Tribute Communities Centre – Oshawa Generals
The Class of Junior Hockey
All across the world of sport, teams are a part of their cities to varying degrees. In some places, a team can be just an afterthought or an option for entertainment. In other cities, the team and the city are seemingly one and the same; tied together so that one is practically indistinguishable from the other. Oshawa, Ontario is one of those cities and the Generals are one of those teams. Every aspect of the club reflects the city around it and the team’s long history parallels the growth of Oshawa.
Located at the east end of the Greater Toronto Area, Oshawa is a traditionally working class city, and though that has changed dramatically with a university and an exploding commuter population, the Generals reflect the city’s roots in the automotive industry. Indeed, the team name echoes the city’s largest employer – General Motors. However, change is afoot in Oshawa, after this year’s (2019) announcement that General Motors would be closing its plant, to great national anger.
On the ice, the Generals are a team with an incredible amount of history; they are the most successful junior hockey club in Canada, having won five Memorial Cups as Canadian champions, including the 2014-2015 season. The history of the club can be traced back to 1908, and since then, numerous legendary figures have come through the organisation including “Terrible Ted” Lindsay, David Bauer, Harry Sinden, Alex “Fats” Delvecchio, Bep Guidolin, Charlie Conacher, Eric Lindros, Red Tilson, and most of all Bobby Orr. The team also amassed a record thirteen J. Ross Robertson Cups as Ontario champions. The Gens have certainly had an astounding track record of success, but there is one statistic that infuriates Generals supporters; the almost 200 players who’ve graduated to the NHL is second in Canada only to their hated rivals, the Peterborough Petes.
Throughout their history, the Gens have played in four different arenas with the dubious distinction of having had two of them burn down; Bradley Arena burnt down in 1928 and Hambly’s Arena in 1953. After Hambly’s Arena burnt down, the team looked as though it would fold, but the community raised money, and donated their time to build the Civic Auditorium, home to the Gens from 1964-2006. In 2006, the city built its new downtown arena and partnered with the Maple Leafs to run it. As a result, the arena was built to the highest standard and features many touches reminiscent of Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The Tribute Centre (initially known as the GM Centre) is a wonderful place to watch hockey today and the Generals are a superbly classy and storied organisation to do it with. They really reflect their motto, Honour and Tradition, but they continue to play for the championship year in and year out. To watch them play in Oshawa is to experience hockey in as classy a home as any rink anywhere.
Food & Beverage 4
Food and drink at Tribute Centre are at the upper end of OHL offerings, with standard options augmented by more unique choices like jerk or butter chicken poutine, or taco bowls ($8.50). For more of a snack choice, sweet potato fries ($5) or churros ($5.5) are available. For a little more, though, the best choice is Charles Street Cookout. At $10.75, a rotating menu of barbecue sandwiches are freshly prepared. On the day of our review, a peameal bacon sandwich was carved fresh to order, and was superlative.
Beer choices have expanded to include more than the usual suspects. Though Budweiser tall cans are on offer for $9.75, more interesting domestic choices like Alexander Keith’s, Mill Street, and Rickard’s are available for $10, as is Keith’s Cider. Further, tropical cocktails and pre-mixed drinks like the summery Georgian Bay Gin Smash, as well as some craft beers, are found throughout the concourse. Soft drinks are from Coke.
Another great option is Prospects Bar and Grill, a pub-style restaurant with great views of the ice. Standout items are pickerel top with peach-cucumber salsa ($25) or braised beef ravioli ($20). The bar inside Prospects, which is accessible to anyone in the arena, serves pints for $8.65 and up. It’s the best way to get 20oz of beer for prices approximating what you’d find outside an arena.
The Generals are simply unsurpassed in promoting their storied history throughout the arena, which would otherwise feel sterile. Instead of being a bland new arena, the GM Centre is a gorgeous state-of-the-art facility that has brought together all history of the team and displays it at every turn. Though older arenas may have been the site of more history, few arenas at any level of hockey feel more like home.
