If you are a follower of junior hockey especially in Ontario we always ask folks this, when you think of the Oshawa Generals Jr.A Hockey Club of the Ontario Hockey League, what is the first thing you think of? Is it the history of the teams name, named after General Motors. Is it the that they are one of the oldest franchises in Canadian junior hockey (founded in 1938) or is it the 166 graduates to the National Hockey League that are only second to the Peterborough Petes. Or maybe that the Generals have won the Memorial Cup 4 times, and a record twelve Ontario Hockey League Championships, the J. Ross Robertson Cup. No, no that’s not it…well lets give you some more history first.
Way before the birth of the Generals in 1938 the Oshawa team was in the Midland Hockey League. It competed against other local teams from areas like Whitby, Bowmanville, Port Hope and Coburg. They were once known as the Oshawa Shamrocks in the 1908-09 which was the begining of a long historic ride through the OHL.
By the 1930′s the team had become the Oshawa Majors which battled in the Ontario Hockey Association and won that title in 1935 playing against the Kitchener Greenshirts and then went onto play the Northern Ontario champions Sudbury Cub Wolves. In a protest by Kitchener, the title was taken away from Oshawa while games were already underway with Sudbury.
Then came the year 1937 when the Oshawa Generals were born. Named after General Motors of Canada, the Generals put together an unequalled feat of 7 consecutive OHA Championships and winning 3 Memeorial Cups in the same span. From the time of 1937 through 1944 the Generals graduated 20 players to the NHL with Hockey Hall of Famers such as Frank Bennett and ‘Terrible’ Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings fame.
Then tragedy struck the team in 1953 as the old Hambly’s Arena burned down, the Generals were homeless and history through out that building such as pictures, equipment and memories were gone forever. They needed to disband for the year but General Manager Wren Blair made a Senior B team known as the Oshawa Truckmen who played in Bowmanville for the 1953-1954 season. The year after the team would become the Whitby Dunlops. Those same Dunlops would go onto be the Allen Cup Champions in 1957 and 1959 and World Champions in 1958.
In 1962 the Osahwa Generals were back and why not come back with a ‘Bang’ with one of the very best to ever play the game. Just not the rebirth of the Generals but the ‘birth’ of the greatest player ever to wear the Oshawa Generals uniform, Bobby Orr, who went onto become a legend in the NHL and to be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame. At the age of 14 Wren Blair signed this phenom to a contract and made the 2nd All-Star team at the tender age of 14. In his first full season Orr score 29 goals to break the record for most goals by a defenceman. previously held by Jacques Laperriere.
During the 1964-65 season Orr again broke his own scoring record with 34 goals and that same year the team moved into the new Oshawa Civic Auditorium. The year later the team returned to the Memeorial Cup after 22 years and was guided by a former alumnus, Armand ‘Bep’ Guidolin who had played in Oshawa in the 1942 Memeorial Cup and again Orr would break his own scoring record with 38 goals. Defeating their bitter rivals, the St.Catharines Black Hawks in the quarter finals, before eliminating the Montreal Junior Canadiens in the semi finals and winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHA Champions vs. the Kitchener Rangers. Then off to face the Northern Ontario Jr A champion North Bay Trappers where the Generals combined a score of 43-9 to win the series in 4 games and then defeated Shawinigan Bruins in 3 games to be the Eastern Canadian representative in the Memeorial Cup only to lose in 6 games to the Edmonton Oil Kings and the fact the famous Bobby Orr was playing on a sore knee (the start of his knee problems).
Through the next twenty odd years the Generals returned to the Memorial Cup to win in 1983 and be in the finals again only to lose to Medicine Hat Tigers in 1987.
We are not sure what or why Oshawa attracks hockey phenoms but again another one entered into the history books of the Generals. In 1989 a young Eric Lindros who was originally draft to Saault Ste. Marie Greyhounds but refused to play for them (this kid had the same problem going into the NHL) forcing them to trade him to Oshawa, thus another era of a ‘superstar’ is born. Lindros would help the Generals to another Memorial Cup in 1990 going into double overtime vs the Kitchener Rangers by a score of 4-3. Lindros and the Generals were back in hte Memorial Cup finals the following season again but lost to the very team that drafted Lindros, Sault Ste.Maria Greyhounds, that’s what we call a pay back!
Come 1997 the Generals won their 12th OHL Championship which is a record now and will be a tough act to follow. In 2004 the Generals received new ownership with John Davies purchasing the team and the new ‘era’ had begun. In the 2005 midget draft yet another phenom enter through the doors of the ‘Now and New’ arena for the Generals, General Motors Centre, and that being a young gun named John Tavares. With exceptional player status allowing him to be drafted one year earlier then normal. Tavares for the next 3 years topped the scoring race every year but finally in 2009 he was traded in a ‘block-busting’ deal to the London Knights that sent numerous draft picks and star players back to Oshawa such as Christian Thomas, Scott Valentine and Michael Zador. Along with the ‘Big’ trade, owner John Davies gained the remaining shares of the club and then brought in 2 new partners former NHL star and Stanley Cup Champion Adam Graves and former coach in the OHL and now in the NHL Peter DeBoer.
The tradition continues as the 2012-13 Oshawa Generals are inching closer to the first place spot in their eastern confernce standings. Just a couple of points out of first and right behind the Belleville Bulls. With head coach and former Toronto Maple Leaf player, D.J.Smith is leading his young guns this season to what they hope will be a long run come playoff time. Players like Tyler Biggs (TML draft pick) and Boone ‘Crusher’ Jenner (Team Canada in World Juniors) showing the way game after game allowing the future Generals to see how it is done. And yes the prospects of the Generals are just itching to get into play, boys like Michael Del Colle, Owen McDada and Joe Manchurek all future stars of the Oshawa Generals for years to come and maybe, just maybe one day these players will have the opportunity to just not host the OHL Cup and the Memorial Cup like the great past players have done but maybe like these three fantastic hockey legends, they will be honoured to have their numbers retired in the rafters of the GM Centre, and those being, #2 Bobby Orr, #9 Albert ‘Red’ Tilson and #88 Eric Lindros.
Let the tradition continue!
Until next time.
See you after the game,
By Warren Nye, UltimateHockeySource.com
January 27th, 2013