Larry Mavety, longtime coach and general manager of the Kingston Frontencs/Raiders and the Belleville Bulls, died Thursday evening after an illness. He was 78.
Born in Woodstock in 1942, Mavety in his younger days excelled at hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer.
Mavety, whose gruff voice could be heard barking orders at his players during practices and games over an almost 40-year period in Belleville and Kingston, was actually a warm and friendly person, Frontenacs owner and governor Doug Springer said.
“He may have been rough and gruff, but the truth of the matter is he was loved by everybody,” Springer said of the man who preferred to be called “Mav.”
“Mav is a legend. The hockey world has lost one of the greats. He was one of the great, great guys. Honest to God, I feel sick to my stomach right now.
“Nobody cared more about their players, nobody cared more about the team and nobody cared more about the family. He cared deeply about the people around him. If you talked to anybody who’s ever played for him, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody saying something negative about the guy.”
Springer said he went to the Leon’s Centre on Friday morning and stared at Suite 429, where Mavety and Kingston-area scout Dick Cherry would hang out during games.
“Tears came to my eyes,” he said. “It’ll never be the same.”
Springer said the lights were dimmed inside the arena bowl on Friday and the flags outside the Leon’s Centre were flying at half-mast in Mavety’s honour.
“One thing about Mav, he was always honest with everybody and he never tried to sugar coat things, and he was extremely protective of his players,” Springer said. “When he got mad, he said what he had to say and it was over at that point. He did not carry a grudge.”
Mavety enjoyed a 14-year career as a defenceman in minor professional hockey and played 248 career games in the World Hockey Association.
In 1976, he played an extra in the classic movie Slap Shot, starring Paul Newman, but never revealed publicly what scene he was in.
After his playing days were over, Mavety joined the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League for the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons. He then moved up with the franchise when the Bulls joined the OHL in 1981-82. He spent all or part of 24 seasons behind the bench of both the Belleville and Kingston OHL teams, with seasons in Belleville from 1981-82 to 1987-88 and 1990-91 to 1996-97. He also coached the Kingston Raiders in 1988-89 and the Frontenacs in 1989-90, from 1997-98 to 2002-03 and in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
In the fall of 2008, he gave up his coaching position to Kingston native Doug Gilmour and, at the end of the 2010-11 season, Gilmour took over the general manager duties and Mavety was named a senior consultant to the team. He remained in that position until the end of the shortened 2019-20 season.
Mavety was also credited for giving Gilmour his start in junior hockey by adding the undersized player to his junior A team in Belleville in 1980-81.
“Mav called and Mike Deodato and I came up for a quick tryout and made the team,” Gilmour said in an interview on Friday. “He gave me that opportunity and I played defence at that time. We had some injuries in the playoffs, he put me on left wing, so it’s full circle with Mav and me. We met back up in junior when I coached for him for a bit. I’ve known him and Brenda a long, long time.”
Gilmour said he spoke to Mavety a couple of times through the pandemic but didn’t know how sick he was until two weeks ago.
“He was my coach, my GM and also my friend,” Gilmour said. “I got to know the guy a long time and we had some good times together and shared some good stories.
“He was a good man, a man’s man. He had that rugged voice but had a heart of gold.”
Brad Vaughan, son of the late Dr. Robert Vaughan, who was the owner of the Belleville Bulls when Mavety coached there, remembers Mavety fondly.
“He was a fixture around our place from the time I was 11 years old,” Brad Vaughan said in an interview. “He was one of those characters. He was rough around the edges but had a heart of a teddy bear.”
Vaughan was the Bulls director of marketing during one of Mavety’s stints with the Bulls and became assistant general manager after Mavety left for the last time in 1996-97.
“I remember him as a coach and the players really wanting to please him and they’d do anything for him,” Vaughan, who now owns a restaurant in Belleville, said. “We always had competitive clubs and he was a big part of motivating those guys. They’d go through a wall for him.”
With vast insight into the hockey world built up over his long time in the sport, Mavety would often give sports reporters a good story or quote about the inner workings of junior hockey team, only to tell them at the end of the conversation, usually in some colourful language, “but don’t put that in the paper!”
In 2015 when the Bulls announced they were moving to Hamilton to become the Bulldogs, the Whig-Standard spoke to Mavety about having coached both the Kingston and Belleville teams, who were bitter OHL rivals for 34 years. Mavety, while going back and forth between the teams, was heckled by fans from both teams when he was the visiting coach.
“I brought a lot of it on myself because I yapped back,” he said. “You could hear everything (when the arenas didn’t have glass behind the players benches like they do now), and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.”
“I enjoyed my time in Belleville and I’ve definitely enjoyed my time in Kingston,” he said. “I got to see both sides of it, and I guess I’ve seen the best of both worlds. It’s been interesting, let’s put it that way.”
Mavety is sixth on the OHL’s all-time coaching wins list with 681 and fourth in games coached at 1,514. He also holds the record for career victories with the Bulls with 435 and the Frontenacs with 246.
Mavety was awarded the Matt Leyden Trophy as OHL Coach of the Year in 1990 and was inducted into the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
In 2018, Mavety was awarded the Bill Long Award for Distinguished Service, presented in recognition and appreciation of outstanding contributions to the OHL.
“This is one of the biggest losses I’ve ever experienced, and for the Frontenacs organization this is massive and you just don’t replace a guy like Larry Mavety in your life,” Springer said. “If you truly knew him, you were in awe of him because that’s the type of guy he was.”
Mavety leaves behind his wife, Brenda, and numerous family members.