Oshawa Generals owner once again threatening to move the club to Pickering

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Published May 8, 2023 at 2:10 pm

Oshawa Generals players celebrate after winning the Memorial Cup in 2015. Photo The Hockey News

Oshawa Generals owner Rocco Tullio is once again threatening to move the storied franchise out of the Tribute Centre in downtown Oshawa when the lease expires in 2031 and throw all his chips in with the man behind Durham Live and the Pickering Casino Resort development.

Multiple news reports have Tullio expressing his frustration with Oshawa Council for not meeting a list of demands he provided more than six months ago, with the Windsor-based businessman claiming he has a “deal” with Steve Apostolopoulos, the billionaire entrepreneur and Managing Partner of Triple Group of Companies to move the team to a still-to-be-built arena as part of the casino development.

Apostolopoulos, who is also a partner with Tullio on a bid to buy the Ottawa Senators and has been linked to financial plays on both the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NFL’s Washington Commanders, declined to verify such an agreement, except to repeat a statement, through a spokesman, made to other media outlets that he “does not respond to speculation and rumour.”

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said he was not surprised the developer would not want to “get involved” in public debate over the future of the hockey club. Apostolopoulos is in the gambling industry, Carter pointed out, and  while “a component of that business is entertainment, it’s all calculated.”

Rocco Tullio

Tullio, who made similar demands to leave Oshawa in 2021, did not offer any further comment on his demands, though a spokesman for the team said he would respond “at a later date.”

Carter said Tullio had two dozen “requests,” a wish list City staff worked on for six months, producing a 400-plus page report that was discussed at a closed session of Council on Thursday. Tullio, Oshawa Generals GM Roger Hunt and team executives Jason Hickman and Andy Lee; as well as Adrian Vanhemmen of the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame and Tribute Communities Centre GM Vince Vella, all spoke at the meeting.

Those discussions remain confidential, but Carter said staff had done its “due diligence” and Council has sent several of the requests back for a report on the financial implications.

“Staff worked on this to ensure we all have a clear understanding of what (Tullio’s) demands are and what he wanted,” he said, adding that a financial analysis on some of those demands still needs to be completed.

Most of Tullio’s asks involve around more office space, as well as a bigger weight room and an expanded pro shop and while he hasn’t demanded the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame be moved outside the arena – as he did in 2021 – he is looking for a “re-configuring” of the space, Carter confirmed, meaning a smaller footprint.

“The Oshawa Generals have been an important partner of the City for nearly 90 years and we believe we have been a strong partner for the team all the way through,” he said. “The City always stands at the ready to resolve issues with our partners.”

The City has already invested a considerable amount of cash into the arena since Tullio first became involved in the franchise 17 years ago, including an expanded weight room and players’ lounge and a new score clock that was installed in 2016 that cost nearly $1 million.

Carter remains confident the two sides can make up before the lease expires and Oshawa Councillor Rosemary McConkey agreed, saying she was “encouraged” by the delegations from Tullio et al, adding they “all provided balanced and informative delegations.”

“Their meaningful responses to the questions asked indicated a willingness to work collaboratively…so hopefully a positive future result is ahead.”

The Oshawa Generals, national champions in 2015, were founded in 1937 and have won five Memorial Cups – the most among active franchises in Canada – and 13 J. Ross Robertson Cups as Ontario champions, including seven in a row between 1938 and 1944.

The franchise has also been home to some of junior hockey’s greatest players, including Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros and John Tavares.

The club also continues to draw well and was number one in attendance in the Eastern Conference last season.

Pickering Casino

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