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  • Manson following in father's footsteps Print
    Futures Watch
    Written by Dan Marrazza   
    Thursday, 29 November 2012 14:15

    Life in the NHL is often a family affair, with such strong hockey families as the Sutters or the Staals. Northeastern defenseman, Josh Manson, is looking to add another name to that list after being drafted by the Anaheim Ducks.

    Sports are often impacted by genetics.

    In fact, it’s hard to think of another profession where there’s such a strong correlation between having a father’s or mother’s skills being directly passed on to their children.

    But for all the benefits that come with having the genes of a Sutter or a Staal, one of the challenging aspects of trying to become a professional athlete after a parent or sibling had an accomplished playing career is trying to distinguish yourself as your own player, and own person.

    After all, in sports, comparisons are part of the equation. Always have been and always will be.

    However, for Northeastern defenseman and 2011 Anaheim Ducks draft pick Josh Manson, the comparisons to his father, former NHL defenseman Dave Manson, could take an interesting turn in coming years given the elder Manson’s “unique” role in two of recent history’s two more notable hockey memoirs.

    In short, Dave Manson was one of the biggest and toughest defensemen in the NHL in the 1980s and 1990s. His accomplishments include having the 13th most penalty minutes (2,792) in NHL history, two All-Star appearances and being the only player not named Al—Iafrate or MacInnis—to have the hardest shot in the NHL All-Star Game’s Skills Competition prior to the year 2000.

    But beyond his stats, Dave Manson was one of the more memorable characters of his era. He is often remembered for both his voice—which was left permanently raspy as a result of a larynx injury he sustained in a fight with Sergio Momesso—and for his infamous run-ins with his dictatorial head coach with the Chicago Blackhawks, Mike Keenan.

    Manson’s numerous run-ins with Mike Keenan are why he’s found his name mentioned in two notable hockey player memoirs, with specific tales of his feud with his coach being published in both Theo Fleury’s 2009 tell-all, “Playing With Fire,” and Jeremy Roenick’s recently-released autobiography, “J.R.”

    As Roenick writes in the third chapter of his book, “J.R.”

    “Manson was a skilled player with a heavy slap shot and combative personality. Once teammates realized how quickly Manson’s temper could boil over, they started calling him ‘Charlie Manson,’ in reference to the convicted murderer Charles Manson, who had those scary, crazy-looking eyes. When Dave Manson lost control, he looked as if he might kill you.

    “Dave was a tough competitor who had amassed 352 penalty minutes in my first season with the Blackhawks in 1988-89. During one game, Keenan had determined that Manson was responsible for everything wrong with the Blackhawks that night.

    “’You’re (expletive) brutal,' Keenan screamed at Manson between periods. ‘You are the reason we are losing this game.’

    “Manson had his skates unlaced and his jersey off when Keenan began unloading on him with his verbal barrage. Initially, Manson took his medicine, like we all did at various times. But during Keenan’s rant, Manson snapped. He stood, yanked off his shoulder pads and flung them across the locker room, just missing Keenan as he ducked out of the way. That was merely the first salvo of Manson’s attack. As the pads were launched, Manson began running, in his skates, directly at Keenan.

    “Keenan fled out the door with Manson on his tail. We all scurried to the door to witness the outcome. You can imagine how (expletive) comical it was to see Keenan sprinting down a hallway, in the bowels of Chicago Stadium, with Manson in determined pursuit. As he chased Keenan, sparks were leaping off Manson’s skates as the blades scraped across the cement. If Manson hadn’t lost his balance while trying to run on skates, he might have pummeled Keenan.”

    As difficult as it may be to believe, Fleury’s tale of Manson’s feud with Keenan is even more outrageous.

    In the ninth chapter of Fleury’s book, “Playing With Fire,” he details the concept of coaches playing mind games with their players, and provides an anecdote of what happened when Mike Keenan tried to play mind games with Dave Manson.

    “Manson had enough mental abuse and went into Keenan’s office, grabbed him by the shoulders and hung him right on the hook of the back of the door,” wrote Fleury.

    Getting past the image of the mustachioed, iron-willed Mike Keenan hanging by his shirt on the back of a door, fighting and flailing to free himself is the fact that Dave Manson, now an assistant coach with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, is someone who people in the hockey world know not to mess with.

    Meanwhile, for Josh Manson, stories of his father’s no-nonsense style will result in the expectation for him to play a similarly tough, no-nonsense style. The fact that Josh Manson is the same size—6-foot-3, 200 pounds—as his father and plays the same position will only make comparisons more prevalent.

    “It’s tough to compare Josh to his father,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. “Dave Manson was a quality defenseman for 16 years in the NHL. Also, Dave was already in the NHL at 20-years-old while Josh is in college at the same age. Josh has to focus on being his own player.”

    For Josh Manson, his being his own player entails being a sophomore defenseman at Northeastern in the present and trying to advance his way through the Anaheim Ducks organization in the future.

    Furthermore, Manson has to learn the intricacies of playing defense, which is especially challenging given his father’s reputation and because he’s currently only in his second year as a defenseman. Prior to joining Northeastern as a freshman last season, the younger Manson had mostly been a forward when he skated for the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

    “I’ve only been a defenseman for a couple years,” said Manson. “I’m a lot more comfortable in the position than I was last year, but I’m still trying to find out what type of aJosh Manson player that I am.”

    “Josh looks comfortable as a defenseman,” added Madigan. “I don’t think his development is really ‘behind’ because he doesn’t have a lot of experience playing defense. But he does need more games at the position.”

    In terms of his development, Manson would probably benefit from playing a full four years of college hockey at Northeastern in order to get more experience as a blueliner before turning pro.

    With Northeastern, Manson’s primary duty is to help solidify the defense on a squad which has started the 2012-13 season by going just 2-6-1, after having gone a combined 43-48-10 over the past three years since tying a school record with 25 wins during the 2008-09 season.

    “I think we’re doing some good things out there,” said Manson. “But there are some little things that we need to improve upon.”

    “When you have our record, there aren’t too many things that you can be happy with,” added Madigan. “But I don’t think we’re that far off. We’ve played some good games, and have been good for parts of other games where we haven’t been able to finish the job.”

    If he’s able to do his personal job over the next few seasons, it isn’t difficult to envision a scenario where Manson would be able to rise through the Anaheim Ducks organization. The reason that Manson should have the opportunity to advance is because of how perfectly his style fits the mold of what the Ducks will probably need moving forward, given that the team’s top two defense prospects, Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, are puck-moving defensemen who weigh fewer than 200 pounds while the larger Manson projects as a potential stay-at-home, tough shutdown defenseman at the next level.

    However, while Josh’s playing tough will always draw comparisons to his father, he was quick to point out that Dave Manson is a much different parent than on-the-ice competitor.

    “Off the ice, my father is just the kindest person,” said Josh Manson. “You wouldn’t think that if you watched him on the ice, and then met him, that he’s even the same person. He’s very respectful and will help you with anything you could ever need, no matter who you are.”

    With that comment, Mike Keenan is probably sitting somewhere wondering if it was just something he said wrong.

    Article Photo Courtesy of Jim Pierce
    Frontpage Photo Courtesy of Heratch Ekmekjian



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    Last Updated on Monday, 03 December 2012 12:35