LONDON, Ontario — The game is two hours away, and the seats at J. Dee’s Market Grill are already filling up, a man wearing a London Knights jacket seated one down from another wearing a London Knights cap. There is, already, discussion about playoff tickets — how much they’ll cost, who the potential opponents might be, whether it makes sense to hold off on the first round and wait till the second — because the grind of the postseason for the Ontario Hockey League is only a month away, and these boys, these Knights — well, they’re good again, eh?
Across King Street, in the glistening John Labatt Centre, hang the banners that signify that success — 14 of them representing division or conference championships, more for the retired jerseys of Rick Nash and Corey Perry and some of the best players in the NHL, not to mention the pinnacle, the 2005 Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian major junior hockey, won right here. They are there because two brothers — two hockey-playing, hockey-living, hockey-breathing brothers — decided a dozen years ago to mortgage their farmland and buy the then-moribund Knights. The task: Revitalize a franchise for 15- to 20-year-old wannabe pros, and in turn revitalize an entire downtown.