Monday, March 23, 2015


Other Reflections on the loss of the Belleville Bulls

I searched high and low last week at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, to speak to Danny Cleary. He had skated in the warmup for the Red Wings, but did not dress for the game. After the game, I strolled out to my car. I noticed a very distinguished-looking gentleman near the parking lot chatting with friends, including former Wing goalie Chris Osgoode. The man has a nicely trimmed beard, spectacles, and resembled Harrison Ford, in his distinguished professor days-Indiana Jones days. A second glance convinced me that it was Cleary.

                                                           Daniel Cleary, Former Bull
“I want you to tell everybody in Belleville how sorry I am that the Bulls are leaving. I am sure that it must be devastating for everyone,” he told me. Belleville was Danny’s home for several years, in his junior Bulls’ days. Without question, Danny Cleary is one of a small group of people who put Belleville on the hockey map. He brought great skills to the rink as a youngster from Newfoundland. He refined those skills under Coach Larry Mavety, and has had a long and distinguished career in the NHL. And the first Newfie to hoist the Stanley Cup as well, I might add.

One of the young Panther players also paid tribute to Mavety after the game. Eric Gudbranson is becoming one of the anchors on the panther defense, along with rookie sensation Aaron Ekblad. He played his OHL hockey in Kingston. He told me that it upset him when he found out that the Bulls were leaving. “There was such a great rivalry between the Bulls and our team. This is crazy.” He said that he wanted me to report that he owed a great deal to Mavety as his mentor in hockey. “Mav was so important to me in my career. I still talk to him when I get a chance,” he added.

Another Panther who skated a few times on the cavernous pad in Belleville is Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad was also shocked by the news. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. It was so sudden”. Ekblad is having an outstanding season for the Panthers. He has already broken all of the existing scoring records for a rookie Panther defenceman, and is in the upper echelon of most categories for all rookie defenders in the league: blocked shots, assists, goals, etc. He is closing in on the rookie point total of another pretty good defenceman, Bobby Orr. Orr had 41 points as a rookie, and no one would be surprised if Ekblad surpassed that mark. And, by the way, Aaron and I had a good chuckle about his picture on the cereal box.

                                          Aaron Ekblad, courtesy of the Florida Panthers

With only a dozen games remaining in the season, the fight for a playoff spot has intensified in the east. The Bruins have struggled lately, and have allowed the Panthers and the Senators to close the gap. By next week, the picture will be a little clearer. If you know how this is going to end, your guess is better than mine! I have not yet purchased my playoff tickets!

James Hurst
March 24, 2015  


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