NHL draft dreams on hold for Windsor-area hockey family

The owner of the Oshawa Generals and his son — who plays for the same OHL team and is on the verge of being drafted to the NHL — don't know what the future might hold in the wake of COVID-19.

Rocco Tullio owns the Oshawa Generals, while son Tyler plays for the team

Rocco Tullio and his son Tyler are team owner and player for the Oshawa Generals, respectively. For Rocco, he's waiting to see when fans can start attending games again, while Tyler is watching for the NHL Draft date to be set. (Tony Doucette/CBC)

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.

Tyler Tullio wears #71 for the Oshawa Generals. (Oshawa Generals Hockey Club/Facebook)

"[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."

Oshawa Generals fans celebrate as their team score their first goal against the Kingston Frontenacs during OHL action. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

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:

OHL family talks shutdown amid COVID-19

1 year ago
Rocco Tullio owns the Oshawa Generals and son Tyler plays for the team. Tyler has been preparing for the NHL draft. 2:52

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


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?