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.


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?

The Memorial Cup and how it was named

Starting this week I’ll be writing a blog for CTV London about the Memorial Cup.
I’ll post the link soon but it will be found at
I’m excited to cover the Mem Cup again, having done it in 2005 when the London Knights won the CHL championship.
Captain James T. Sutherland donated the Cup to the Ontario Hockey League in 1919, to be awarded to the junior hockey champion in Canada. It was originally dedicated to the memory of OHL hockey players who lost their lives fighting for Canada in World War I.
In 2010, it was rededicated to the memory of all fallen and current Canadian military personnel.
I’m using my blog space today to remember three Canadians, including a Londoner who died while serving Canada overseas in 1944.
Thanks to a reader for providing some information and I’m also sourcing the Colchester Gazette, which published an article last week about a plaque dedicated to the memory of those onboard.
The Canadians were part of a crew on RAF Lancaster UM-K2, serial No. DV 177, which was part of 626 Squadron based at Wickenby in Lincolnshire.
On April 24, 1944, the aircraft took part in a mission to Karlsruhe, Germany.
On the return journey, the Lancaster was attacked by a German intruder and attempted to make an emergency landing at Base Boxted, near Colchester, Essex.
The aircraft was less than a minute from reaching the runway when it went out of control and crashed, killing all of the crew. It was 4:10 a.m. on April 25.
David Seaborn and Michael Heath witnessed the crash as children and worked with history enthusiasts to hold a commemoration service.
The names of the Canadian aircrew were:
*W/O Robert Edgar Hall Cameron, air gunner, Service No. R/116874.
He was the son of Edgar Wilson Hall and Margaret Amanda Hall and the stepson of Alexander Nelson Cameron of London.
*Pilot Officer Murray Langtry McPherson, Service No. J/89285. He was the son of Donald Grant McPherson and Annie Maud McPherson of Myrtle, Man.
*P/O Francis Winburn Gunn, navigator, Service No. J/85972.
He was the son of George Francis and Dorothy Louise Gunn and husband of Mary Elizabeth Gunn of Carrot River, Sask. His wife was known as Molly and he had a daughter named Sharon Patricia.
If anyone has any information about these Canadians, please leave some information on this blog and also share it with Chris Stanfield of Colchester who is compiling information.


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.