Saying good-bye to Branks

Don Brankley

Many people in the junior hockey world will be in London Tuesday to pay their respects to a beloved trainer.

Don (Branks) Brankley spent nearly 40 years with the London Knights organization and they will honour him with a celebration of his life at 6 p.m.

Branks, who passed away last month at the age of 69,  was a colourful character. During out of town games, he would be heckled by the opponent’s fans. Loving every minute of it, Branks would do what he could to rile them up.

He slept at the arenas where he worked – Treasure Island  Gardens, which became the Ice House, and then at the downtown arena, now called Budweiser Gardens.

I remember going to talk to Don one day in the bowels of the arena. He was busy washing the team’s uniforms and players were hanging around him then, as always. He told me the players were his life.

He had a special relationship with them, for sure. He said that they told him things they would never tell a coach.

Former Knights would always have to stop in and see Branks if they were in town. I once missed an interview with Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan, because he wanted to go see Don. Shanahan will get one last time to honour his mentor when he speaks at his celebration of life.

The last time I saw Branks was at the 2014 Memorial Cup in London. After retiring in 2008 and moving north to Capreol, he came back to see his boys.

I wrote a blog for CTV London about the man who held the respect of generations of players. You can read it here:

One thing that stood out that day in May was how happy he was to be “home.

He enjoyed talking to everyone he came across, whether he knew the person or not. And at the Memorial Cup there were many who wanted to bend his ear. Branks loved every minute of it. I think this quote he gave me sums up Branks so well: “I’m a great believer that if someone wants to acknowledge you as a person, you have a duty to stop and chat with them and make them feel as special as they’ve made you feel.”

We will miss you Branks, until we meet again.


Don Cherry promotes organ donation

The London Knights are raising awareness about organ donation with the help of Don Cherry.

Cherry will be at the Knights game Thursday against Kitchener.

He will be involved in the opening ceremony. The Kidney Foundation of Canada will also be on hand.

Cherry has been involved in donor awareness for some time. His daughter donated a kidney to his son, who had kidney failure, in the 1970s.

A couple of years ago, he donated a beloved vehicle to the kidney foundation which resells and recycles used vehicles.

There are more ways than ever to let your wishes be known about organ donation.

Yesterday I installed the latest operating system on my iPhone. It automatically included a health app. On that app, which allows emergency personnel to see any medical conditions or allergies you have in an emergency, you can click a box if you wish to donate organs.

For more information about Cherry’s big night in London, here is a link:

Dick Hunter on the life hockey has afforded his family: “Wow. How could this happen?”

I’m blogging about my blog.

Sounds funny, but thought there might be some interest here on my blog about the Memorial Cup.

This one focusses on Dick Hunter, who coached his three boys when they were younger on their way to NHL careers.

The fourth son, Ron, made it to the OHL.

It’s quite remarkable when you think about it and Dick says he finds it hard to believe even now.

With Mark and Dale Hunter and the Knights as hosts of their second Memorial Cup, I caught up with Dick for his thoughts.

Thanks to Gord for the photo of Dick, who also loves horses.


Memorial Cup in London keeps focus on veterans

memorial cup

Memorial Cup organizers have been ensuring that the veterans continue to be front and centre.

From bringing in a military helicopter to Wolseley Barracks to transport the Cup, to ceremonies and puck drops at all the hockey games, thinking about the sacrifice men and women have made to serve our country is top of mind.

Here’s my first blog for CTV London about an 88-year-old Navy vet who spoke at the Barracks ceremony after the Cup arrived.

Are  you taking in any of the Memorial Cup action either inside or outside the arena?

London is getting the Memorial Cup

As my insider told me a couple of months ago, the Cup is coming to London.

Here’s a link to the story.

Exciting news for the Forest City, coming the morning after the Knights win the OHL championship.

Will you be attending any of the 2014 Memorial Cup games?

London bid team feeling confident about chance to hold Memorial Cup

The London Knights are bidding on the 2014 Memorial Cup along with the Barrie Colts and the Windsor Spitfires.

A source told me it’s looking good for the Knights to get the Cup.

After a successful showing at the World Figure Skating Championships last month, the city is poised to capitalize.

Would you like to see the Memorial Cup back in town?

The London Knights were hosts of the CHL championship hockey tournament in 2005 and promptly won it.

You may remember that Sidney Crosby played in that tournament for the Rimouski Oceanic.

Now Sid is on the NHL sidelines with a broken jaw as his Penguins battle rumours he has another concussion.

proud father


You never know what you can learn from a horse. Thanks to Gord for this photo.