General


Oshawa Generals

Arena Name: GM Centre
Capacity: 5500
Built: 2006
Address: 99 Athol Street East, Oshawa, Ontario, L1H 1J8
Telephone No: (905) 728-5163
Ice Surface Size: Regulation
Franchise Date: 1937-38, folded 1953, re-founded 1962-63
OHL Championships: 12, Most Recently in 1996-97 (5 since team's re-founding)
Memorial Cup Championships: 4, Most Recently in 1989-90 (1 since team's re-founding)
Colours: Blue, Red & White
Official Web Site: http://www.oshawagenerals.com/
Unofficial Sites: Generals Fan Club, Go Gens Go, Generals Message Board
Venue Web Site: GeneralMotorsCentre.com Former Arenas:
Oshawa (Hambly's) Arena
Bowmanville Memorial Arena
Oshawa Civic Auditorium

OHL
General Motors Centre
General Motors Centre
What's the Arena Like?
In spite of having the longest history of any junior hockey team in Canada, before November of 2006 the Oshawa Generals had never managed to do something that's completely routine in nearly all other parts of the hockey world - they had never managed to successfully move out of an intact arena. Spectacular fires in 1928 and 1953 totally demolished the city's first two major arenas homes, Bradley's Arena and Hambly's Arena, and the second of those two fires necessitated an interruption of the franchise's history, as they folded prior to the 1953-54 season and weren't re-founded until 1962-63, and even then they played the first couple reborn seasons in Bowmanville. When the rapidly aging Civic Auditorium finally closed in October 2006, it closed in a great ceremony, with no arsonists, children with matches, or anthropomorphic safety bears in sight. At long last, the Generals had beaten the Curse of the Human Torch and his Flaming Kin. A week later the Generals moved into their new home, a palatial building benefitting their status as one of Canada's most historic franchises.

The General Motors Centre stands on the southern fringes of Oshawa's dingy but resurging downtown core. Much like the JLC in London, it is a proud, tall building with an iconic tower and main entrance plaza that is perfect for pedestrians and for congregating before the game. The plaza also has a small public skating rink embedded in it, which is a great touch, although unseasonable January warmth necessitated its closure for my first visit. The main entrance at the corner of Athol and Mary Streets features a big marquee sign along with the blue GM logo, while around the rear side of the building is a small, passes-only parking lot and a second community ice pad. Public parking is in small lots throughout the core, on the streets, and also in a tall parking garage a block away up Mary Street. The main lobby in Oshawa features a long line of ticket windows, a large and well-stocked team store (retro logo pucks? Cool!), and a grand staircase that leads up directly into the arena concourse, much like in Sudbury. Once up the stairs, the wide concourse opens directly onto the seating bowl.

It's not a common feeling in the OHL to really feel like you're "somewhere"; that is, most OHL buildings are smallish or quaint or quirky and obviously built for juniors (although that is a big part of the charm). There are a few exceptions - London, Ottawa, Kitchener - but for the most part, in the OHL, you never get that professional, big-game feeling. It's there in Oshawa. The first view of the seating bowl is stunning - the arena is done up in stylish tan and dark grey accents, and it is obvious that no expense was spared in the arena's construction. The seats are maroon - why they chose the team colours of the Generals' archrivals is beyond me - but there are a lot of them, in a wide oval around the ice. Above the seats is a ring of suites that run down both sides of the building, while in the ends there are plaza concourse levels which are, unfortunately, off-limits to the public during games. It's a shame - the view up there for standing-room would be terrific. Signs line the four walls marking the streets which run outside the rink, which is a design cue obviously pilfered from the Air Canada Centre. This makes sense as the GMC was managed originally by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, whose corporate stranglehold oozes over the Greater Toronto Area like maple syrup. The one side of the rink features a two-story restaurant overlooking the ice, and finally, way up near the roof, is a small, gondola-style press box overhanging the seats. True gondolas are out of fashion these days, so it's nice to see a new building include one. A recent addition is banners - the GM Centre will never allow visitors to forget the past success of the Generals team, with four Memorial Cup and twelve OHL Championship banners hanging proudly and ostentatiously over the visitors' net.

