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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Industry has made its way into the naming of sports franchises a few times. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers come to mind where the teams were named after the workers of the main industries of the city: meat packers and steel workers, respectively. Add to that the Oshawa Generals. Located 60 km east of Toronto, Oshawa has been the Canadian headquarters of General Motors, including their main manufacturing plant, for over 100 years. The Oshawa Generals were founded in 1937 and named after their main sponsor. In 1953, Oshawa's Hambly's Arena caught fire and left the Generals homeless and disbanded.
Fast forward to 2012, and the Oshawa Generals are alive and well. Upon arriving at the sparkling new General Motors Centre, I was told that there was a high school in Oshawa named after hockey legend Bobby Orr. I was perplexed by this idea, as Orr played his professional hockey in Boston and is from the Northern Ontario town of Parry Sound. Orr did play 3 years of junior hockey in Oshawa, but I didn't think that was a big deal.
"Bobby Orr is a god here."
When Bobby Orr was 14 years old, he was discovered and heavily recruited, and eventually signed by the Boston Bruins. In 1962, Orr was to be the centrepiece of a plan to rebuild the Oshawa Generals, as well as a new arena, which would eventually be the Oshawa Civic Auditorium. General Manager Wren Blair discovered Orr, and negotiated with the Boston Bruins the idea of the team owning a second junior team. (they already owned the team in Niagara Falls). Eventually, the Bruins would agree and Bobby Orr would play with some very successful Oshawa General teams between 1962 and 1966, after which he began his legendary career with the Boston Bruins.
The Generals have been successful over the years, and have become one of the most stable franchises in the OHL. In 2006, they left the Oshawa Civic Auditorium to the brand new, city owned, General Motors Centre, which is currently the second-newest building in the OHL. The Generals are currently owned by Rocco Tullio, star Adam Graves, and current New Jersey Devils head coach Peter DeBoer. In 2012, they celebrated 75 years of junior hockey, and look to continue their success.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food at the General Motors Centre is what you would expect from a venue this size. Hot dogs can be found for $4.50, nachos can be found for $5.25, popcorn can be found for $4.75, and burgers can be found for $5.25. Coca-Cola is the soda of choice and a large Coke goes for $4.00. If you are interested in beer, then you can find Coors Light, Molson Canadian or Heineken for $10.75. A couple of more unique items include the Ultimate BBQ Bacon Ranch Chicken Sandwich and the Chilli Cheeseburger; both are available for $6.50. Prices are decent, and I will say that the Chilli Cheeseburger was fantastic.
As mentioned, the General Motors Centre is one of the newest arenas in the OHL. It is still bright and shiny, but the Generals have done a good job of bringing the history of the team with them from the Oshawa Civic Auditorium. Around the concourses, you will find large posters advertising current players along with their bio and stats. When in the concourse, you must make a stop to see the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame. There are numerous artifacts, many of which have to do with hockey and the Generals. There is also a very special area dedicated to Oshawa's adopted son, number 2 (not 4) Bobby Orr. The Hall of Fame is comparable to the one found in Peterborough, which is outstanding.
Upon entering the seating bowl, you will notice that the ceiling is littered with championship banners for various division and conference championships, along with their four Memorial Cup Banners from 1939, 1940, 1944, and 1990. Also, above the ice are banners honouring the 3 greatest Generals: Red Tilson, Eric Lindros, and Bobby Orr. The sightlines are great, and there seems to be no poor seat in the house. Patrons have the option of watching the game from Prospects Lounge, on either the first- or second-level, or in the second-level club seats along with regular seats in the lower bowl.
Unfortunately, the video board in not really up to par. The screens are not very bright, and do not add much to the game as a result.
When the Generals moved to the General Motors Centre, they moved right into downtown Oshawa. This area is going through a bit of a redevelopment. Immediately surrounding the arena, there are a few spots you could hit for a pre- or post-game meal or drink, but you don't want to stray too far from that immediate area. A few places that you may want to check out are Riley's, Avanti Trattoria (Italian), New Globe Restaurant (Chinese) or the Thirsty Monk.
With the immediate curiosity of the General Motors Centre wearing off, attendance at Generals games have been slowly dropping. They are currently averaging under 4,000 fans per game. That is still a respectable number, and keeps them in the top half of average attendance, but it is not the over 5,000 fans that the Generals averaged just a few years previous. Saddled with a team that is not very good in 2012, and close proximity to Toronto and all that it offers, Generals fans are not fighting for seats as they once were. The fans that are in attendance are a typical quiet Southern Ontario crowd, and get loud at all of the expected points in the game.
Getting to the GMC is not hard at all. It is just a moderate distance from Highway 401, and a block south of Durham Highway 2. There is plenty of parking around, including a large parking garage two blocks north. Parking downtown will cost you a few bucks. Not horrible, but not free either.
Once inside, the concourses are large and the bathrooms adequate.
The Oshawa Generals offer more price points than most OHL teams. Tickets for the regular bowl start at $18.25. Club seats go for over $20 and premium seats for over $30. The opportunity for great family entertainment is there, but the Generals are on the higher ticket price side, compared to their OHL brothers.
An extra point is awarded for the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame and the great history that is presented for all the fans to see.
An extra point is awarded for the absolute love that Oshawa shows to Bobby Orr, their adopted son.
The Oshawa Generals have done a fantastic job of showcasing their history and bringing it to their new building. The move of the Generals to downtown has not only helped the city, but has also helped the Generals themselves, giving them a building where more people want to see the home team. Take the time to head outside of Toronto to Orr-shawa and check out the future of the NHL, and a rock solid OHL franchise, in the Generals.
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