This is part of an ongoing series in which we look back on amazing moments in London Knights history. Each day, we’ll bring you a new memory leading up to the anniversaries of the team’s Memorial Cup championships in 2005 and 2016.
The sound was deafening.
Nine thousand voices yelling in unison: “Goal, goal, goal, goal…”
Nine thousand arms pointing to centre ice, imitating the motion they wanted referee Kendrick Nicholson to make.
Nicholson was doing his best to block out the noise. He had to hear what one single voice was saying to him through a phone.
He needed to know whether a puck shot by Bo Horvat of the London Knights had gone completely across the goal line or not.
And the stakes were higher for this goal review than just about any other you could imagine.
For the past 59.99 seconds of hockey time, Nicholson, along with fellow referee Mike Cairns and linesmen Matthew Traub and Mike Hamilton, had been officiating the seventh game of the 2013 Ontario Hockey League Championship Series between the London Knights and the Barrie Colts at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont.
London Knights — Back in time, May 12
The series had been a wild one up to this point. The Knights had fallen behind three games to one and had fought their way back to force a Game 7 two nights earlier by surviving a four-goal Colts comeback in the third period that forced London to win in overtime.
The Knights had been winning 2-1 late in the third period of Game 7. They seemed poised to win their second consecutive title, and then the series that just seemed to want to be tied drew even again. Barrie’s Mitchell Theoret scored with 2:53 to go to knot things up 2-2.
The Colts bench celebrated. London’s bench looked concerned. The Knights had mustered up a whole lot of magic just to force a seventh and deciding game. Finding more might be asking too much.
Time ticked down into the final minute and then the final half-minute and then the final 20 seconds, and the score stayed tied.
With 10 seconds to go, Barrie managed to poke the puck out into centre ice.
London forward Seth Griffith grabbed it and fired the puck back into Colts territory as Alex Broadhurst and Horvat went after it. The puck came around to the left side of the Colts zone, and Broadhurst managed to block a Barrie clearing attempt and get the puck to his stick. Broadhurst tried to pass the puck across the slot to Griffith, who was going to the net uncovered, but it deflected off a stick toward the left goalpost where Horvat just happened to be standing.
The future Vancouver Canuck took a swipe at it, and the puck slid along the goal line and was quickly grabbed and covered by Barrie goalie Mathias Niederberger.
Horvat, Griffith, Broadhurst and the rest of the Knights on the ice celebrated, but the goal had been waved off by Nicholson, who was standing behind the net. The clock showed 0.1 seconds. As Horvat looked up at the scoreboard, Nicholson made his way to the timekeeper’s bench.
Nicholson removed his helmet and waited for the phone to be handed through the small hole in the glass normally used to communicate goals and penalties with the off-ice officials.
Horvat moved over to the London bench, where he was met with, “Is it in?” from anyone who could get near enough to the Rodney, Ont., native to ask.
Horvat nodded as his eyes fixed on Nicholson directly across the ice from where he was standing.
“It’s a goal,” Horvat said, still trying to catch his breath.
Nicholson needed to be sure. The decision that he and the video replay goal judge were teaming up to make had the power to decide a champion.
The official on the other end of the phone with Nicholson was replay goal judge Steve Baker.
Nicholson’s initial inquiry got an immediate response from Baker: “It’s a goal.”
The puck had gone completely across the goal line.
Given the magnitude of this decision, Nicholson needed to make sure and asked Baker to check it again.
Baker did, confirmed that the puck had crossed the line and said: “It’s still a goal.”
At that point, Nicholson handed the phone back through the glass and told Cairns something to the effect of: “This town is going to have a good time tonight.”
Nicholson placed his helmet back on his head and pointed emphatically to centre ice.
Budweiser Gardens erupted to a level that will be extremely difficult to match ever again, and the city of London did, in fact, have a very good time that night.
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