After leading the London Knights to another OHL championship, scoring 44 points in 18 games, Mitch Marner surely earned the right to hoist the J. Ross Robertson Cup first. But the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect had another idea.
After OHL commissioner David Branch gave the trophy to Marner, he immediately found his teammate Jacob Buch.
Dressed in a Knights sweat suit, Buch lifted the Cup high above his head, a wide grin glued on his face, and turned to the crowd as his teammates surrounded him, clapping and cheering him along. The 17-year-old Buch is a Knights prospect — a fifth-round pick — who has been battling a rare form of cancer that typically affects children and adolescents called Ewing's sarcoma. After the game, Marner said he’d been planning the classy gesture for days.
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) May 12, 2016
"I told him (Monday) if we win this next game, you're coming out and lifting it first," Marner told the London Free Press.
Following the post-game celebration, Buch tweeted out his appreciation to Marner and the Knights organization.
“Pretty unbelievable feeling being able to lift the Cup and celebrate with the @GoLondonKnights,” he tweeted. “And thanks for the players for being such classy guys especially @Marner93 for letting me hold the trophy first. I can't thank you enough.”
After a dominating OHL post-season, the Knights will head to Red Deer, Alberta for the Memorial Cup next week — their fourth trip to the tournament in five years —as favourites to take home the franchise’s second championship and first since 2005.
Led by Marner, who was named playoff MVP after leading the post-season in scoring, as well as Matthew Tkachuk and Christian Dvorak, who scored 40 and 35 points respectively, these London Knights enjoyed one of the most dominant post-season performances in OHL history.
The team won 13 games in a row, leading to their Cup clinching victory. That run is a league record, surpassing the 12-game win streak by the 1988 Windsor Spitfire. The team also finished the post-season with a 16-2 record — the same win total as the 2005 edition of the Knights, which is commonly cited as the best in franchise history.
That 2005 team went on to win the Memorial Cup and boasted a line-up that included future NHLers like Corey Perry, Dave Bolland, Brandon Prust and Daniel Girardi.
“I don't compare (championships)," Knights head coach Dale Hunter told the Free Press, "but I'll say this — it was the same amount of losses (two in 18 post-season games) as '05. This group put up a helluva battle. They did it as a team."