–60–3 record. The years following the so-called "Knightmare" season were improved, but the team was still a long way from the league's upper echelon. Meanwhile, the Ice House was falling apart as the Tarry family had stopped putting money into it as a part of their lobbying the city of London for a new arena. However, the re-signing of former Head Coach Gary Agnew, and the signing of future NHLers Rico Fata and Tom Kostopoulos heralded a marked turnaround for the team's fortunes. In 1999, the Knights went on an unexpected playoff run, in which they defeated the number-one-in-the-CHL Plymouth Whalers in seven games in the quarterfinals and ultimately went all the way to the OHL championship, which they lost in seven games to the Belleville Bulls.
In 2000, former NHL players Dale Hunter, Mark Hunter and Basil McRae bought the Knights from Doug Tarry Jr. The sale was brokered by George Georgopoulos, who was negotiating with the city of London for the development of a state of the art multipurpose entertainment centre and arena – the John Labatt Centre. The Hunters began the process of rebuilding by firstly joining in the lobbying for a new 9,900 seat arena in Downtown London and putting together a smart scouting network. The Ice House was scheduled to be sold and closed at the conclusion of the 2001–02 OHL season, and as a treat for their fans, the Knights changed back to the 1986–94 green, gold and black colour scheme in February 2002. In October that year the Labatt Centre opened, and new uniforms featuring black as the dominate color debuted. The 2003–04 OHL season would mark the beginning of a remarkable dynasty. The Knights had the best regular season record in the CHL and set an OHL record with 110 points, but lost the OHL Western Conference final to the Guelph Storm. In the 2004–05 season, the Knights set a new CHL record by going 31 games in a row without a loss (29–0–2). The previous record of 29 games, held by the 1978–79 Brandon Wheat Kings (who went 25–0–4 during their streak), was broken with a 0–0 tie against the Guelph Storm on December 10, 2004. The streak ended at 31 games after a 5–2 loss to the Sudbury Wolves on December 17. The Knights finished the season with 120 points (59 wins, 7 losses, 2 ties), breaking their own OHL record set the previous season. In the playoffs, the Knights started by sweeping two best-of-seven series against the Guelph Storm and Windsor Spitfires. In the Western Conference final, the Knights defeated the Kitchener Rangers 4–1 to win the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. In the OHL finals against the Ottawa 67's, the Knights won the series 4–1 to win their first J. Ross Robertson Cup, ending the longest championship drought in the CHL. That same year, the London Knights and the John Labatt Centre (renamed Budweiser Gardens in 2012) were awarded the right to host 2005 Memorial Cup Tournament, which was played from May 21 to May 29. In the tournament, they defeated the Rimouski Océanic 4–3 on May 21, the Kelowna Rockets 4–2 on May 23, and the Ottawa 67's 5–2 on May 26. This earned the Knights a bye into the championship game. On May 29, the Knights defeated Rimouski 4–0 to win their first Memorial Cup. In 2005–06, the team won their third consecutive Hamilton Spectator Trophy for winning the regular season title, but their run into the playoffs ended with a loss to Peterborough in the OHL final. In 2006–07 the Knights continued their run of success, winning their fourth consecutive Hamilton Spectator Trophy as regular season champions. However, they lost the Western Conference Championship to the Plymouth Whalers.
On January 9, 2009, the London Knights made a blockbuster trade. They acquired hockey phenom and future number one pick in the 2009 NHL draft, John Tavares, from the Oshawa Generals. The Knights also received defenceman Michael Del Zotto and goaltender Darryl Borden. In return, the Generals received defenceman Scott Valentine, forward Christian Thomas, goaltender Michael Zador, four second-round draft picks (2009–12) and two third-round picks (2010–11). After a strong 2009–10 season, the Knights decided to turn to young players for the 2010–11 season. They traded several veterans for future draft picks throughout the season, and at the deadline in hopes of re-building another contender.
On November 28, 2011, Dale Hunter resigned as head coach to become head coach of his former NHL team, the Washington Capitals. Brother Mark Hunter assumed the coaching helm. Under Mark's guidance, the Knights won their second OHL title in 2011–12, defeating the Niagara IceDogs four games to one in the league final and advancing to the 2012 Memorial Cup. The Knights finished the round robin in first place, but lost in the championship final 2–1 in overtime to the host Shawinigan Cataractes.
