Knight moves

July 7, 2016

The best team in the Ontario Hockey League — you know, the one that fans from the other 19 centers love to hate — is in upper management transition.

But there is little doubt that it will be business as usual for the 2016 Memorial Cup champion London Knights.

For the second time in a two-year span, London is losing its general manager to a National Hockey League team.

First, it was Mark Hunter who left the Knights to become director of player personnel for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The latest departure has Basil McRae moving up from the Knights to become director of player personnel for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Of note, Hunter and McRae both managed the Knights to their only two Memorial Cup championships in franchise history — in 2005 and 2016, respectively.

Of further note, both Memorial Cup title teams were coached by Dale Hunter. The Hunters are majority owners of the Knights and McRae has a minority stake.

But now, for the first time since the Hunters bought the franchise in 2000, the Knights will not be managed by someone with an ownership stake.

35-year old Rob Simpson, a four-year assistant coach who had been McRae’s assistant GM the past two seasons, takes over as GM in London.

And Jake Goldberg, a 26-year old Toronto lawyer and three-year scout with the Knights, moves up as assistant GM and director of analytics.

Of course, leave it to the forward-thinking Hunters to hire a lawyer to work in the Knights hockey department in the first place.

Make no mistake about it, Goldberg is an extremely-intelligent young man — a whiz kid with a law degree from the University of Western Ontario, where he finished at the top of his graduating class before being called to the bar in 2015.

Meanwhile, in taking over as GM from McRae, Simpson inherits one of the better teams in not only the OHL but the entire Canadian Hockey League. Ergo, the pressure will be on the rookie GM to win again.

Then again, winning has become the norm in London under the Hunter-McRae ownership.

In the past five years alone, the Knights have produced regular-season point totals of 99, 105, 103, 84 and 105 in winning three OHL championships and one Memorial Cup title.

To be sure, the Knights have their share of detractors inside and outside the OHL, including those who seem to think that London either doesn’t play by the rules or that it bends them.

Let’s just say that London’s record of excellence speaks for itself — both in on-ice success and at the gate where the Knights routinely average just over 9,000 fans per home game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *