NHL draft dreams on hold for Windsor-area hockey family
Rocco Tullio owns the Oshawa Generals, while son Tyler plays for the team
The owner of the Oshawa Generals and his son — who plays for the same OHL team — don't know what the future might hold in the wake of COVID-19.
On Mar. 12, the Ontario Hockey League announced it would be suspending its season due to the pandemic. For Generals owner Rocco Tullio, that's meant leaving his organization on hold — one that "relies on marketing and bums in the seats heavily to survive."
"Obviously, we can't play in front of no fans. It just would never happen. Nobody can afford to do that," said Rocco, adding the only way that would be possible is if the team received some type of government subsidy.
His son Tyler, however, is on the brink of a life-changing event — the NHL draft. But so far, there's been no date set for the annual event.
"[My agent] has reached out to teams and said that they've really liked me ... and they'll be reaching out to me in the next few weeks," said Tyler. "But they also don't know what to expect with the draft, and even the upcoming season. They don't know what to expect so it's just a scramble right now."
Obviously, we can't play in front of no fans. It just would never happen. Nobody can afford to do that.- Rocco Tullio, Oshawa Generals team owner
The 18-year-old said he "couldn't tell you" the last time he's been on the ice. During the pandemic, Tyler said he's been working out and maintaining his conditioning by going on runs — and doing some chores around the house.
"There's days more boring than others, but it's nice just to be around family just glued together, being around my sister, being around my parents. So just getting away from everything once in a while is nice," said Tyler.
"But at the same time, not being able to see your friends sometimes can take a toll on you."
Meanwhile, his father has been using "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of his own money to continue paying his staff. He said, with the exception of one junior staff member, no one else has been laid off — which he calls the "right thing to do during this tough economic time."
"I thought that this is where it was an opportunity for our families to step up and take care of these people. So they had one less stress in their life and not have to worry about the financial components of the day to day living.
WATCH | Rocco and Tyler Tullio on how they're dealing with the shutdown:
Besides running the team, Rocco also owns ROCK Developments, a major property development company in Windsor. He said, with the exception of a small handful of tenants, most others are continuing to pay their rent because they are essential businesses like Dollarama and LCBO.
But at home, Rocco's advice to his son remains the same — "just go out and have fun."
"One of the things he said when we drafted him a couple years ago is that he wants to earn the respect of his fans and his teammates — and he'll do that through his hard work in his playing, and he's done that," said Rocco. "I think a lot of NHL teams have taken notice of that and he's had two successful years."
With files from Windsor Morning