Despite a successful season in Washington — coaching the struggling Capitals to the playoffs and an upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round before being eliminated by the New York Rangers — Dale Hunter announced on May 14, 2012, he would not return to coach the Capitals in the 2012–13 season, choosing instead to return to the London Knights.
With Hunter once again behind the bench, the Knights continued their winning ways in the 2012–13 season, handily leading the league with 105 points in the regular season en route to their second-straight Hamilton Spectator Trophy. They then cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs, defeating the Saginaw Spirit, Kitchener Rangers and Plymouth Whalers in four, five and five games respectively. The Knights capped their OHL season with a thrilling game seven win over the Barrie Colts as Bo Horvat scored the game-winning goal in the last second of the third period to capture the Knights' second consecutive J. Ross Robertson Cup. At the 2013 Memorial Cup the Knights finished 1–2 in the round robin, forcing them to play a tie-breaker against the host Saskatoon Blades. Though the Knights handily defeated the Blades 6–1, they lost to the Portland Winterhawks 2–1 in the semifinal.
London finished the 2013–14 season third in the OHL with 103 regular season points. However, the only two teams above them were their division opponents, the Guelph Storm and Erie Otters, thus denying the Knights a third straight division title. After sweeping the Windsor Spitfires in the first round the Knights were eliminated by the Storm in five games. Nevertheless, the Knights earned a berth in the 2014 Memorial Cup, their third straight, by virtue of being selected to host the tournament the day after winning the OHL championship the year before. Faced with stiff competition, the Knights finished last in the round robin and were eliminated from the tournament.
On October 21, 2014, Mark Hunter resigned as Knights general manager after being appointed director of player personnel for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Basil McRae succeeded Hunter as GM, though Hunter retained his ownership interest in the Knights and continued as vice president of the team.
The 2014–15 season was a rebuilding for the Knights. Despite this, the team finished second in the Midwest division and made it to the second round of the playoffs before being swept by the Erie Otters.
A renewed and powerful Knights team finished the 2015–16 season tied with the Erie Otters for the league lead with 105 points, but were denied the Hamilton Spectator Trophy by virtue of a tiebreaker. In the first round of the playoffs the Owen Sound Attack forced a sixth game before the Knights finished them off and began a thirteen-game winning streak, sweeping the Kitchener Rangers, Erie Otters and Niagara IceDogs en route to their third OHL championship and fourth Memorial Cup appearance in five seasons. The Knights entered the 2016 Memorial Cup as favourites due to their impressive winning streak and did not disappoint, dominating the round robin and outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 20–5. In the championship game, the Knights faced off against the CHL number-one ranked Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The Huskies pushed the Knights to the limit, carrying a 2–1 lead late into the third period before Christian Dvorak scored with 4:11 remaining to force overtime, where a goal by Matthew Tkachuk earned the Knights their 17th-straight win and second Memorial Cup championship.
The London Knights have won the Memorial Cup tournament two times, won the J. Ross Robertson Cup four times, won the Western Conference six times, and have won thirteen division titles.
Memorial Cup (CHL champions)
J. Ross Robertson Cup (OHL champions)
Hamilton Spectator Trophy (Most points in regular reason)
Wayne Gretzky Trophy (Western Conference champions)
Ed Chynoweth Trophy
George Parsons Trophy
Hap Emms Memorial Trophy
Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy
Bobby Smith Trophy
Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy
Dave Pinkney Trophy
Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy
Emms Family Award
F.W. "Dinty" Moore Trophy
Jack Ferguson Award
Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy
Matt Leyden Trophy
Max Kaminsky Trophy
Mickey Renaud Captain's Trophy
Red Tilson Trophy
Roger Neilson Memorial Award
Wayne Gretzky 99 Award
William Hanley Trophy
The London Nationals were coached by Jack McIntyre for the 1965–66 season. For their second and third seasons from 1966 to 1968, the Nationals were coached by Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Turk Broda.
