Free traders Joe Drago of the Sudbury Wolves and Larry Mavety of the Belleville Bulls were never shy when it came to dealing players.
And the rival Ontario Hockey League general managers — Drago and Mavety were also good friends — more than proved that point early in the 1983-1984 season when they combined to make a massive eight player trade that featured three northern boys.
Looking to shake up their respective rosters at the time, Drago and Mavety finalized the eight player swap that sent forwards Grant Robertson, Grant Sanders and Mike Savage and defenseman Larry (Shake) Stevens from Sudbury to Belleville for forwards Chris McRae, Daran Moxam and Todd Sepkowski and defenseman Mike Cassin.
Northern Ontario products involved in the multi-player transaction were Sudbury native Savage, Walden product Moxam, and Sault Ste. Marie lad Sepkowski.
Originally, the eight player trade was supposed to involve only four skaters, according to Drago. The Sudbury GM relayed that he wanted Moxam and Sepkowski and was willing to send Sanders and Savage to Belleville in return.
“Mav and I had agreed on a two for two swap (Sanders and Savage for Moxam and Sepkowski) and then we started to talk about a few other kids and the next thing you know it became an eight player trade,” Drago told Sault This Week at the time.
While both Drago and Mavety declared the deal as being good for both teams at the time, six of the eight players — all except Savage and Stevens — would end up being traded again before their OHL careers were over.
Notably, Sepkowski as a 5-foot-10, 160 pound center, paid good dividends for the Wolves after being acquired from the Bulls.
In parts of the ’83-84 and ’84-85 seasons, the Soo boy put up impressive totals of 37 goals, 50 assists, 87 points in 92 games for the Wolves.
But along with many others who played for Sudbury at that time, Sepkowski fell out of favour with obnoxious Wolves coach Andy Spruce and midway through the ’84-85 season, the 19-year old forward was dealt to the Kitchener Rangers.
A few words about Spruce, who was a 30-year old coach at the time with a high opinion of himself.
A snide, sneering individual who badmouthed many of his players behind their back and was underhanded to deal with, Spruce’s 17-46-3 record as coach of the ’84-85 Wolves spoke volumes of his work and he was fired by Drago at the end of the season, never to return to the league again.
As for the men who triggered the big eight player trade, they remained in hockey in prominent roles.
Drago — who was also a high school principal in Sudbury at the time — went on to become commissioner of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League before serving multiple terms as chairman of the board for Hockey Canada.
Mavety, meanwhile, carried on a long association as the GM and coach in Belleville before taking on a similar role with the Kingston Frontenacs. In all, Mavety coached and managed in the OHL from 1981 until 2009.