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'I Get No Respect' - The Belleville Bulls

Rodney Dangerfield made a living off the phrase, ‘I get no respect…’ and maybe the Belleville Bulls could start using the late comedians famous starting line. The Bulls who went on a remarkable tear in the month of November have rattled off two 6 game winning streaks in the last 14 games (12-2 in the stretch) and have found themselves on top of the Eastern Conference looking down. A far cry from needing to play catch up with last years squad. There have been many changes to the roster from the 10/11 team to the current leader of the Eastern Conference (lead Ottawa with W tie breaker).

The team is still lead by their Captain Luke Judson (@judder14) who has taken the off season seriously and really improved his game to the point many are saying he should be getting some type of pro contract instead of just heading off to CIS. The overall forward and defence have upped their game either to match their Captains commitment, or because they didn’t want to have back to back embarrassing seasons. The addition of Daniil Zharkov has given the Bulls a spark plug on the ice, the way he can skate, to the quick release on his shot, to him digging into the corners to get the puck. Not to mention the goaltending of Malcolm Subban who has been the hottest goaltender since Michael Houser started the season. You can look at the individual players who have improved but Colorado Avalanche prospect Steven Silas (@SteveSilas) thinks the team has improved because of something else,

‘Confidence. The game revolves around it. and this year our team hastons of confidence from our goaltending, to our d-men and forward. Sounds cliché but everyone is playing the way they are capable of playing and it makes it easier for everyone around them. It’s a long season though, only a third of the way through. As long as we play together and put the team first everything will fall into place.’

I use to have a nickname for each conference. There was the ‘Wild Wild West’ where anything can happen because you had 8 power teams and then a team just on the outside and one grossly missing the playoffs. Then you had the ‘Easy Easy East’ where you can just float around because no one gave you any chance against the Western Conference. This year however the East is just a ‘guns a blazing’ as their Conference Counterpart. In fact the gap between first and 8th in the East is only 8 points while in the West it is 15 points.

Despite the turnaround year that Belleville is having, no one seems to be giving them respect (outside ITO of course), to the point that they can be serious contenders. There is something to be said for going out every night and grinding out a W and doing all the small things right that can win you a 1-0 or a 3-2 game. But yet no one believes that they can stick around on top of the Eastern Conference.

With 20 OHL teams to think about every day, you can easily bypass a play, a goal, or even a whole game not thinking about what it means in the standings. Thankfully for me there are the diehard Belleville fans who follow ITO on twitter (@intheoradio) and let it be known not only how they feel about players/coaches/organization but also keeping me in the loop. When the question is, ‘How come Belleville gets no respect?’ who else should you turn to then the die hard fans? Melissa Foley (@hockeyFan14) took time to answer the question for me.

‘We are getting no respect because we are a small market team, who quietly goes about our business. We might not have the swagger as other larger market teams, but we have something more – quality character players who love playing in Belleville for their team and fans. That’s all that matters to us. With a few more wins the respect should come, but we don’t need it! we respect ourselves, other be damned!’

I think it is safe to say that the fans are passionate about the team and they know the difference from a contender and a pretender. But what about the players? What do they have to say on the topic of Belleville being the hottest team right now and the lack of respect the team gets. Michael “Muzzy” Curtis (@mcurt9107) had this to say (Muzzy is an ITO nickname) …

‘We are for sure one of the hottest teams. We just need to keep playing Bulls hockey, that will keep us on top.’

So ‘Muzzy’ didn’t want to touch the respect part of the question but the longer on top, the faster the respect should come right? Last season the longer Mississauga held on to the division and conference lead the more people began to respect their depth and talent and given enough time Curtis is right. But what about the leader, The captain, Luke Judson. He was the captain of a brutal 8th place team last year and has revamped not only his game, but maybe the team too. Here is the Captains comments about the team being perceived as pretenders,

‘We don’t mind being overlooked, it keeps us humble. We come to the rink every game respecting what are opponents can do. The only people we need to believe in our team are the guys sitting in the dressing room.’

If you have never seen a television interview with Judson, or listened to the ITO interviews with him, he is that ‘deep’ as far as talking about the team. Easy to see why he was chosen to be the captain for 2 years running. But the captain is right. If you are being overlooked use it as fuel for the fire. And just like Silas and Curtis said, it is all about the guys in the dressing room.

Now I am not going to proclaim I am a genius but I did see this team being more of a contender than last season, with that said I still didn’t give them credit to lead the division/conference. But I will admit I am a Bull-iever. Sorry that is an inner journalist I was channeling... it shouldn't happen again

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