Approaching from the street, Tribute Centre presents an attractive facade at its northwest corner, where an entry plaza leads to a curved glass wall and a ceremonial tower. There is currently a large mural celebrating the Generals as 2015 Memorial Cup champions as well as some interesting public art pieces. Leading south from the plaza is a street named Red Tilson Lane, after the famous Oshawa alumnus. This leads to an attached ice pad which hosts community events and Generals practices.
Entering from the plaza, there is a spacious ticket window area and a small landing with a grand staircase leading up to the concourse. The concourse walls are covered end to end with plaques showcasing famous sporting figures from Oshawa and from the Generals. There are also large photos of players and coaches along the Ring of Excellence, highlighting past greats, and the mantra that really seems to ring true; ‘once a General, always a General.’ The historical elements are so prevalent that even in the team store, jerseys for sale are displayed in salvaged stalls from Civic Centre change rooms, with plaques highlighting each player who sat in them over the years.
Walking through the concourse, be sure to check out the enormous Oshawa Sport Hall of Fame. There are hundreds of artifacts like old uniforms and trophies pertaining not only to the Gens but to the sporting history of the city. The collection rotates frequently, and friendly guides are happy to show you around. It is completely free to enter, and well worth the time. There is also a special area dedicated to the local figure of worship and hockey legend, Bobby Orr, who played three fondly remembered years in Oshawa in the 1960s. Once you have finished there you can peruse the other photos and pictures throughout the concourse before taking your seat in the bowl or the upper level club seats, restaurant, or suites.
Entering the broad seating bowl, two things are apparent. First, dozens of banners hang from the rafters commemorating the unparalleled successes of the Generals including the five Memorial Cups and thirteen Robertson Trophies. Second, and not quite as positively, the seats are inexplicably maroon – the colour of arch-rival Peterborough. While these seats are very comfortable and views are perfect, it is sacrilegious to have maroon seats in Oshawa; comparable to having seats at the Maple Leafs in the bleu, blanc, et rouge of the Montreal Canadiens.
Last time we did a review of the then-GM Centre, the biggest issue was the scoreboard, which was effective but definitely out of date, and the screen was dim. Now, as with all aspects of the Generals organisation, the new video board is NHL-level and used very effectively. There are also clear TVs in the concourses to ensure no one misses any action.
Like the Leafs’ home, Scotiabank Arena, the materials and surfaces are high-quality, and the names of neighbouring streets are highlighted above the seating bowl. Unlike its NHL counterparts, though, the in-game presentation is unmarred by obtrusive music during stoppages in play, and an overly corporate atmosphere. The only issue here is the maroon seating choice, and it’s not a problem when the arena is sold out, as it frequently is.
A note about standing room; as in most OHL arenas there is plenty of standing space at the top of the seating bowl, making a great place to take in the game. Be forewarned though, standing places along the sides may have restricted views. Better bets are the end standing places.
When the Gens moved from the Civic Centre, they moved into their new home in the heart of downtown Oshawa. Though once down-at-heel, the neighbourhood is today vibrant, helped by the arena and an influx of construction for UOIT university. The makeup of the area has changed from catering only to the large working-class population to more of a mix of shops and restaurants, as more students and Toronto commuters have moved in. Furthermore, the area will be bolstered by a new train station in the next few years right in the city centre.
Riley’s, The Stag’s Head, or the Thirsty Monk are some of the drinking holes on the block for the pre or post-match pint. Some nearby restaurants include Avanti Trattoria for Italian and New Globe for Chinese. For a quick bite, Down East Donair is the spot for Nova Scotian donair rolls and kebab.
Just a few blocks north of the rink is the historic Parkwood Estate, where one can enjoy afternoon tea in the expansive gardens of the estate. The Canadian Automotive Museum is also located downtown and has a large and fascinating collection. There are a handful of hotels including the La Quinta Hotel right across the street from the main entry plaza. The couple-minutes walk from the Bus terminal to the arena is a good way to see the shops and restaurants of the area if coming in from Toronto or elsewhere out-of-town.
Oshawa has had strong attendance and community engagement, often near or at the 5 000 capacity. Like most Southern Ontario fans, the atmosphere is not always crackling but there is more of a close focus on the action, with anticipation waiting to explode at the right moments. The fans appreciate subtle plays and the small details of the game. Though fans are welcoming in general, the atmosphere rises to intense levels against detested and historic rivals, Peterborough. Attending one of these matchups is a real junior hockey experience!
