Memorial Cup: Discovering London, Ont.
With a population of just over 350,000, the city of London, Ont. is your prototypical mid-sized town. Founded in the 1850’s, the town’s economy relies on insurance, manufacturing and information technology. There is also a university campus, an International Airport and a lazy river runs along the outskirts of the city. As you can see, a prototypical town.
The city also has a junior hockey team, but they are not your prototypical junior hockey team. In fact, they are one of the world’s most prominent squads and through May 26, will be hosting the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
In honour of the London Knights hosting the tournament, we thought we’d give you a quick run-down on the city on London.
London may seem like a small town today, but back during it’s founding, there were big plans for the area. The present-day location of the city was originally going to be the capital for Upper Canada and would be named Georgina. However, the plans never materialized and York (today called Toronto) was named the capital. It’s hard to believe that the area was almost home to a metropolis the size of T.O.
Regardless, the village was founded in 1826 and named after the English capital (of course). The river that ran through the city was also appropriately renamed the ‘Thames River’. It was incorporated as a city on Jan. 1, 1855.
In those years, many of the residents were workers, employed by factories on the east side of town (recently, the city announced a project to try to restore certain buildings on the east side). The townspeople lived out of Georgian cottages, some of which still stand today. Many successful companies were founded in the area, including Imperial Oil, Labatt breweries, Libro Financial Group and Canada Trust.
During this time period, the University of Western Ontario was established and is currently ranked as one of the top 200 universities in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
It was in London that Sir Frederick Banting made huge advancements in his diabetes research and eventual discovery of insulin. From July 1920 to May 1921, Banting practiced out of one of those quaint cottages.
At the turn of the last century, London was also the military administrative centre for Western Ontario. The city’s two battalions merged in the 1950’s to form the London and Oxford Rifles (3rd battalion), which is still around today.
1950’s to present
As the century moved on, London annexed some of the surrounding communities, such as Byron and Masonville (1961) and Westminster (1992). These annexations boosted the population of the town by more than 25 per cent and doubled its area. London was growing rapidly. As some of the mills and factories shut down, new businesses took their place. General Dynamics Land Systems moved some of their offices to the city, as well as manufacturing giant 3M and Kellogg’s.
But the largest industry to arrive in London has been automotive construction. General Motors, Toyota and Ford all moved plants to the region, employing thousands of Londoners.
The town that started off as a small village was now attracting hundreds of new families every year. One of those families was the Suzuki’s, whom moved to London following World War II with their young son, David. Also arriving during that time period was the Bieber’s, but lets not talk about them right now.
London can be reached by car on highway 402 (from Sarnia) or highway 401 (from Windsor or Toronto). There is also a road leading up to Owen Sound, but don’t dare drive it during the winter.
Greyhound Canada has a terminal in London and buses arrive daily from various cities around southwestern Ontario, Quebec and the United States.
Trains lines such as Via Rail, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific run through the city.
London International Airport is served by Air Canada Jazz, WestJet and United Airlines and will undoubtedly be busy during the Memorial Cup.
Although the sports seen is dominated by the Knights, there are many other teams that proudly represent the city. These teams include four football squads, two soccer clubs, a basketball team, a baseball team, a rugby team and a lacrosse team. The baseball team, the London Majors who play in the Intercounty Baseball League, were founded in 1925 while the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada, have won the championship in two of their first three years of existence.
Points of interest and other facts
Here’s a summery of the places you can visit in between games at the Budweiser Gardens;
- The Eldon House – the oldest surviving building in London
- Museums – Museum London, Museum of Ontario Archaeology, London Regional Children’s Museum and the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum (highly recommended)
- The Grand Theater – name is self-explanatory, built in 1901.
- St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica – It was named a ‘minor basilica’ by Pope John XXIII in 1961, although there is nothing minor about it.
Here are some other interesting facts about London;
- The mayor is Joe Fontana
- The motto is Labore et Perseverantia (‘Through labour and perseverance)
- London has a sister city, Nanjing, China
- The city’s tallest building is One London Place. It has 24 stories and stands 113m tall.
- As of 2011, 71.6 per cent of Londoners trace their ethnic origins to the British Isles
- London is home to the second largest Rib festival in North American, the annual London Rib-Fest
- The Sunfest World Music festival is held each summer and is one of the top 100 summer destinations on the continent.
So that’s our brief rundown of what London has to offer, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Have fun exploring “The Forest City”!
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