Once the game begins the professionalism of the arena continues. Leg room is ample and seats are comfortable, while in the standing room sections, the building includes - amazingly - coathooks for each standing spot! It's such a simple idea, and yet it's one I haven't seen included anywhere else. Views of the ice are good from anywhere in the building. The sound system is clear and precise without being overpowering, although I was saddened to see that the team has given up on my favourite tradition from the old Auditorium, that being the playing of the Hockey Night in Canada theme song before every period. The scoreboard is light-years ahead of the tiny clock at the old rink, with four massive sides including HD video boards, which are surprisingly well-run for a new building where perhaps all the kinks aren't ironed out yet. The new building kinks were about the only flaw at the General Motors Centre for my first visit, but by the second one in 2008, the flaws were mostly gone. The Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame, still under construction for my first visit, is now open, and rivals Peterborough's for the best in the league. However, there are a few other omissions still, most notably a time clock (not a hockey timing device but an ordinary AM/PM clock). Other than that, the building is pretty solid. The only other major complaint is the lack of washrooms - much like at the JLC, there aren't nearly enough for a new building, and those that exist are far too small to handle even small crowds. I made my first visit on a Thursday night with only 3,600 of the 5,500 seats filled, and the washrooms were still lined way up in every intermission. For my second visit the building was sold out, and the lines were still there.

Like other motor cities around the world from Detroit to Coventry to Windsor, Oshawa has had a rough go of it in recent years, with the auto sector's downturn shrinking union jobs in town as the massively expanding Toronto suburbs overwhelm the once independent city and suck the lifeblood out of its downtown. The old Civic Auditorium didn't really fit the feel of the old industrial city - although it was stark, spartan and filled with blue-collar fans, it was also located in a quiet suburb surrounded by playing fields and parking lots. That has changed now - the General Motors Centre feels like Oshawa. It's a palace by OHL standards and has easily knocked off the Hershey Centre from its title as best new mid-size arena, but the grittiness of old Oshawa is right outside the front door to lend ambience to the building. They built it right in Oshawa, and while the new rink's quietish atmosphere isn't much compared to the electric old building yet, that will return with time as the building settles in. The best compliment I can pay to the GMC is to say that it couldn't have been built for any other team. And just think - in twenty years when the current seats wear out, maybe then they'll order blue and red ones and the building will be perfect.


Robert Steele says:

I had the privilege of joining 5,499 other fans in celebrating the opening of Oshawa's beautiful new sports and entertainment complex, the General Motors Centre. To start, I have to answer the point raised in the previous posts about the restaurant/club inside the new arena. There is no "restaurant" at the new GM C, but just a bar in a rather spartan looking room/lounge. Not a pre or post game party location, and an unremarkable place to drink a beer during the game.

There is not a single bad seat in the house (and they're as wide as an ACC seat) and even the standing room wall has a convenient shelf to rest your elbows, nachos and beer.... Ooops, they had no flags or banners inside the new building yet so we had to look at the scoreboard during the anthem - and the advertising was slathered everywhere, much like any other Major Jr. A rink. They didn't forget that!

The new GM C has one thing in common with Maple Leaf Gardens, washrooms that are small, too few and far between. Be prepared to line-up (men and women) well into the corridor and wait. A men's head in the GM C only has 4 pissers and 2 crappers, no wonder the long wait. By the time I added a Diet Coke and Hot Dog to the end of my piss sojourn, half the second period was over. And the concession stands - they were placed in the corners, making for a mess between periods, with people lining up in one direction being knocked about by people trying to go two directions and not in a straight line. The concourse perhaps should be wider - like the one at the Kitchener Aud, but the arena is downtown on a fixed lot dimension and budget. The concessions are operated by MLSE. Food is cheaper than the ACC - $3.50, instead of $5.50 for a hot dog, and a soft drink is about a loonie cheaper. The variety is nondescript, just the standard Pizza Pizza, Hot Dogs, Nachos, popcorn, peanuts, candy, soft drinks and water.

The scoreboard is OK, but uses rear projection, so images are dim and a bit washed. The sound system is very good, crystal clear! And it was very comfortable in the stands, many folks could just wear a shirt or even a t-shirt. The Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame was still behind a black curtain, so I will assume it will be unveiled on another special occasion.

The GM C is a very good arena, but not a great one. It is still far superior to the Brampton and Barrie rinks once they get the painting and remaining lighting finished, but not just quite as good as the John Labatt Centre in London.
Future Developments
There are no plans to renovate or replace the GM Centre.
What Is It Like For Away Fans?
At the old Civic Auditorium, I encountered a lot of sass and sarcasm from the fans - at least half of the fans that said anything to me said either "Gens rule" or "London sucks" or something comparably witty and charming. The sarcasm wasn't just from children, either - it was from older teenagers and even a few adults. However, at the new rink, I didn't encounter any problems whatsoever. Perhaps this was because the new rink has mellowed Oshawa fans a little, or perhaps they just don't hate London, but one thing that is certain is that most of the Gens' fans are great and truly know their hockey, and you can learn a lot from them by talking to them - there are people who have been supporting the team for over 60 years. I said back for the old building that the "good" majority of Oshawa's support is among the best in the league, full of class, but if the "bad" minority treat a fan of a once-a-year rival like the Knights this way, I'd hate to be a Petes fan in Oshawa, especially in the playoffs. I don't know if Petes fans would still get stick in Oshawa, but I'm going to guess that the fans in Motor City haven't changed that much.

