Ken Eansor ready to give up London Nationals driver’s seat after historic run

Ryan Pyette
Publishing date: April 17, 2020
Six years ago, Ken Eansor moved to Windsor and still never missed a London Nationals playoff game.

“I used to joke, ’10 K, we go all the way’,” he said. “People would ask what it meant. If I put 10,000 km on my truck, then we’ll end up in the Sutherland Cup final.

“I did that a few times – and three of the past four seasons.”

After 15 years at the wheel, one of the most successful owners in London sports history decided to hand over the keys. Eansor recently sold the Junior B franchise to Paul Duarte, a fellow hockey enthusiast who runs a local legal services business.

“It was a labour of love for me,” said Eansor, the former operator of Courtesy Ford Lincoln and now owner and president of Windsor Honda. “I’ve always been all-in with this. I’m the team’s biggest fan on the planet and the issue I was dealing with was becoming an absentee owner. I like going to the games and I was only getting to 10 to 12 of them in the regular season.

“I had a real blast with them. It’s up there with a lot of accomplishments in my life. I love to win and I’m a competitive guy. It’s bittersweet, but it’s time to go.”

When Eansor and brother Bill bought the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League club a decade and a half ago, they figured they would build it up for five or six years and then move on to something else. Bill left in 2012 to pursue other interests and Ken led the rise of a provincial powerhouse.

Ken Eansor

The Nationals won the Sutherland Cup in 2013 and captured six Western Conference titles, including the most recent four. They were in good position to make it five straight until the coronavirus pandemic scrapped the season in the second round of the playoffs.

“I wanted to put this team on the map and had high standards,” Eansor said. “Once you get a taste of winning, you don’t want to lose that. I just got addicted to it and loved giving back to the community and the kids. We worked hard and we had a pretty good formula. When you’re a winning program, kids want to come play for you. (Current GM/coach) Pat Powers turned into a terrific recruiter.

“I have to give credit to my daughter Whitney. She did a lot of off-ice stuff for me, along with Pat and Tim Simmons. I wouldn’t have been able to run the team the way it’s been run without them.”

Simmons was with the Eansors when they started their ownership run and remains with the team as director of hockey operations.

“You couldn’t ask to work for a better guy than Ken,” he said. “Under him, attendance, sponsorship, the season tickets have all gone way up. He spent a lot of money to re-brand the team and now the games are live on Rogers TV. In the earlier years, he used to come on the bus on the road and the guys loved when he was around.

“The last few years, the kids would see him and knew they better go shake his hand and say thanks for treating them the way he did.”

Eansor wasn’t going to settle for selling the team to the highest bidder. He wanted his successor to have the same passion and interest in the game.

“I’m happy to pass the torch to Paul,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence that under his leadership, he’ll maintain the winning position and take care of the guys. We discussed the entire staff coming back next year and he wanted them back.”

Eansor maintains that London’s disallowed goal late in Game 7 of the 2019 Sutherland Cup final should have counted. Without the benefit of video review, it was waved off and Waterloo won in overtime.

“I really feel bad for the 20-year-olds this year,” Eansor said, “because they were hell-bent to come back and win this thing. We had a real good team again. That’s one regret, but it’s a game and what we’re dealing with right now in the world isn’t a game.

Now, Eansor is all-in with his Windsor Honda work. Down the road, he wouldn’t be against getting involved in hockey again in some capacity.

“I’m not going to say no because I really love the game,” he said. “We had a loyal, passionate group in London and I’ll always be a National.”