London Knights coaches have won the Matt Leyden Trophy, emblematic of the OHL's Coach of the Year, five times. Bill Long won it once, in 1976–77, Gary Agnew twice, in 1992–93 and in 1997–98, and Dale Hunter twice, in 2003–04 and 2004–05. Dale Hunter also won the Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award, emblematic of CHL Coach of the Year honours, in 2003–04. Former NHLer, Dave Gagner left the team during the summer of 2008 to accept a position with the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL.
As London Nationals:
As London Knights:
Notes: Mike Fedorko was entering his second season as Knights' coach and GM in the autumn of 1995. He was fired in October 1995 when the Knights began the season with a 13-game losing streak. Assistant Murray Nystrom took over coaching duties temporarily. Tom Barrett, who had led the Kitchener Rangers to the 1984 Memorial Cup, was named head coach in December. Barrett died of cancer in April 1996, shortly after the conclusion of the season. Moe Mantha was originally named the head coach to take over from Barrett, but left to coach the Baltimore Bandits of the American Hockey League before coaching a game. Brad Selwood was ultimately named Barrett's replacement for 1996–97 but was fired mid-season and GM Paul McIntosh took over on an interim basis for the rest of the season. Gary Agnew was rehired at the start of 1997–98.
The following is a complete list of London Knights who later played in the National Hockey League or World Hockey Association.
The London Knights have produced more first overall selections in the NHL Entry Draft (5) than any other team in the world. The Knights also produced one first overall selection in the 1977 WHA Amateur Draft (Scott Campbell by the Houston Aeros), who started his professional career in that league. London is also ranked third (behind Peterborough and Oshawa) on the all-time list of number of players drafted by the NHL, with 142 as of 2007.
The following players were selected in the first round of the NHL entry draft:
The following players were selected in the first round of the WHA amateur draft:
List of numbers retired by the London Knights.
List of London Knights players in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Legend: OTL = Overtime loss, SL = Shoot Out Loss
|1965–66||48||12||29||7||-||-||31||0.323||149||235||9th OHA||Missed Playoffs|
|1966–67||48||18||21||9||-||-||45||0.469||185||214||6th OHA||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1967–68||54||17||31||6||-||-||40||0.370||177||262||7th OHA||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1968–69||54||19||26||9||-||-||47||0.435||242||258||7th OHA||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1969–70||54||22||25||7||-||-||51||0.472||209||238||6th OHA||Lost in Semifinals|
|1970–71||62||19||35||8||-||-||46||0.371||232||281||8th OHA||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1971–72||63||23||31||9||-||-||55||0.437||253||285||8th OHA||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1972–73||63||33||22||8||-||-||74||0.587||334||246||4th OHA||Lost in Semifinals|
|1973–74||70||36||27||7||-||-||79||0.564||282||250||4th OHA||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1974–75||70||26||37||7||-||-||59||0.421||296||368||9th OHA||Missed Playoffs|
|1975–76||66||31||26||9||-||-||71||0.538||317||256||2nd Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1976–77||66||51||13||2||-||-||104||0.788||379||203||2nd Emms||Lost OHL Championship|
|1977–78||68||35||22||11||-||-||81||0.596||333||251||1st Emms||Lost in Semifinals|
|1978–79||68||37||29||2||-||-||76||0.559||310||287||2nd Emms||Lost in Semifinals|
|1979–80||68||26||38||4||-||-||56||0.412||328||334||5th Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1980–81||68||20||48||0||-||-||40||0.294||300||388||6th Emms||Missed Playoffs|
|1981–82||68||35||30||3||-||-||73||0.537||359||328||3rd Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1982–83||70||32||37||1||-||-||65||0.464||336||339||5th Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1983–84||70||32||37||1||-||-||65||0.464||288||319||4th Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1984–85||66||43||22||1||-||-||87||0.659||340||276||2nd Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1985–86||66||28||33||5||-||-||61||0.462||271||292||6th Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1986–87||66||25||39||2||-||-||52||0.394||259||329||7th Emms||Missed Playoffs|
