By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa Generals fans got the chance to celebrate one of the very best the organization has seen, offering a standing ovation and rattling the seats with cheers as they watched the No. 22 banner baring Tony Tanti’s name rise into the rafters on Oct. 21.
The young Tanti was drafted by the Oshawa Generals in the 4th round of the 1980 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, opening the door for one of the most impressive rookie campaigns the Gens have ever seen.
One for the history books, that rookie year saw Tanti go on to break the league’s rookie goal-scoring record with 81 goals, breaking the previous record of 70 goals, set by none other than the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky in 1977/1978. Along with his 69 assists, Tanti amassed 150 points over 67 games and was named the OHL Rookie of the Year.
“Tony’s hockey sense and determination to win, paired with his refusal to accept anything but being the best on the ice are the reasons he’s the player and person he is today,” said Generals owner Rocco Tullio. “Tony is one of the greatest players to put on a Generals jersey, and it gives us great pleasure to retire Tony’s number 22 to the rafters.”
Tanti would go on to play nearly 700 games in the NHL over 11 seasons, spending the majority of his time with the Vancouver Canucks, amassing 287 goals and taking part in two NHL All Star Games.
“It’s been quite a ride. It’s hard to believe that 37 years ago I was on that bench,” Tanti said, pointing to the Gens bench.
“When I got drafted to Oshawa it was such an incredible time in my life and it was the perfect place for me to be drafted,” he said. “It was just so much fun, and I was not a fighter, but to survive in those days, you really had to learn pretty quick.”
Along with his impressive offensive numbers, Tanti also amassed 197 penalty minutes in his rookie season.
The former General also took the time to celebrate his former team, and the welcome he received upon his return to Oshawa.
“When Rocco says once a Generals, always a General, you better believe it,” Tanti said. “It’s a family atmosphere…come out and support the Generals because they are the real deal.”
Tanti becomes the sixth General to receive the honour of having their number retired, and he joins some prestigious company above the ice of the TCC alongside the likes of Red Tilson, Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros, John Tavares and Marc Savard.