Considered by many to be one of the hardest trophies to win in all of sports, the 2014 edition of the Memorial Cup gets underway Friday in London, Ontario, as the host London Knights welcome the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), Guelph Storm (OHL) and Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL).
For Canucks prospect Bo Horvat, this isn’t his first kick at the can. Or second, for that matter. The freshly turned 19-year-old has been to the Memorial Cup in each of his first three seasons with the Knights. But after failing to win it all the first two years, Horvat doesn’t want to settle for anything less than a first place finish.
“We really want to win it this year,” said Horvat. “I don’t want to be that guy that has been three times and never won it. It would be really nice to win at home with all our fans supporting us.”
This year will be a bit different. Unlike the past two years, where the Knights earned their spot in the tournament by winning the OHL Championship, this year they were ousted in the second round of the playoffs by Guelph. Being eliminated midway through the post-season means a lengthy lay-off between games. Thirty-four days to be exact.
“We took nine days off and then got right back at it,” said Horvat, who used the time away from the game to relax and get healthy. “We started by going three days on and one day off and continued that until this week when we really started to ramp up and prepare for the Memorial Cup.”
But the break appears to have been a blessing for the 2013 Canucks first-rounder. He fell ill during their second round series against Guelph, and admitted that he started to feel fatigued. After suiting up at the Penticton Young Stars tournament, followed by six games with the Canucks during the NHL pre-season as well as representing Canada at the World Junior Championship, Horvat has played a lot of hockey this season.
“It’s a lot of hockey to play,” he said. “It definitely takes a toll on your body and that break off really helped not only me, but our whole team.”
Now feeling fresh, Horvat will try to bring a championship to London, which last won in 2005; that was also the last time they hosted the tournament. Growing up nearby in Rodney, Ontario, Horvat attended a lot of Knights games and fondly remembers that 2005 championship team.
“I used to watch that team all the time,” he said. “Growing up we used to have season tickets. I remember watching Corey Perry, Dave Bolland and Rob Schremp on that team. To watch them play and win a Memorial Cup is something I have always wanted. Our fans are unbelievable. If we can bring them another Memorial Cup, it will be special.”
-All games can be seen live on Sportsnet.
-The Knights will open the tournament on Friday against Val-d’Or (4:00pm PDT). The Foreurs may not have the most star-studded team in the tournament, but they boast one of the junior hockey’s best snipers, Anthony Mantha.
-London’s second game will be on Sunday against Edmonton (4:00pm PDT). The Oil Kings have three first round picks on their roster: Griffin Reinhart, Curtis Lazar and Henrik Samuelsson.
-The Knights will finish out the round-robin portion of the tournament on Wednesday (4:00pm PDT) against Guelph, the team that knocked them out of the OHL Playoffs. The Storm have 10 drafted players on their roster, including two first round picks: Kerby Rychel and Jason Dickinson.
-The Knights also feature 10 drafted players. Max Domi, Nikita Zadorov and Michael McCarron join Horvat as first-round picks on the roster.
-Because some of you will wonder, Guelph forward Ryan Horvat is of no relation to Bo. “I get asked that all the time actually,” he said. “There is no relation there. Maybe way back in the family tree somewhere there may be a relation, but as far as I know there isn’t.”