The City of Oshawa began building the Oshawa Civic Auditorium in February 1964. It was completed just ten months later in December 1964.
If Hambly Arena, also known as the Oshawa Arena, had never burned down in 1953, the Civic Auditorium would have never have been built and the Generals would have never played one game there.
Hambly Arena burned down one week before the hockey season was to begin. Lost in the fire was the equipment of the Oshawa Generals as well as other local hockey teams according to the Oshawa Express. The Oshawa Daily Times says the total loss in the fire came out to around $500,000.
With no equipment or arena and not much more money coming in, other than donations, the team could no longer continue and players were forced to find a new team.
Just nine years later the Oshawa Civic Auditorium was resurrected and the Generals returned to Oshawa.
But the Auditorium and complex turned out to be so much more than the community could have ever asked for.
“Built for the people, by the people,” was the slogan that went along with the facility after it was built because it was paid for by volunteer fundraising, including going door-to-door as well payroll deductions from General Motors employees.
The community raised $1.25 million towards the building according to The Civic.
While the arena was the main attraction, the facility also offered swimming, a games room, a fitness centre, a football field and could host circuses, dinners or shows.
The Generals were very well what brought the biggest crowd to the Oshawa Civic Auditorium. Jill Passmore, who grew up across the street from The Civic, would go to games with her family like so many others in Oshawa. Memories of these games go well beyond the players just passing a puck around the ice.
“There was always the 50/50 draw at the games. One time my Dad won and I remember him taking home a brown lunch bag of change,” says Passmore.
Passmore also remembers going for public skates on the ice surface in the auditorium but her favourite times on the ice were for the “Skate with the Generals.”
While Passmore grew up just across the street from the building, the mayor of Oshawa, John Henry, says he’s been around it all his life as well.
“When I was a kid at The Civic, I don’t think I was older than ten when I went to watch the Buffalo Sabres play the California Golden Seals in an exhibition game at The Civic,” explains mayor Henry.
While the Generals were the main hockey team in town, the NHL’s California Golden Seals took advantage of the Oshawa Civic Auditorium in the ’70s for training camps and as the mayor had the privilege to watch, preseason NHL hockey as well.
The connection between the Oshawa Civic Auditorium and the Oshawa Generals peaked in the 1990’s as the Gens made it to the finals three times, brought home the Memorial Cup in 1990 and only had one losing season.
They closed out their time at the Auditorium with only three winning seasons in the final seven and only a dismal 33 wins (136 games played) in their final two seasons in the building.
While Passmore has attended many Generals games, this one was a little different for her. It’s the 1993 season and while Passmore has attended many games before, none without her parents.
The puck drop is coming up at 7:30 at the Civic Auditorium as the Ge
nerals host the Peterborough Petes. Passmore and her friends scramble to
their seats in “their” section, where they typically sit, and are on the lookout for a friend’s cousin playing with the Petes.
While the girls giggle and enjoy their first night out at The Civic alone, the furthest thing from her mind was what the facility might look when she has kids.
She may not have the ability to bring her kids to Generals games at the Civic Auditorium but Passmore is proud to bring her kids to such a beautiful, community driven facility that she was so blessed to grow up with in her very own backyard.
“I could go on forever, but I’ll finish by wishing that my kids end up having memories of a place like this to look back on as I do when I think about The Civic,” says Passmore.
Whether it’s 1990 or 2017, or whether it’s called the Civic Recreation Centre, The Civic is still serving its purpose over 60 years later.