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Knights open doors to faithful

The annual open house may be a final farewell for top scorer Pat Kane.
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By RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA
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Pat Kane and Sam Gagner acknowledge life is starting to get a bit crazy.
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In little more than a week, the London Knights scoring stars attended a Stanley Cup final game in Anaheim, sat in front of celebrity Ducks fan Snoop Dogg, appeared on Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry and were shown on sportscasts around the country pedalling stationary bikes at the NHL draft combine in Toronto.
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Naturally, the Orange County brush with a ganster rap master held more of their attention than the on-air appearance with Canada’s controversial hockey commentator.
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“He (Cherry) had us (the top draft prospects) all give the thumbs-up to the camera,” Kane said. “It was pretty funny to see Snoop Dogg right there. He had his two kids in Ducks gear and one of his guys he was with was saying stuff and making him laugh the whole time.”
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Yesterday, Kane and Gagner were in London for the Knights annual open house at the John Labatt Centre, which included fan interaction, team awards and the introduction of new players and prospects. For Kane, it could end up being a farewell appearance if the NHL team that selects him at the entry draft in two weeks at Columbus decides to keep him.
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“If I’m coming back for another year of development (in London), that’s fine, but my goal is to go in and make the big club,” he said. “Chicago (which holds the first pick) and Philadelphia (with No. 2) have both spoken to me and I don’t know what’s going to happen that day. I know they both are going to want to have another interview before they make their decisions.”
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Wherever Kane ends up, he hope he isn’t otherwise occupied when Gagner is picked on draft day and said he hopes his teammate’s name is called before anyone else.
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“Pat and I are good friends and it has been nice to go through this process with someone you know,” Gagner said. “All season, you’re just trying to help the London Knights win and not worry about where you’re going to end up but with draft day almost here, it feels a lot more real.”
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As Gagner spoke, recently acquired Knights forward Akim Aliu, another potential high NHL pick, studied some of the old team photos on the wall of the Knights dressing room. Even if Kane doesn’t return, there’s already built-in chemistry in place between Gagner and his old Toronto Marlies teammate.
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“It’s nice to see him here because I grew up playing with Akim and he brings a lot of skill and speed,” Gagner said. “He has been to the league final (with Sudbury) last year and he’s going to help a lot.”
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Knights veteran forward Adam Perry would also help if he returns for another season. After beginning his best OHL season at Anaheim training camp, he attended Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final last week and watched his older brother Corey celebrate with his Ducks teammates after the historic win.
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“A couple of the guys who I skated with at the camp got into a few playoff games,” Adam said. “It was nice to see how happy he (Corey) was and it was nice to see the excitement from the guys who had never won the Cup before. I think the only one who had was Scott Niedermayer.”
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Perry said he didn’t know if his brother would bring the Cup to London when he gets it for his day or weekend this summer.
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“Peterborough’s home, but I know he’d like to bring it here if he gets the chance,” Adam said. “It all depends on how much time he gets with it.”
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The official 2007-08 OHL schedule hasn’t been released yet but the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (Dec. 29-Jan. 4) won’t hinder the Knights from continuing their tradition of playing a home-and-away New Year’s Eve and Day set with the Sarnia Sting. The Knights will play at the John Labatt Centre, tentatively at 6 p.m., on Dec. 31 before heading to Sarnia the following day.
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London GM Mark Hunter also said he and assistant coach Todd Bidner met this week but a decision hasn’t been made on whether or not he will return to the team next season. Bidner was in the building but wasn’t behind the bench for London’s final playoff game — a loss to Plymouth in the Western Conference final.
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KNIGHTS AWARDS
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MVP: Pat Kane
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Rookie of the year: Pat Kane
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Best defenceman: Scott Aarssen
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Playoff performer: (tie) Sam Gagner, Pat Kane
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Players’ player: Andrew Wilkins
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Heart trophy: Sergei Kostitsyn
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Most improved: Steve Mason
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Three-star award: Pat Kane
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Scholastic player of the year: Matt Clarke
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Booster Club player: Steve Mason
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Hardest working: Scott Aarssen
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Humanitarian of the year: Josh Beaulieu
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Best defensive forward: Robbie Drummond
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Peter Guertin longshot award: Matt Clarke
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Sportsmanship and ability: Sam Gagner
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Plus/minus award: Scott Aarssen
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Face-off award: Adam Perry
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Conditioning award: David Meckler

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