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Memorial Cup: Boy’s tears, caught on TV, sum up London ‘heartbreak’

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A young boy, wearing a Knights jersey, with tears streaming down his face – the image from Sunday’s Memorial Cup television broadcast said it all for London fans.

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A young boy, wearing a Knights jersey, with tears streaming down his face – the image from Sunday’s Memorial Cup television broadcast said it all for London fans.

The boy, captured on camera in the stands as London lost the final to the Saginaw Spirit, is the son of London Knights super-fan Sav Neth. They were among many Londoners who travelled to Michigan for the tournament and watched the team’s oh-so-close 4-3 loss, with seconds to go, to host Saginaw for the junior hockey title.

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“TSN caught my son crying on national television. I’ve gotten hundreds of messages from (people), saying ‘Keep your head up,’” said Neth.

Among the consoling messages were some from families of nine-year-old Jordan Neth’s favourite Knights players, said Neth, who followed the tournament from his front-row seat for Free Press readers, highlighting what he saw and heard during London’s hunt for junior hockey’s top prize.

“It’s been heart-warming,” Neth, founder of a Facebook-based Knights fan club, said of the feedback after the “heartbreak” he felt driving home from Saginaw.

Still, he said he’s proud of how London played, coming back from behind to tie things up before Saginaw won with less than half a minute to go. Here’s how Neth saw the game from his seat in Section E3, Seat 7 at Saginaw’s Dow Event Center:

A SLOW START

After the first period, the Knights were down 2-0. When the lead widened to 3-0, fans on social media soured. “How did the Knights collapse this badly at the finish line?” one fan wrote on a Reddit post. Even when a comeback seemed unlikely, however, there was Neth – like his son, visible on the TSN broadcast – cheering London on.

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“I had faith the whole time. I really didn’t stop cheering,” Neth said. The “downs,” he said, are when the team needs its fans the most. “We didn’t quit. No matter the score, no matter how little shots we got, we did not stop cheering.”

THIRD PERIOD COMEBACK

The Knights came back, scoring three goals to tie the game. The energy from fans in the crowd also heightened, Neth said. “The fans were going loud,” he said. The same fan who’d questioned the Knights on Reddit edited that post to say, “WAIT,” and then, “HOLD ON.” In the end, it was not enough. Saginaw scored its fourth and winning goal with 21 seconds left to go in the game.

POST-GAME THOUGHTS

Despite the loss in the final, Neth said the Knights – the Ontario Hockey League champions, who went through the tournament’s round-robin play undefeated – have every reason to hold their heads high. Fans are proud of them, he added.

“All the players should be proud of the season they had – on and off the ice,” he said. He noted the team’s engagement with the community throughout the year, such as supporting charities, going to minor hockey games to cheer on the next generation of players and bringing smiles to the faces of young fans at the Children’s Hospital in London. “They’re not just playing hockey,” he said.

Neth, a father of two, said the players have become leaders young people can admire. He hopes they hang onto that as they move on in their careers. “It’s more than hockey,” he said. “They have a community.”

nbrennan@postmedia.com
@noah_writes_

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