How To Get There

From 401: Take exit 418 to Ritson Road. Proceed North on Ritson to Athol Street. Turn left. The arena will be on your left.
Inside the GM Centre
GM Centre
Franchise History
The city of Oshawa began in the Ontario Hockey Association in the 1908-09 season playing out of Bradley's Arena on Duke St. The team played in orange and black and contested in a league with teams such as the Owen Sound Greys and Orillia. In June of 1928 Bradley's Arena burned to the ground and the Oshawa team was left homeless. By 1930 a new arena had opened, called both Oshawa Arena or Hambly Arena, and in 1937-38 the Oshawa entry was named the "Generals", after General Motors of Canada. Oshawa dominated junior hockey in the 30's and 40's and the Generals were the class of the country. On September 15, 1953, Hambly Arena suffered the same fate as its predecessor when it caught fire and burned to the ground. (The arena fire was a major event in Oshawa's history and many old-timers in town still can remember it clearly.) The Generals were homeless once again. The team essentially disbanded, but the people of Oshawa never lost their will to bring back the team, and in the early 1960's the Generals were reborn under Wren Blair. They played one season, 1962-63, in the fledgling Metro Junior A league, but when that league collapsed they successfully applied to be re-admitted to the OHA. They played the 1963-64 season and part of the 1964-65 season in the nearby Bowmanville Memorial Arena. The Generals finally moved back to Oshawa with the December 11, 1964 opening of the Oshawa Civic Auditorium, where they remained until the GM Centre opened late in 2006. The interruption of Generals history explains why both Peterborough and Oshawa can both claim to be the league's oldest franchise.
Retired Numbers
2 Bobby Orr
9 Red Tilson
88 Eric Lindros

While it was finally retired in 2006, the Generals did not issue number 9 to any players since 1984 in memory of Bruce Melanson, a Generals player who died in practice in 1984 of a rare heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.
Local Rivals
Peterborough and Oshawa maintain the league's oldest rivalry. Oshawa, once an independent community, has been overtaken by the sprawl of the GTA, and as a result the three Toronto teams are rivals as well. Oshawa is also rivals with Belleville and Kingston.
Another Look Inside the GM Centre
GM Centre

About the City

By Durham Regionite Chris Mayberry:
One sure way to arouse the ire of Oshawans is to suggest their blue-collar community is simply another Toronto suburb. The proud residents of Canada's Motor City will tell you it's anything but. The automotive industry drives Oshawa today, but not so in the early years. The French established the site at Oshawa harbour as a trading post with the Indians of the Mississauga Tribe around 1750. Approximately 125 years later, Robert McLaughlin brought his carriage works operation to town and decided to enter the automotive business. The end result was the formation of General Motors of Canada, Ltd., in 1918, a wholly-owned unit of the General Motors Corporation. Over the years, generations of mostly-British immigrants settled in Oshawa to work in the GM plants, churning out automobiles at a breakneck pace. Being good corporate citizens, the company eventually sponsored the local six, and the Oshawa Generals were born.

Today, Oshawa has a population of 146,000 and is located at the eastern end of what is known as the Greater Toronto Area. Traffic flows smoothly through downtown by the use of one-way streets but over the years, the region lost its lustre as once-grand hotels and gaudy stores became home to strip clubs and seedy shops. Now though, city council is committed to a revitalization of the aging core and among the projects on the fast track is a new downtown arena for the Generals. Oshawa is a city fiercely proud of its heritage. The Canadian Automotive Museum is located in the heart of town and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery houses over 3,000 Canadian art masterpieces. Durham College has a fine reputation and in a place where 'horsepower' is a common word, north Oshawa is home to E. P. Taylor's Windfields Farms, the equine factory that has bred more thoroughbred stakes winners than any other in the world. With most of the city located north of highway 401, it's easy to forget Oshawa's lakefront, but the annual Waterfront Festival welcomes over 100,000 people each year. Two of Oshawa's most famous residents cut their teeth in the political ring; Michael Starr was a Cabinet minister in the Diefenbaker government and Edward Broadbent was the former federal leader of the New Democratic Party. Another famous Oshawan is Donald Jackson, 1962 world figure skating champion.

For more information please visit Oshawa Tourism's website.

Feedback

If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at Email and I'll update the guide.


 

 


Copyright Kevin Jordan 2002-08.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: December 21, 2008