Despite trading away their top two players at the deadline, the Oshawa Generals’ fan base remains very loyal.
Just ask any of the close to 6,000 spectators who filled the Tribute Communities Centre Jan. 29 to watch Oshawa fall 4-0 to the London Knights, the second-ranked junior team in Canada.
“There is not a bad seat in the house,” said Deb Smid, a long time Generals fan who grew up in Schumacher, Ont. While she likes the arena, she is not a fan of its recent name change away from its original moniker—the GM Centre.
“We hate the name Tribute. It’s a backwards and insignificantly lame name. We still call it the GM.”
Despite a full house at the game, the crowd wasn’t too lively.
“General fans are very quiet,” said Bob Nelson. “There’s a lot of people sitting on their hands here.”
This was true, as the fans needed to take direction from the scoreboard to make some noise. The loudest cheers came from the direction of Will Ferrell’s character, Ron Burgundy.
Despite the relative silence, the Oshawa Generals have had loyal fans over their 80 year history. With junior hockey being limited to players under the age of 20, franchises constantly have to shuffle and retool their teams to come up with new stars every season. The fans understand this and stand by their team through thick and thin.
However, this often means tough decisions have to be made.
Shannon Bulgeo, who has followed the Generals for 25 years, was devastated to learn that the, “heart and soul,” of the Generals, team captain Anthony Cirelli and top defenceman Mitchell Vande Sompel, were traded to the Erie Otters and London Knights respectively earlier this month. Erie and London are neck and neck atop the OHL standings.
“When my husband came home and told me the news, I wanted to send my tickets back. They were traded on the same day. They got to play one last game together for the Generals. Cirelli knew he had been traded while Vande Sompel didn’t know.”
Although many fans, including Bulgeo and her daughter, were displeased with the trade, they understood why it was done. The Generals’ management is looking towards next year in hopes of creating a team that is strong enough to compete and host the Memorial Cup, which will mark the 100-year anniversary of the top prize in junior hockey in Canada.
Oshawa, which is bidding to host the Memorial Cup in 2018, wants to prepare their team as much as possible for next year, and have deemed this year lost due to the strong teams in the western conference.
“London is just too good,” said Bulgeo. “Though we might have played it better with those two players. Management are aware that even though we are strong in the east, we will be defeated by the west.”
The Generals got draft picks from the deals, as well as centre Allan McShane and defenceman Ian Blacker.
Bulgeo also said that the Generals’ will also need a new goalie for next year. Their starting goalie, Jeremy Brodeur, son of former New Jersey Devils’ great, Martin Brodeur, is an overage player in his final year of OHL eligibility. She said that Kyle Keyser, Sunday’s starting goalie, simply isn’t good enough to carry a team.
These are some of the major issues faced by OHL teams. Do you look at today or do you mortgage for the future?
Regardless of the decision, the one common thread that ties them all together are loyal fans.
“It’s the history,” said Nelson, who has been attending Oshawa Generals games since the days of Bobby Orr in the 1960s. “I’ve been to all their Memorial Cup runs… It’s a true saying they have. ‘Once a General, always a General’. And that’s true for the fans as much as the players.”