• Brandon Manning earns respect from teammates with fight
• Oilers display toughness in victory
• Manning handled situation like a pro
Imagine being Brandon Manning on Thursday night in Edmonton. Or worse, Thursday afternoon — that time of day when the heavyweights always used to say that the anticipation burned a hole in their guts.
Public Enemy No. 1 in Edmonton, and a full house at Rogers Place looking for blood. Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Zack Kassian all lining up to be the one to defend Connor McDavid’s good name… At least Darnell Nurse is still on I.R.
“It didn’t bother me,” Manning said after the game. “I’m not scared of fighting. I wasn’t really worried or thinking about that today.”
Far tougher men have admitted different, but we will say this about the 26-year-old from Prince George B.C.: You won’t find anyone who’ll get more respect from his teammates today than Manning, whose parents and cadre of family and friends were the only people among the 18,347 fans Thursday who didn’t come to see Manning get his comeuppance for his 2015 dalliance with McDavid.
“It was real tough,” said Flyers teammate Brayden Schenn, after a 6-3 loss to the Oilers in which McDavid matched Sidney Crosby’s three-point night to hang on to the NHL scoring lead with 66 points. “With McDavid being one of the faces of the NHL … (Manning) comes into this building and the fans are on him and he stands up and fights a tough guy.
“He’s getting challenged all night and he drops his gloves, so full marks to him.”
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had Manning in his starting lineup, and for what little we really know about the undrafted Flyers defenceman, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Far from a media darling, Manning did a media scrum in the morning, had an isolation camera on him during the game, and was on the radar of every Oilers player who wished to drive the point home that these aren’t the Taylor Hall-era Oilers anymore.
Now, you mess with McDavid — intentional or not — and there’s hell to pay.
Kassian (six-foot-three, 217 lbs.) rolled by a couple of times and made sure the six-foot-one, 205 lbs. Manning knew he was itching to be the guy to fight him. Then Lucic, a menace at six-foot-three, 233 lbs., laid the lumber on Manning, hoping he might turn around to check on who was delivering the slash. Maroon (six-foot-three, 230 lbs.) made a pass or two, but Manning just kept playing the game.
“I wasn’t going to (fight) on their terms,” said Manning. “I was going to go out and play hockey. I’ve been playing well — to go out and fight for the sake of fighting just isn’t what I’m about.”
Finally, with the Flyers trailing 4-1 in the second period, he and Maroon lined up next to each other at a faceoff. There is honour in turning the other cheek, but that concept dissolves with a 4-1 deficit.
“He asked me to go,” said Maroon. “If it wasn't me, I’m sure it would have been somebody else.
“We had our fight and it's over and done with.”
The truth about situations like this one is, if you show up and man up, they don’t say much about you. Quiet respect.
Shy away, and they’ll never let it go.
Manning, who perhaps didn’t deserve to be in such a jackpot, handled it like a true pro. He lost the fight, but he got his licks in, looking a very difficult situation square in the eye without blinking.
Now, this should be over.
“Let’s hope so. I’d love that,” he chuckled. “Connor didn’t say a word out on the ice tonight. Patrick said, ‘Good job,’ after (the scrap). We’d do the same thing if one of our superstars got hurt. We understand it.”
“We know who Brandon Manning is,” Hakstol beamed, “and anyone that has spent any time around him knows that, in terms of the honour of the game, there is no one that is in front of the line before him. He’s first class.”
Said Maroon: “He’s a tough kid. He plays the game strong and hard. You have to tip your hat to him.”