Longtime Belleville Bulls, Kingston Frontenacs coach Larry Mavety dies at age 78

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There was never a question in Brian Kilrea's mind where he stood with Larry Mavety.

"Larry was one of a kind," said Kilrea, the longtime head coach/GM of the OHL's Ottawa 67's.

"He was afraid of no one and his word was his bond. He might've been gruff, but he was loyal."

Mavety, a longtime junior hockey executive and coach, died at the age of 78. The OHL's Kingston Frontenacs confirmed Mavety's passing Friday on Twitter.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with Mav for over 30 years,” OHL commissioner David Branch said in a statement. “There are many things that he contributed to our game, but most importantly what stands out in my mind is how he took care of his players."

After playing in the minor pro ranks, Mavety entered coaching with the Belleville Bulls in 1979. He guided the team to the national Tier II junior A final in 1981 before the team jumped to the OHL in 1982.

The native of Woodstock, Ont., remained with the Bulls through 1988 before joining the then-Kingston Raiders. He returned to Belleville in 1990 and then went back to Kingston with the Frontenacs as general manager and head coach in 1997.

Mavety relinquished his head coaching duties in 2002 before returning to that role in 2007. He stepped away as coach again in 2008 when he hired Kingston native and former NHL star Doug Gilmour, who played for Mavety in Belleville, as head coach.

The Frontenacs kept Mavety as a consultant after Gilmour replaced him as GM in 2011.

"The hockey world has lost a great man," Gilmour wrote on Twitter. "Mav was my coach, my GM and a friend. Condolences to (his wife) Brenda and family. Thanks for giving me a chance."

Mavety also had a small role in "Slap Shot", a 1977 comedy movie about a feisty minor-league hockey team.

Kilrea spent more than three decades with the 67's, a division rival of Kingston and Belleville, and is the winningest coach in Canadian junior hockey history. He was inducted into the Hockey Fall of Fame in 2003.

Kilrea's association with Mavety dates back to the 1960s when the two were with the American Hockey League's Springfield Indians, whose general manager was none other than the legendary Eddie Shore.

"Mav had a choice to make whether to try out for this team or back home and be part of the Belleville McFarlands, I believe," Kilrea reminisced. "After a couple of days he reached a decision and came to me and said, 'I think I'm going to do it this way (and go back to Belleville).'

"In the old days we had to give Eddie the keys to our car and luckily Mav had kept a set for himself, he had two sets. He said, 'I'm not too worried about that,' and took his car and left. The next morning Eddie was looking for him because I think Eddie wanted to sign him because he was one of those guys who was physical on the ice but a good team man."

Kilrea said whenever his team faced one coached by Mavety, he knew what to expect once the puck dropped.

"I'll tell you, you'd better be ready for a physical game," Kilrea said. "He always had a couple of guys in that lineup that let you know it was going to be a physical game.

"And if you didn't like something, well, you could do something about it."

Kilrea said honour and integrity were cornerstones of Mavety's persona.

"His players loved him because he was honest with them," Kilrea said. "If you made a deal with him, it was a deal whether you were having a beer at night or in the morning. He lived by his word.

"I think today's world is a little different because (now) people rely on someone else. They'll say, 'I'm going to make a deal but I have to talk to maybe one of my scouts or my assistant manager or coach.' In the old days . . . you were talking to to that person and if you were making a deal, it was a deal and it was done. No regrets, it was over, win or lose."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press