Tullio’s hopes to host, Spitfires’ dream of playing in Memorial Cup end as CHL cancels tournament

Article content

Windsor’s Rocco Tullio hoisted the Memorial Cup in 2015.

As owner of the Oshawa Generals, Tullio’s squad, which was guided by Windsor native D.J. Smith, claimed the title in Quebec City.

Tullio was hoping for another shot at junior hockey’s crown jewel and intended to bid for this year’s tournament along with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Those hopes were dashed on Tuesday when the Canadian Hockey League announced that the 2021 Memorial Cup has been cancelled.

“It’s frustrating to say the least,” said Tullio, who was hoping to bring the event to Oshawa for the first time since 1987. “We spoke to the municipality and were ready to go. We hadn’t changed our plans. We were 100 per cent in. We had made trades according to plan for this year and everything was lined up. We were pretty confident in our bid, but unfortunately there are certain things we can’t control and that’s the pandemic.”

It’s the second-straight year the event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament, which rotates between the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was supposed to be played in Kelowna, B.C. last year.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The CHL said in a release that a decision regarding next year’s Memorial Cup will be announced at a later day. Tullio, however, expects the rotation will remain in place and believes next year’s event will head to the QMJHL.

“I’ve always wanted to host the Memorial Cup,” said Tullio, who has been with the Generals since 2007. “I think Oshawa deserves it and has shown we can support these types of events. Whether next year, great, we’ll be first in line. If it doesn’t, we’ll be first in line when it comes again.”

After winning the Memorial Cup as the host team in 2017, the Windsor Spitfires had not intention of bidding for this year’s event, but general manager Bill Bowler believed his team had the potential to reach the event as league champs.

“We really liked our group,” Bowler said. “We had a strong group, with older players coming into their own as you can tell by how guys are playing in the AHL (American Hockey League), Tyler Angle signing (with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets) and Egor (Afanasyev) playing for Russia at the world juniors. It’s the reality, but it’s terribly disappointing for all the players and people involved.”

Then again, the OHL is the only branch in the three leagues of the CHL that still has not found a way to get back on the ice for 2020-21. The NHL and AHL both found ways to work with the government to resume playing, but while government officials said there would be good news regarding the OHL’s return by the end of March, the league remains in limbo with the province in another lockdown until early next month.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

In part, the OHL’s inability to get back to play and the uncertainty of how that would happen likely played a role in the Memorial Cup decision being announced.

“The CHL is committed to the health and safety of our players, their families and billets, our teams, staff and officials and the communities in which we play,” CHL president Dan MacKenzie said in a release. “That has driven all our difficult decisions for the last year as we have dealt with this global pandemic.

“The decision (to cancel the Memorial Cup) was made based on the limitations on travel, border restrictions and quarantining requirements that would make it impossible to produce league champions.”

Ordinarily, by this time of the season, the OHL would at least be in its conference playoff series. While time appears to be running out on a season, Tullio remains hopeful.

“I’m an optimist and, as an owner, I’m not throwing in the white towel,” Tullio said. “My position is we have to have some type of season. Hopefully, our government recognizes the importance to players for mental health. They need to get back. I get it’s not a great time to be talking about it with the lockdown, but we’re not talking today. We’re talking sometime in May.”

[email protected]


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button