Looking back on the last two years can bring about a lot of eyebrow-raising.
In the hockey world, fans may have been surprised by the rise of the Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs after years of mediocrity.
For the Surrey Knights of the PJHL, they haven’t escaped the mediocrity. In fact, that label has followed them around in a rather unflattering matter.
Sunday, Nov. 19th marked the two-year anniversary of the last time the franchise won a hockey game. During that game, the Knights, who were based on Langley at the time, scored a pair of second-period goals to beat the Abbotsford Pilots 3-2.
Fast-forward to Thursday, Nov. 17th, and the Knights had one more chance at ending their losing streak before the calendar once again flipped on a winless 12 months. They once again faced the Pilots at the George Preston Arena in North Surrey.
The matchup pitted the still-winless Knights (0-18-0-1) against the Harold Brittain Conference-leading Pilots (16-5-0-2).
You might be able to take a guess at who won this matchup.
After putting up better performances in more recent games, the Knights bowed out to the Pilots 11-1.
A well-documented incident in September of 2015 was the first domino to fall for the Knights in their downward spiral.
Co-owner John Craighead, who was coach of the Langley Knights at the time, intervened after a bench brawl broke out between the Knights and the Mission City Outlaws.
An Outlaw player alleged that he was struck by Craighead, which resulted in a six-year ban from the league for the Knights former coach.
Although Craighead is still present as an owner, the incident kicked off a downward spiral for the franchise.
In August, the Knights hired former Vancouver Canucks assistant general managers Laurence Gilman and Lorne Henning as advisors for the team.
Gilman was on TSN 1040 this week, and he gave some insight into his role and the state of the franchise currently.
He got involved with the Knights on a volunteer basis after coming in contact with Craighead through Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP. Gilman is an associate counsel with the firm, who represents Craighead.
One thing that Gilman mentions in terms of the brawl is that at the time, Mission had more 20-year-old players than the younger Knights team. While the PJHL limits teams to having two 16-year-olds maximum on each roster, there is no limit to the number of 20-year-olds on each team.
Although Craighead got himself in hot water because of the incident, it was a number of Langley players who were reportedly taken to the hospital at the time.
That incident had repercussions for the franchise, according to Gilman.
“Unfortunately, what ensued when [Craighead] got suspended was that they lost a lot of their players. They also hired a coach last year that didn’t work out,” said Gilman.
Paul Whintors was that coach in question for the Knights last season. He was fired and replaced halfway through the season by Spencer and Scott McHaffie, who currently coach the team.
After neither set of coaches could fins success, Gilman and Henning were brought in.
“Lorne [Henning] and I came onto the scene in August. At that time, they were beginning their training camp. The year before, they had 25 guys at their training camp.”
That disadvantage puts the Knights far behind the eight ball. Their current roster has 24 players, but many training camps in hockey have nearly double that total to create competition.
“Whatever could have gone wrong, did go wrong,” he said.
In his volunteer role, Gilman was asked to make some phone calls to recruit players. That’s where he encountered first-hand the hardships the franchise faces.
“It occurred to me very quickly that it’s no easy task to recruit players for a team that went 0-43.
Gilman points out that the Knights are the only one who is affected by this prolonged losing streak.
“It’s a very challenging situation, said Gilman. “It’s one that no one is happy about.”
“Its frustrating for the league as well, they don’t want a team who is winless.
The Knights do get one last chance tonight at ending their 85-game losing streak at the two-year mark. They travel to the Burnaby Winter Club to take on the Grandview Steelers.
During the second game of the regular season, the Knights had one of their best chances at ending their winless streak.
They went into the second intermission trailing only 1-0, as goalie Zachary Babin stopped 27 of the first 28 shots he faced. However, the Knights gave up a couple in the third and ended up losing the game 3-1.
Perhaps one of their closer performances can inspire them to get their first win in 84 tries on Sunday night.
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