The Oshawa Generals have been around since the 1937-38 season. In that time, the team has won the Memorial Cup four times with the last championship coming in 1989-90. At the provincial level, the Generals have been crowned Robertson Cup champs on twelve occasions with the last coming in 1996-97. The last time the team led the Ontario Hockey League during the regular season, earning the Hamilton Spectator Trophy, was in 1990-91.
With the long history of the team and the great number of future NHL stars to spend time in Oshawa, it’s a bit surprising that the Generals have resisted temptation and retired the numbers of just three legendary figures. One of the three numbers is also honoured for a player that passed away while a member of the Generals in 1985.
2 – Bobby Orr
Number one in Oshawa Generals bar room trivia is the fact that Orr wore number 2 with the team and not the number 4 that he would make famous with the Boston Bruins. Why did he switch? Boston had taken number 2 out of circulation when they retired it for Eddie Shore back in 1947.
Bobby played for the Generals from 1962-63 to 1965-66. Over 193 regular season games, he scored 107 goals and assisted on 173 for 280 points, unheard of numbers for a defenseman at the time. In 1964-65, Orr tied for seventh in the league with Danny Grant of the Peterborough Petes with 59 assists. It was just a sign of things to come in his final year with the Generals.
Orr scored 38 and assisted on 56 for 94 points over just 47 games in 1965-66 to lead Oshawa in each offensive category. In the league, he placed fifth for goals, second for assists and third in points. Ahead of him in the race for the Eddie Powers Trophy were Andre Lacroix and Danny Grant, both of the Petes. Bobby’s 94 points remain today as a Oshawa team record for most points by a defenseman.
Oshawa finished fourth in the nine team OHA in 1965-66. The Generals then marched on to beat the St. Catherines Black Hawks and the Montreal Junior Canadiens to earn a berth in the finals against the Kitchener Rangers. Oshawa beat the Rangers four games to one in the finals to capture the Robertson Cup. Orr totalled 28 points over 17 playoff games.
After winning the George Richardson Memorial Trophy, the Generals advanced to face off against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Memorial Cup. The Oil Kings came out on top winning four of six. Over the two series’, Orr played all 12 games, scoring 12 and assisting on 24 for an amazing 36 points.
Bobby played in the National Hockey League from 1966-67 to 1978-79 with Boston and Chicago. Over 657 regular season NHL games, he scored 270 and totalled 915 points. In 74 playoff games, he added 92 more points. In 1966-67, Bobby was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. It was the first of many accolades he would receive over his short injury reduced career.
Orr won the Norris Trophy eight times as the NHL’s top defenseman, the Hart Trophy three times as the NHL’s MVP and the Conn Smythe Trophy twice as the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In both years that he won the Conn Smythe, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.
On the international stage, Bobby only got to compete in the 1976 Canada Cup. He was on the roster for the 1972 Summit Series team that faced off against the Soviet Union but couldn’t play due to injury. In 1976, Canada won gold with a two games to none final series victory over Czechoslovakia. Orr played all seven games for Canada, scoring two and totalling nine points. He was tied for the tournament lead with Viktor Zhluktov of the Soviet Union and Denis Potvin, another defenseman for Canada. Bobby was named the tournament MVP.
Bobby Orr entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979, shortly after announcing his retirement as a player. The usual three year waiting period for consideration to be inducted was waived because of his exceptional contribution to the game.
9 – Red Tilson
The hockey career of Albert ‘Red’ Tilson was abruptly cut short but for very different reasons than those of Bobby Orr. Tilson had a promising pro hockey career ahead of him when he went off to fight in World War II. Red was killed in action while fighting in Holland in 1944.
Red played junior for the Generals and was the OHA’s leading scorer in 1942-43. That year, he helped Oshawa reach the Memorial Cup finals before falling to the Winnipeg Rangers.
The Red Tilson Memorial Trophy was introduced shortly after his death to honour the OHA’s most valuable player. The first recipient was Doug McMurdy of the St. Catherines Falcons in 1944-45. Five Oshawa Generals have won the award since, including Bob Attersley in 1952-53, Rick Middleton in 1972-73, Scott McCrory in 1986-87, Eric Lindros in 1990-91 and John Tavares in 2006-07.
88 – Eric Lindros
The first overall pick at the 1989 OHL Priority Selection by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds refused to join the club and demanded a trade. The Hounds finally granted Eric’s wish and traded him to the Generals in time to play 25 regular season games with the team during the 1989-90 season.
Oshawa went on to win the Robertson Cup that year with a victory over the Kitchener Rangers in seven games. Over 17 playoff games, the rookie Eric contributed 36 points. The 1990 Memorial Cup was hosted in Hamilton and the Generals went undefeated. They once again faced off against the Rangers in the final and won with a 4-3 double overtime victory. Lindros was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team at centre.
In 1990-91, Eric scored 71 goals and assisted on 78 for 149 points over just 57 regular season games. He led the league in goals, was fourth for assists and led the league in points to earn the Eddie Powers Trophy. Lindros also placed fifth in the OHL for penalty minutes. Not only was he awarded the Red Tilson Trophy but was also named the CHL Player of the Year. As for the Generals, the team once again reached the Robertson Cup finals but fell to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in six games. Lindros scored 18 and totalled 38 points over 16 playoff games.
Over his three years with Oshawa, from 1989-90 to 1991-92, Lindros scored 97 goals and assisted on 119 for 216 points in just 95 regular season games. In each of the three years, he played for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships, winning two goals and a silver.
The Quebec Nordiques took Lindros first overall at the 1991 NHL Entry Draft and, once again, he refused to play for the team that drafted him. He went on to play 760 regular season games in the NHL between 1992-93 and 2006-07 with the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars.
Lindros was captain of the Flyers from 1994-95 to 1999-00. In that first year wearing the ‘C’, he tied Jaromir Jagr of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the NHL lead with 70 points in the lockout shortened season. Jagr was awarded the Art Ross Trophy with more goals scored. The following year, Eric had a career year with 47 goals, 68 assists and 115 points, all personal bests in his NHL career.
9 – Bruce Melanson
The number 9 is also honoured for, but not retired for, Bruce Melanson. Bruce played two years for the Generals, 1983-84 and 1984-85. 32 games into the 1984-85 season, Melanson complained of weakness at a practice in January and collapsed in the dressing room. He died shortly after. It was determined that Melanson had suffered from Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. He was a second round pick by the New York Islanders in 1984.