Getting to the Tribute Centre is no trouble however you arrive. If driving, there is plenty of paid parking available in a multistory parkade one block north of the rink as well as a couple of smaller surface lots. Bike storage is ample and located alongside the entry plaza.
If arriving by transit, there are frequent buses along King Street, about one block north of the arena. Public transportation is a good way to get to the game if you are coming from Toronto. From Union Station, take the GO Train’s Lakeshore East line to Oshawa, which will take about an hour and a little over $10. VIA Rail intercity services also stop here regularly, and make for a fast and comfortable premium service. Upon arrival at Oshawa, board the frequent 90 bus, which will take you downtown. Disembark at the King and Mary stop and from there the arena is a block southeast.
Direct GO buses also serve the Oshawa Bus Terminal, blocks from the arena, with frequent express coaches from points in the Toronto suburbs including Yorkdale, Vaughan, and other points throughout the Greater Toronto Area. In short, it is perfectly easy and efficient to get to Oshawa from anywhere in the region. Within Oshawa, Durham Region Transit buses serve the downtown core from various points around the region.
Within the arena, the concourses are wide enough to handle the traffic smoothly, the ticket windows are plentiful, and entering and exiting is efficient. The washrooms are a little small but not problematic. The exits are smartly laid out to allow for quick entering and exiting the arena.
Return on Investment 5
The Gens offer more ticket price points than most teams in the OHL. Advanced tickets can be had starting at $21 with the most expensive seats in the house $38. These prices are standard for the OHL and a good value considering the NHL-quality professionalism and class from the team, not to mention the hours’ worth of historical browsing and the chance to see a team that continually threatens for championships. It is also some of the best-value in the expensive Toronto area. The team shop is moderately priced, and the club’s classic jerseys are just over $100, which is a good deal. Popular and very attractive team scarves are $25 and an excellent souvenir.
An extra point for the extensive Hall of Fame, an unmissable addition to a night at the Gens.
A further two extra points are needed for the exhaustive history on display in every nook and cranny of the rink, bringing over a century of hockey excellence to a sparkling new facility.
An extra point for the Generals being the most successful club in Canadian junior hockey, including winning the 2015 Memorial Cup as national champions.
Finally, an extra point for the lack of overbearing stoppage music. It’s unfortunately rare for arenas to sit back and allow the fans there to bring the atmosphere, but Oshawa is ahead of the pack in realising this.
The Generals are the class of the nation on and off the ice. No team can claim to have won more than they have and no team can match the combination of stunning new arena and magnificent history on display. Attending a Generals game is one of those OHL experiences that feel like the NHL in miniature, but with the history and community passion that is found in cities where hockey has always been played, and without the corporate nonsense. The club is also ingrained in the community and a big part of civic spirit. For an introduction to OHL hockey, or for any fan of the game, visiting Oshawa is a more than worthwhile experience, exceedingly convenient, and absolutely one of the best sporting experiences in the country.
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Food and Drink Recommendations
Riley’s Olde Towne Pub
104 King St E
Oshawa, ON L1H 1B6
La Quinta Inn and Suites
63 King St. East
Oshawa, ON L1H 1B4
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Oshawa Downtown
67 Simcoe St. N
Oshawa, ON L1G 4S3
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Latest Crowd Reviews
The Generals are the class of the nation on and off the ice. No team has won more than they have and no team can match the combination of stunning new arena and magnificent history on display. Attending a Generals game is one of those OHL experiences that feel like the NHL in miniature, but with the history and community passion that is found in cities where hockey has always been played. The club is also ingrained in the community and a big part of civic spirit. For an introduction to OHL hockey, or for any fan of the game, visiting Oshawa is a worthwhile experience and one of the best in the country.
It is a little strange seeing this arena not being called the General Motors Centre anymore. With GM having such strong ties to Oshawa it is a shame that naming rights reared their ugly head again. A nice enough spot for a really strong team some highlights include the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame and of course the OHL home of hockey legend Bobby Orr.