When young Dave Poulin hit the ice in his native Timmins, Ontario, he did so as a figure skater, an art he pursued until age eight when his family moved south to Mississauga. Once established in his new setting, he took up the game of hockey and found he could out skate all of the other lads his age but was so small physically that he was consistently cut from the local house-league teams.
But Poulin never looked at hockey as an end. For him, it was only a means to obtain a scholarship to attend university. So he persisted with the game until Notre Dame University opened its doors and put him onto the ice where he skated for the Fighting Irish from 1978 to 1982. He then received an invitation to play for a season in Sweden, an offer he happily accepted, having been overlooked in the NHL Entry Draft.
Poulin's coach in Sweden was Ted Sator who doubled as a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers. He liked what he saw in his new recruit and informed the Flyers who were quick to bring him on board later that season. By 1983-84, Poulin became a Flyer regular on a line with Tim Kerr and Brian Propp. He went on to establish a team record for rookie scoring with 76 points. In addition to points, his leadership, work ethic and solid two-way play won him the team's captaincy.
Over his six-plus season in Philly, Poulin won the Frank Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, an award given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
By 1989-90, however, Poulin's stock with the Flyers plummeted for inexplicable reasons. He was stripped of his captaincy and quickly dispatched to the Boston Bruins for Ken Linseman. In his first season in Beantown, Poulin and the Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup finals where they lost out to the Edmonton Oilers in 1990. He continued on with the club until signing with the Washington Capitals as a free agent in 1993. He lasted another season and a half before opting to retire to assume a post as head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.