When a player is affectionately known as “Charlie” Manson, it comes as no surprise he was one of the most feared NHL tough guys of his era. But he could play too, a terrific package of terror and talent.
The pride of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the former hometown Raiders star Dave Manson played in over 1100 NHL games, most notably with the Chicago Blackhawks. He also played well in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal before toiling with Toronto and Dallas late in his career.
Manson quickly established himself as a rough and tumble customer. He had nearly 2800 career penalty minutes, including a Chicago single season record (since broken) of 352 penalty minutes in his third season, 1988-89.
The following season he would have bettered his own record if he was not suspended three times – twice for pushing a linesman and returning to fights, and once for biting the hand of Scott Stevens.
With his rugged approach to the game he was an obvious fan favorite in the Windy City. He had some real battles in that old Norris Division, and Chicago had some long time rivalries. Bob Probert and Joey Kocur were in Detroit. Basil McRae in Minnesota. Todd Ewen and later Scott Stevens in St. Louis.
That Stevens bout was quite the classic. Let’s take a look:
Manson backed down from nobody, and you can not accuse him of having a bark worse than his bite. You see, Manson often had to let his physical play send messages for him, as he his voice was reduced to a raspy whisper courtesy of Sergio Momesso, then with Vancouver. Big Momesso punched Manson right in the throat during one altercation, and Manson contracted a permanent case of laryngitis. Even after two major surgeries, Manson still talks very softly and gravelly.
Despite the nickname and impressive pugilistic resume, one should not be too quick to jump to the conclusion that he was simply a goon. No, in fact he was also an offensive defenseman who twice played in NHL all star games.
Remember that ’88-89 season where Manson sat in the penalty box for 352 minutes? The defenseman also registered 18 goals and 54 points that year.
Blessed with a heavy shot, Manson was a natural on the power play. He loved to tee up one timers but was also smart enough to change up his shot now and again. And he was never afraid to pinch up and surprise the penalty killers with his straying from the left point.
That year Manson really put it altogether. There is not a coach in the league that would not want a defenseman with Manson’s scary combination of physical aggression and offensive intimidation. He was always playing on the edge, but he constantly struggled to keep that right balance.
First and foremost was discipline, but with penalty minute totals like his that comes as no surprise. Too often he would unnecessarily engage in scrums after the whistle instead of just concentrating on hockey. He would often throw himself off his own game as he ran around out of position and taking bad penalties. With his well-established reputation as one of the most feared men on ice, he did not need to do this. He needed to learn let his reputation do a lot of the intimidating for him, and just concentrate on playing hockey.
Discipline in hockey also refers to playing the game smartly and patiently. This is also known as hockey sense.
At times Manson was too over-exuberant in his offensive game too, making bad pinches, impossible passes, and plenty of turnovers. He was very much a gambler with the puck, and he got burned many times. This only led to a significant number of minor penalties, for hooking and tripping, because he did not have the superior foot speed to make up for his gaffes.
Had Manson learned to be more patient with the puck and just make the safe if unspectacular play, he would have been one heck of a defender. He might not have been as noticeable on the ice if he played more conservatively, but given his turnover history that might have been a good thing.
Defensively he could be an adventure, too. Certainly the opposition did not like to put the puck into his corner, given the likelihood he would try to put you into the first row of seats. But the opposition knew Manson would stray too far from his optimal position to make a big hit or to unnecessarily help out his defense partner. Poor reads by Manson led to wide open scoring chances for attackers too often.
Manson may have been a big city star who lasted over 1100 wars in the NHL, but he never forgot his hometown roots. He was always a Saskatchewan boy at heart, proud of his hometown of Prince Albert where he led the WHL Raiders to the Memorial Cup in 1985. Following the conclusion of his NHL career, Manson returned to Prince Albert and became involved in coaching with the Raiders.
Read more at Greatest Hockey Legends: Dave Manson
Category: Jets Biographies