After nearly making the Playoffs with a record-setting run as an expansion team, GM-coach Larry Mavety was crystal clear in what he planned to do for an encore in the 1982-83 season.
He expected the second-year Bulls to continue to buck tradition and immediately compete for a playoff spot.
Mavety knew that he had a more experienced club after making several trades during the inaugural season and that sophomores like Dunc MacIntyre -who he named captain -and former first overall pick Dan Quinn would be much better prepared to lead his club into the post-season.
“Unbelievable Natural Skills…”
For his part, Quinn felt that he left a little on the table as a rookie. He put on 15 pounds of muscle during the summer expected a much better season as a sophomore.
“Dan had unbelievable natural skills,” said captain Dunc MacIntyre.
“That was very evident. That first year he had a lot of pressure, and put a lot of pressure on himself to perform. The second year, I think he settled into the type of hockey player that Dan Quinn knew he could be and that everyone else knew he could be.”
Quinn was strong in the first half of the season -he scored three goals in the Bulls’ 7-1 win against the Sudbury Wolves for their third straight win in November and then lifted the team with a spectacular goal on an end-to-end rush that lifted the Bulls to a 6-5 come-from-behind overtime win in Kingston in early December.
But it was the second half of the season that was clearly the difference in Quinn and the Bulls from the year before.
Quinn scored another hat trick and added five assists to set a new team record for points in a game, leading the club to a 10-2 win against the expansion Guelph Platers in early January.
He also scored five times in a pair of late January wins against the Kingston Canadians that all but locked the Bulls into a playoff spot.
Quinn was the first star in three straight wins that brought the Bulls to within three points of the Cornwall Royals for fifth place in the division.
He scored four goals, including the winner in overtime to give the Bulls a 7-6 win over the Peterborough Petes on the Global OHL Game of the Week in March.
Wayne Gretzky, who purchased 45% of the Bulls from Bob Dolan and became Dr. Vaughan’s new partner, was in attendance when the Bulls defeated the Brantford Alexanders 4-3 on March 3 to clinch their first OHL playoff berth.
Quinn, a finalist for the most underrated player in the season end-ing OHL coach’s poll, had a goal and four assists in Belleville’s season-ending 7-3 win over the Kitchener Rangers.
Forward Mike Clayton was one of two players brought over from the Kitchener Rangers in a trade for star forward Dave Nicholls in the 1981-82 season.
Clayton emerged as a solid OHLers during his time in Belleville.
“Mav gave me the chance to play here and by showing confidence in me I gained some confidence in myself,” Clayton told The Intelligencer.
Clayton combined with linemates Quinn and Mark Hegarty to score 10 goals and 22 points in a three-win stretch in November.
Heart and Soul
If a casual observer didn’t know why Dunc MacIntyre was the heart and soul of the Belleville Bulls, they would understand completely if they watched the feisty centre when the Bulls traveled to Brantford late in the regular season.
Needing just one win to clinch their first ever playoff spot, the Bulls were anxious to score early. MacIntyre was crushed into the end boards in the first period and needed 13 stitches to close a gash over his eye.
He returned later in the game and tipped in the tying goal in the third period to help the Bulls rebound from a 3-1 deficit.
The Bulls secured the playoff berth and MacIntyre put his name amongst the team’s first heroes.
“It was truly an honour for me,” MacIntyre reflected. “I probably put a lot of pressure on myself at the start of that second year just because it was a big responsibility.”
The Bulls drew a tough card in the opening round of the playoffs -they faced the Oshawa Generals, who rolled through a 24-game undefeated streak earlier in the season.
The Bulls had won just one of six games against the Generals in the regular season and managed just one tie in the six-point playoff loss.
The Bulls returned to the ice for a curtain call from the capacity crowd of 3,300 fans.
“They were guys that just wanted to play the game,” Mavety said. “They loved hockey and if you were going to beat them, you were going to pay the price. There was very few games that those guys didn’t show up to play.
“Quinn might have got the points, but everybody contributed.”
Excerpt from 25 Years with the Belleville Bulls (Bell, Aaron 2005)
Intelligencer photo courtesy Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County