Saturday, 13 February 2016

Perfect night in Prince Albert

Raiders retire Manson’s number and win

Brendan Guhle, right, gives his No. 4 jersey to Dave Manson, left.
    PRINCE ALBERT - In Hockey Town North, he is “The Man,” and “The Prince Albert Raider.”
    Dave Manson stands as the symbol of everything that is good about Prince Albert’s WHL hockey team. He is to the Raiders what Roger Aldag is to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
    On Friday night before a standing room crowd of 2,852 spectators at the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders retired Manson’s No. 4 jersey in a pre-game ceremony before they faced and beat the Regina Pats 3-2. It was a long overdue honour for the local product, but the wait might have made the emotion of the night that much more special.
    Growing up in the small Saskatchewan Centre that is called the “Gateway to the North,” Manson endeared himself to the citizens there because he is genuine and has always been a first class person. He also excelled in many sports growing up, and if you look up the back issues of the local Prince Albert Daily Herald at the local library, you can uncover stories of Manson ripping up the local minor football league that existed in his youth or setting records that would stand for over 25 years at high school track and field meets.
    Of course, his story settled around the fact he focused on hockey. He came to the Raiders on a six-game call up during their first season in the WHL in 1982-83, but he wasn’t the best player on the ice. Manson worked hard and improved with great grit and determination.
    The citizens of Prince Albert have always loved their lunch pail characters who brought it every day, and in the following three seasons after the 1982-83 campaign, they developed great pride in watching one of their own reach star status with the Raiders patrolling the blue-line.
Dave Manson shouts out orders from the Raiders' bench.
    In total, Manson played 218 regular season games for the Raiders between 1982 and 1986, recording 24 goals, 72 assists and 666 penalty minutes. After the franchise’s third season in the major junior ranks, Manson helped the Raiders win junior hockey’s ultimate prize in the Memorial Cup in 1985. Also that year, he was selected in the first round and 11th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL Entry Draft.
    Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 202 pounds, Manson played with great heart and passion, which can still be easily seen when he stands behind the team’s bench these days as an associate coach. The Raiders are a team that is viewed as having a hard working image with a rough and tumble physical edge, and Manson was the living example of that.
    He was also the man who stepped up and took care of business when something underhanded went down on the ice, and those moments really brought the Prince Albert faithful out of their seats. Around hockey, the Raiders are viewed as a franchise where honour still matters and it is likely no one has more honour than Manson.
    If Manson’s story with the Raiders had ended there, he was assured of legendary status in Prince Albert. After his playing days with the Raiders, Manson went on to play in 1,103 career regular season games in the NHL from 1986 to 2002 collecting 102 goals, 288 assists and 2,792 penalty minutes with the Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Dave Manson's No. 4 in the Art Hauser Centre rafters.
    Having always been a strong family man, Manson returned to the Prince Albert area to settle down after his playing days were finished due to the fact he has numerous family members there. Part way through the 2002-03 campaign, he became an assistant coach with the Raiders, and he has remained a key part of that team since that time. From that moment, his status elevated from legendary to iconic in Prince Albert.
    When he takes up position behind the Raiders bench, he can look into the stands and he seemingly knows all the faces that are in the crowd. It is a regular occurrence for him to walk the halls of the Art Hauser Centre, approach someone who you would think would be a stranger, address them by their first name and have some good-natured conversation with that person.
    Manson has also been a big influence in helping the Raiders players on the ice with their games, and their personal lives. Those that have played under Manson are pretty unanimous in agreeing he was one of their favourite coaches.
    The hometown boy had helped the Raiders win a national title as a player, went on to a great career in the NHL and returned home to be an integral part of the community.
    On Friday night, old friends from both his long ties with the Raiders and his NHL days like good buddy Kelly Buchberger arrived in Prince Albert for his jersey retirement ceremony. If Manson’s family and friends couldn’t be there, like his 24-year-old son Josh who was playing that night with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, they sent in moving video tributes.
    Defenceman Brendan Guhle, who will go down as the last Raider to wear No. 4, gave his jersey to Manson and donned a new No. 7 uniform. WHL commissioner Ron Robison presented Manson with the league’s Alumni Achievement Award and the Raiders brass presented him with a silver stick engraved with the names of all the teams he has played on during the festivities.
    When game time rolled around, the Raiders actually had a bit of a slow start, but hit stride when Yorkton midget AAA call up Carson Miller, who just turned 16, scored to give the hosts a 1-0 lead at the 10:28 mark of the first period. The Raiders lunch bucket work ethic got going as standout right-winger Reid Gardiner scored on the power play and rearguard Dalton Yorke potted what would be the game winner.
Brendan Guhle drives a shot on goal wearing his new No. 7 jersey.
    Pats starting netminder Jordan Hollett was chased at the 5:37 mark of the second period turning away nine of 12 shots fired his way. Tyler Brown stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief.
Austin Wagner and Connor Hobbs replied with singles for the Pats (23-23-3-4) in what was an outstanding hockey game.
    Playing with great structure and powered by Rylan Parenteau’s 24 saves in goal, the Raiders were able to clamp things down defensively and close out the victory. It was an effort that was a fitting tribute to Manson.
    The Raiders also improved to 31-18-5-1. Many in junior hockey circles look at the Raiders record this season and say they are overachieving. On the other side of that observation, the Raiders are showing what can be achieved when you play with good focus, hard work and passion, which are the traits Manson brought to his game every day.
    After the contest during a media scrum, Guhle reflected on handing his No. 4 jersey to Manson.
The Raiders celebrate their 3-2 win over the Pats.
    “It was actually really special,” said Guhle. “We actually looked at each other in the eyes, and he actually had little tears in his eyes. Don’t tell him I said that.
    “It was pretty special for me and for him. We’ve known each other both for four years now and him mentoring me and coaching me through the whole process in the WHL. It was a real special moment for both of us.”
    For Manson, he has enjoyed watching the players he has coached grow and mature, and he thought it was cool to receive Guhle’s No. 4 jersey.
    “It is very nice,” said Manson. “It is something for sure I know I will remember.
    “He (Guhle) has been a big part of the Raiders success this year. It was good that he could be a part of that.”
    Now Manson’s No. 4 hangs in the Art Hauser Centre rafters along with Mike Modano’s No. 9.
    However when one thinks of the Prince Albert Raiders, Manson is always the first player that comes to mind.

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