|1987–88||66||40||22||4||-||-||84||0.636||309||273||2nd Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1988–89||66||37||25||4||-||-||78||0.591||311||264||3rd Emms||Lost in Semifinals|
|1989–90||66||41||19||6||-||-||88||0.667||313||246||1st Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1990–91||66||38||25||3||-||-||79||0.598||301||270||3rd Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1991–92||66||37||25||4||-||-||78||0.591||310||260||3rd Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1992–93||66||32||27||7||-||-||71||0.538||323||292||3rd Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1993–94||66||32||30||4||-||-||68||0.515||293||279||5th Emms||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1994–95||66||18||44||4||-||-||40||0.303||210||309||4th Western||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|1995–96||66||3||60||3||-||-||9||0.068||179||435||5th Western||Missed Playoffs|
|1996–97||66||13||51||2||-||-||28||0.212||215||365||5th Western||Missed Playoffs|
|1997–98||66||40||21||5||-||-||85||0.644||301||238||1st Western||Lost in Conference Final|
|1998–99||68||34||30||4||-||-||72||0.529||260||217||3rd West||Lost OHL Championship|
|1999–2000||68||22||36||7||3||-||54||0.397||186||250||5th West||Missed Playoffs|
|2000–01||68||26||34||5||3||-||60||0.441||222||263||4th West||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|2001–02||68||24||27||10||7||-||65||0.478||210||249||5th West||Lost in Semifinals|
|2002–03||68||31||27||7||3||-||72||0.529||220||205||2nd Midwest||Lost in Semifinals|
|2003–04||68||53||11||2||2||-||110||0.809||300||147||1st Midwest||Lost in Conference Final|
|2004–05||68||59||7||2||0||-||120||0.882||310||125||1st Midwest||Won OHL Championship & Won Memorial Cup|
|2005–06||68||49||15||-||1||3||102||0.750||304||211||1st Midwest||Lost OHL Championship|
|2006–07||68||50||14||-||1||3||104||0.765||311||231||1st Midwest||Lost in Conference Final|
|2007–08||68||38||24||-||4||2||82||0.603||250||230||2nd Midwest||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|2008–09||68||49||16||-||1||2||101||0.743||287||194||1st Midwest||Lost in Conference Final|
|2009–10||68||49||16||-||1||2||101||0.743||273||208||1st Midwest||Lost in Semifinals|
|2010–11||68||34||29||-||4||1||73||0.537||230||253||5th Midwest||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|2011–12||68||49||18||-||0||1||99||0.728||277||178||1st Midwest||Won OHL Championship & Lost Memorial Cup|
|2012–13||68||50||13||-||2||3||105||0.772||279||180||1st Midwest||Won OHL Championship & Lost Memorial Cup|
|2013–14||68||49||14||-||1||4||103||0.757||316||203||3rd Midwest||Lost in Semifinals & Lost Memorial Cup|
|2014–15||68||40||24||-||1||3||84||0.618||289||260||2nd Midwest||Lost in Semifinals|
|2015–16||68||51||14||-||2||1||105||0.772||319||182||2nd Midwest||Won OHL Championship & Won Memorial Cup|
|2016–17||68||46||15||-||3||4||99||0.728||289||194||3rd Midwest||Lost in Semifinals|
|2017–18||68||39||25||-||2||2||82||0.603||233||212||3rd Midwest||Lost in Quarterfinals|
|2018–19||68||46||15||-||6||1||99||0.728||299||211||1st Midwest||Lost in Semifinals|
|2021–22||68||39||22||-||5||2||85||0.625||264||232||1st Midwest||Lost in Quarterfinals|
The London Gardens was built in 1963 and served as the home of the Knights from the team's inception in 1965 to its closing in 2002. The building was renamed London Ice House in 1994. The Knights final game played at the arena was in the 2002 playoffs, where the Knights lost in overtime in the sixth game of the second round to the eventual OHL Champion Erie Otters. The Knights used the Ice House for their training camp and exhibition schedule for the 2002–03 season and moved out permanently in October 2002.
The Budweiser Gardens opened on October 11, 2002 as the Knights played host to the Plymouth Whalers. The arena, located in downtown London, is the largest in Western Ontario. Tickets for the 2005–06 season in the building sold out in one day, and there is currently a cap on season tickets due to the team's popularity.