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Re-Naming the JLC

July 14, 2012

Sometime in the near future, the familiar title of the ‘John Labatt Centre’ or the ‘JLC,’ widely recognized as home of the OHL London Knights Junior Hockey Team, will change to the Budweiser Gardens.  The contract on the name for the London Knights’ home rink has expired in this, it’s tenth year and the power that be decided it was time for a change.While I realize that there are large dollar values involved with the naming of venues such as the JLC, and, to quote Mayor Fontana, “…from what I understand this is about the future, about growing the jobs and the promotion and marketing and support for our city on a going forward basis,” there are many of us that will miss the class and cachet of the original name. As Councillor Nancy Branscombe put it, “it sounds like a beer tent.”

The Knights have called two arenas home since their inception in 1965, the London Gardens (later re-named the London Ice House) and the JLC.  The London Gardens experienced several great regular seasons and modest playoff success, led by Hall of Famers Dino Ciccarelli and Darryl Sittler, and the well-known Brad Marsh, Brendan Shanahan and Rob Ramage.

Those that remember the old Ice House have a few wry memories of the horrible seasons leading up to the recent glory years. Most fans will associate the Ice House with the ’95/’96 debacle in which the Knights won only 3 games and, of course, the ‘SpiderKnight’ logo. Quite possibly the ugliest logo ever to grace a London Knights’ jersey, the ‘SpiderKnight’ put an exclamation point on the worst season in CHL history.

The John Labatt Centre will always be remembered as the place that the 2005 London Knights won their historic first-ever Memorial Cup on home ice. It was built as a many-purpose venue, but the Hunter brothers had long planned to have their team in the spotlight and the high-capacity JLC was key to their Memorial Cup bid.  Due to the NHL lockout, the eyes of a hockey-starved nation were on London, Ontario and the Knights didn’t disappoint. The Knights and the London community held a benchmark tournament in terms of both level of play and the event as a whole and capped it off with a Memorial Cup win over the Sidney Crosby-led Rimouski Oceanic.

The name change to the Budweiser Gardens won’t erase the fond memories built up in the ten year history of the John Labatt Centre, but it will engender a more American branding.  While the Labatt name is readily identifiable as Canadian, Budweiser is synonymous with American beer.  The new slogan could be ‘Buy More Beer’ vs ‘London, home of the original Labatt Brewery.’ Why a Canadian city with heritage of its own, would want to promote an American product that has no recognizable connection to it (yes, it is brewed/bottled here, but at the Labatt brewery) is a little beyond me.  Someone feels it will bring more revenue.

At some point, perhaps, the name Budweiser Gardens will grow on me. Not in the near future, but maybe once the Knights have a season or two under their belts in the newly named arena, it might happen. After all, the London Gardens became the Ice House.  Maybe next season the Knights will make another run to the Memorial Cup and create memories that their fans can associate with the Budweiser Gardens. I think some of us will continue to call it the JLC.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    July 14, 2012 1:07 PM

    It will always be the JLC, “Budweiser Garden” sounds like hell. The CN tower is still the CN tower regardless of it’s name change, same as “The Skydome”. Regardless of what it is officially called Londoners will always call it the JLC.

    • July 14, 2012 2:25 PM

      My sentiments exactly! I still call the SkyDome – the SkyDome, too and I’m not likely to change (geez, I sound old).

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