Office workers in button-down shirts and ties rubbed elbows with teenagers wearing championship jerseys as thousands of fans lined downtown streets at lunchtime Tuesday, celebrating the London Mustangs’ Stanley Cup victory.
Mustang players, coaches and staff paraded through city streets in a motorcade, joined by city and county officials.
Team Coach/GM Blake Wilson was the last Mustang in line, hoisting the Stanley Cup high in the air as the crowd roared. His car was surrounded by law enforcement officers and tailed closely by a tactical response team vehicle resembling a navy blue tank.
“This parade could be one of many to come for London,” Wilson said in a victory speech.
With most of their team just barely old enough to legally drink the champagne being chugged in their dressing room following a win over Vancouver that clinched the Cup on Sunday, the Mustangs appear well positioned to take a run at many more championships.
Talented young players under the age of 22 include: Kyle Okposo, Jakub Voracek, Tyler Myers, Michael Del Zotto, Michael Grabner, Brandon Sutter, David Perron, Jamie McBain, and Patrik Berglund. Scoring leaders Zach Parise and Rick Nash are both 24.
“There’s a lot of hard work and building and laying a foundation every year that goes into every year,” said Wilson. “So we’re going to enjoy this one… and come September we’ll start building the foundation again so we can be called the AFHL’s best dynasty team.”
London police Capt. Bob Guidara said there were an estimated 150,000 along the parade route.
Jerone Jackson, an administrative support employee at London Electric Co., stepped outside his office building to join the throngs on his lunch break.
“It’s my way to support the team, what they did for the city and what they did for the AFHL,” Jackson said.
London, an unlikely hockey hotbed, beat the Vancouver Heroes 7-4, wrapping up the title on Sunday night.
As the Mustangs’ players paraded through downtown, celebrating fans waved placards and pennants.
Ann Ebert of London waved a large blue Mustangs’ flag during the parade. The 50-year-old said she’s been a Mustangs fan since day one of the Inaugural Draft last year, and attended the Mustangs’ first opening season game, when they lost to Vancouver 8-3.
When the Mustangs took on the Heroes in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, Ebert said she was nervous.
“But going into the weekend with such a huge lead in the series, I knew we were going to win (the Stanley Cup),” she said.
As the parade wound down, fans streamed into the parking lot at the Hilton London Ontario hotel for a victory rally.
The crowd erupted in applause for goalies Jonas Hiller, Jaroslav Halak, and Pekka Rinne, who formed the best goaltending trio in the league.
Blake Wilson told the thousands at the rally, “the 23 guys on this hockey team have the greatest heart and the greatest character and the greatest courage. We deserve to be celebrating the Cup.”