When he was a child, Josh Manson knew his father was a hockey player. He would accompany his dad to the rink and he would watch many of the games on television.
It wasn’t until much later that he realized how special of a National Hockey League presence his father, Dave Manson, actually was.
Manson played 1,103 NHL regular-season games for seven teams, three of which were members of the Original Six.
He amassed 2,792 penalty minutes and was a ferocious and intimidating force on defense.
“I really realized what he had accomplished not until I was a lot older and we had moved back home to Prince Albert [Saskatchewan],’’ said Manson, the 22-year-old captain of the Northeastern hockey team. “I was growing up and trying to do things on my own in hockey and that’s when I realized what he had done and that’s what I wanted to do with my life, too.’’
Monday night, the junior and his team will be trying to accomplish something NU hasn’t done since before Manson and his teammates were born — win the Beanpot championship. The Huskies, who take on Boston College at TD Garden, last took home the crown in 1988.
Josh Manson said his life was shaped by his father’s career. Moving from place to place forced him to make new friends and adjust to new schools, but he said he never knew anything else.
“We never stayed in a spot for too long so it just became a way of life for me,’’ he said. “I adjusted easily and made new friends everywhere I went. I made the best of it. You know as a kid how easy it was to make friends. My mom and dad always made it out like a good thing.’’
Dave Manson, now an assistant coach with the Prince Albert Raiders, said Josh was always welcome to change.
“Josh was very transient,’’ he said. “He had no problem making friends. He had a tougher time in Montreal for about two weeks and after that, there was never a problem. He always had good friends everywhere he went.’’
Josh Manson played forward most of his life until his second year in junior hockey with Salmon Arm in the British Columbia Hockey League.
“I was 11 days into the season and my coach said he saw some qualities in me that he had seen in another player and he switched him to defense and it worked really well for him,’’ said Manson. “So he asked me if I wanted to try it and I kind of embraced it.’’
He welcomed the idea of it if not the position right away.
“To be honest, I wasn’t very good,’’ he said. “I [stunk] in practice. It was kind of going to go to the wayside, but we had a whole bunch of injuries on defense and two of our regular defense were in and the others were call-ups. So coach said, ‘We’ll throw you back for the game.’ I ended up doing all right and it just kind of stuck from there. It was a lot easier for me having the play come to me and not having the pressure to score goals or get points.’’
Manson said because he started playing defense so late, it took him a while to adapt to the college game.
“I remember playing against Maine and they were like bumblebees, they were so fast,’’ said Manson. “The skill level was so much higher. It was definitely an adjustment period for me, slowing the game down for myself and having to simplify everything.’’
This season, Manson has jumped from stable performer to star blue liner.
NU coach Jim Madigan said Manson has worked extremely hard to improve.
“He’s a good skater, he’s a physical player,’’ said Madigan. “The nuances of the position he was just learning because of time. He absorbed systems and he absorbed the position very well. He was learning a little bit on the job that first half of the year particularly because you’re transitioning to a higher level of hockey and you’re trying to get adjusted to the speed of the college game.’’
Madigan said the fact that Manson grew up around the NHL provided a built-in form of osmosis.
“It’s about creating good habits,’’ said Madigan. “That’s all a product of being taught and being talked to about how to play this game. [Kids of NHL players] have intelligence, they’ve got that sixth sense around the game. They’ve been hanging around NHL locker rooms and around NHL guys. A lot of it they just absorbed.’’
Josh Manson is the spitting image of his father and also shares another trait — his fearlessness and physicality.
“It’s nice when your captain can bring a little bit of an intimidation [factor] to the position,’’ said Madigan. “I know he’s not going out and threatening people but it’s nice when your captain has an intimidating way about him.’’
Dave Manson joked that he gets that from his mother.
“He’s a bigger kid and he doesn’t shy away,’’ he said. “That’s something he’s done on his own.’’
When asked if Josh understood how formidable the elder Manson was as a player, Dave Manson laughed.
“The older you get, the better you were,’’ he said. “I told him I had a job to do. It’s not that you wanted to do it, it’s something that evolved. It was a case of how hockey was back then. You fought for every inch on the ice. If somebody takes advantage of you, you’d better keep your head up.’’
Josh Manson will help keep his team’s eye on the prize whether it be the Beanpot or the Hockey East playoffs.
“We’ve turned it around this season from the last two years but we haven’t won anything yet,’’ said Manson. “To win the Beanpot would be amazing. I can only imagine what it’s been like for all the Northeastern fans that have been here since the last championship. Those are the people I really want to win for and I know our team does, too.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.