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Oshawa could host preseason NHL game in 2018

Event would require changes to Tribute Centre arena, costs are still unknown

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

In the fall of 2018, the stands of the Tribute Communities Centre may be filled with fans cheering for a team other than the Generals.

Spectra Venue Management, which operates the arena on the city’s behalf, has been approached by a promoter wishing to hold an NHL exhibition game there in 2018.

Raised during the latest meeting of city council, the prospect of having the game’s top players hit the ice in Oshawa had some councillors excited.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity for Oshawa and the Tribute Communities Centre to host two NHL teams in a preseason game. It’s just an unbelievable opportunity,” said Councillor John Aker.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen.”

Aker went on to add that, with the high price of attending a Toronto Maple Leafs game, more people would be able to see this showcase.

“There’s a whole bunch of people that can’t afford to go to the (Air Canada Centre) in Toronto. They just can’t afford it. They’d love to take a son, a daughter, a wife, a brother to an NHL hockey game, but they can’t afford it,” he said.

“Why? Transportation’s a big cost…you got the price of tickets, those are expensive, and the price of refreshments are expensive. So this is an opportunity for people that watch hockey on television, which most of us do, to actually see a live game at, I hope, a reasonable price.”

There was no indication of what teams would be hitting the ice at the TCC. However, Jag Sharma, city manager, did say that the Oshawa Generals were approached as there is a potential of John Tavares, the Gens’ all-time high scorer and current captain of the New York Islanders, playing.

The event won’t come free, however, as there would need to be changes made to the arena so that it meets the NHL’s standards.

“This event will require some changes to the arena to meet the NHL standards, so we would have an opportunity to do those changes at very little cost,” Ron Diskey, the city’s commissioner of community services, told councillors.

“We would have to investigate those further, but there would be a requirement to change some cornered glass by the players’ bench and the penalty bench to curved glass.”

While she would later vote in favour of the motion stating the city was interested in hosting a game, Councillor Amy McQuaid-England expressed her concern that the costs of hosting the event were not made available to councillors.

“There could’ve been an opportunity to provide a closed-session report that would’ve provided preliminary information in terms of renovations that may or may not be required, and the preliminary numbers in terms of this break-even event,” she said.

“I think that it’s important that we have that information when making these decisions because we seem to be linking ourselves into things before knowing the financial cost of it and then the financial cost comes back and we’re already too far down the line, the public might be interested in it and we can’t take a step back from it.”

Should an exhibition game be played at the TCC, it would not be the first time that NHL players have hit the ice in Oshawa.

In the early days of the then-General Motors Centre, the arena was run by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was during this time, according to Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, that the team held intersquad games at the arena.

Mayor John Henry also shared how, as a young man, he saw a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the California Golden Seals at the Oshawa Civic Centre. The Golden Seals, which would go on to become the Cleveland Barons in 1976 before folding in 1978, held training camps in the city.