Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles chronicling the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and organizations in Oshawa.
On March 13, 2020, the Oshawa Generals loaded the bus headed to Ottawa to play the 67’s late in the season. That’s when word came down from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) that the remainder of the season had been suspended due to COVID-19. They turned the bus around and told the players the news.
“We didn’t have a lot of information, so we didn’t think it was going to be a long time. Obviously, it’s turned into that,” says Generals’ President Rocco Tullio.
The OHL plans to start the new season in December with training camp starting in mid-November. The league is currently working on a detailed outline of protocols to be issued to the teams.
The Generals have already purchased sanitizing equipment that will disinfect dressing rooms.
“Everyone will have their own towels and their own separate water bottles,” says Tullio.
Whether there will be fans at the OHL games this season is yet to be determined.
“Early on we could be playing in front of no fans or maybe 40 to 50 per cent fan base,” says Tullio. Going into this uncertain season, the safety of players and fans is priority number one for the Generals.
“Nothing will change in terms of how we run our hockey team,” says Tullio. “We’re going to have to make decisions as a league very, very soon and then implement those protocols to make sure everybody is safe.”
Players coming from outside Ontario will follow protocols from the Province.
“I expect they’ll have to quarantine for two weeks and follow those protocols before they can join. So, we are still working through some of those things,” says Tullio.
In terms of marketing, things are on hold until the season gets underway.
“Season tickets are good. They’ve always been good. Our fans are very supportive but we’re not spending any of that money. That’s basically been put in the vault until the season starts up again,” explains Tullio.
The team’s marketing hasn’t been affected much with sponsors being supportive.
“It hasn’t really hurt us yet, but we need to get our season going,” says Tullio.
The organization is feeling the effects of the pandemic in other areas.
“It’s cost us a lot of money. Its cost team owners a lot of money. We still have bills,” says Tullio, adding these expenses include items such as utilities. “You can’t just shut down an active business but that’s the price of owning your own business: take the good with the bad.”
If the upcoming OHL season is cancelled, the Generals will need to re-evaluate their financial situation at that point in time.
“We haven’t gone to the City (of Oshawa) for any concessions at this stage. We will broach that if there’s not going to be a season,” says Tullio.
Tullio hopes this is all a “short-term blip on the radar.” He thinks things will eventually get back to how they were but acknowledges it may take six months to a year.
“I think we will see fans of 6,000 in our arenas again,” says Tullio.
Tullio and the Generals are working through the ‘what if’s’ surrounding the OHL season until they have direction from the government.
“Hopefully they understand importance of junior hockey and what it means to the integrity and the fabric of our communities. Hopefully they help us out in some form or another,” says Tullio.