Two years ago, the Oshawa Generals thought they had everything in place to make another Memorial Cup championship run.
They were led by veterans such as Kyle MacLean, Allen McShane, Brett Neumann and other key members.
The Generals even added to their team with big acquisitions, including Philip Tomasino, who was acquired from the Niagara Ice Dogs in exchange for nine draft picks before the pandemic.
“Almost as a thank you to the players for sticking by us, we wanted to get into a position whereas opposed to looking to the future, let’s focus on now and let’s try to add a few pieces and see what happens,” said Roger Hunt, team vice president and general manager.
What did end up happening was the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down the 2020 season and forced the OHL to cancel the 2021 season as well, and even today the effects of that are being felt by the Generals. The team Hunt has today is not the team he was expecting after a cancelled season last year and an off-and-on season this year.
When the OHL was forced to shut down for 2020 due to the pandemic, Hunt and the rest of the Generals hockey club were disappointed that they couldn’t get the chance to play for the Memorial Cup.
“These players give up everything for their craft and the game of hockey,” Hunt said.
“I couldn’t imagine what they were feeling.” Even the fans were disappointed that they didn’t get the chance to see their team contend for a title for not just one, but two consecutive years.
“We felt extremely sorry for our fans and the disappointment they were feeling,” said Karon Shepperdson, co-owner of the Generals’ booster club for fans.
“We wanted to give the fans the chance to attend those potential Memorial Cup games by handing out tickets for them to go to Kelowna, B.C., but that obviously didn’t happen with the pandemic.”
Tomasino’s final year in the OHL was in 2020 because he was an overaged player in the league at 20-years-old.
MacLean and Neumann would have also been gone at the end of 2020 as they would have been in their early 20s.
McShane would have been part of the 2021 team, but now he’s overaged to still play in the league.
Because the Generals would have lost so many players due to their age and moving on to a professional hockey league, Hunt said this season would have been different for Oshawa.
“Following the 2020 season, if there wasn’t a pandemic, we would probably be rebuilding this year because of all the players we lost the last couple of years,” Hunt said.
However, the Generals have come back with another strong team lead by Ty Tullio and Brett Harrison and have gotten great production from rookies such as Calum Ritchie and Matthew Buckley.
With the Generals still fighting for a higher rank in the standings, they were busy at the trade deadline again, acquiring Oskar Olausson, Cameron Butler and more OHL veterans.
The Generals have hit a rough patch in mid-March and fired head coach Todd Miller.
Given the struggles with the team he’s put together, Hunt still isn’t sure if things will play out the way he wanted.
“You never know what can happen in the regular season or the playoffs,” said Hunt. “You never know if a hot goalie is gonna make a difference or if one guy scoring at will is gonna make a difference.”
No matter what it takes, Hunt still wants to bring a Memorial Cup back to Oshawa for the team he’s been a part of for the last 12 years.
“I’d love nothing more but to win again when it’s all said and done,” said Hunt, “the Generals and the community have become a huge part of my life and who I am, and I feel like I owe it to them to get them another championship.”