UBC T-Birds land Giants' recruit in defenceman Neil Manning
Five-year WHL veteran has a head for business, going back to school
By Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun
May 1, 2012
Neil Manning graduated from the WHL's Vancouver Giants as the only full five-year player in franchise history and is the record-holder for games played (310). He will be joining the UBC Thunderbirds hockey program next season while enrolling in the Sauder School of Business.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch , PNG
VANCOUVER — Hockey may be a business but, for defenceman Neil Manning, business means more hockey.
The five-year Vancouver Giants veteran, who completed his junior eligibility this past season, has been accepted into UBC's Sauder School of Business and will play for the Thunderbird men's hockey team in 2012-13.
“It was always my No. 1 choice to go to UBC so obviously getting accepted into the business school was a really big thing for me,” Manning said Tuesday. “The hockey team also seems to be on the rise and, hopefully, I can be part of something really good for the next few years.”
Manning is from Nanaimo. His grandparents live in North Vancouver. He has relatives all over the Lower Mainland and never expressed a desire to leave his home province despite opportunities to attend school elsewhere. He is practically a Vancouverite after his five seasons with the Giants. He turns 21 on May 12.
“I had the option of going back east somewhere but, in taking business, I thought I could start kind of networking myself in Vancouver,” he explained. "I already have some connections in the city. And it's nice being close to my parents and grandparents."
Manning hasn't been in a classroom since graduating from high school three years ago. He was an honours student in those days and hopes his first semester on the Point Grey campus won't result in a school daze with essays, mid-terms, exams and all that other good stuff.
“It's going to be different,” he noted. “It will be a good change of pace and I don't think change is ever a bad thing in anyone's life. Obviously it's going to be an adjustment for the first couple of months. I mean, I haven't been in school since 2009 but, hopefully, I'll get in the swing of things pretty quickly.”
The hockey will be different, too. Manning will no longer be playing a 72-game season but rather a 28-game Canada West slate, punctuated with some tournaments and non-conference contests. The T-Birds typically play only on Fridays and Saturdays.
Manning talked to others who have made the move from the WHL to the CIS and he seems prepared for the drastic reduction in games.
“You practise a lot more at the university level and can work on your skills more but, having said that, there is probably going to be a time where I am missing all those games,” he chuckled.
Manning graduated from the Giants as the only full five-year player in franchise history and is the record-holder for games played (310). During that time, he collected 45 goals and138 assists, good for 183 points. T-Birds coach Milan Dragicevic will be seeking that offensive thrust from Manning.
“When we started the recruiting process, we identified our needs and Neil Manning was the first guy who kept coming up,” Dragicevic said. “We wanted a puck-moving defenceman, someone who could jump up in the rush, someone who could take charge of the power play. I know Neil did that for many years with the Giants so we're thrilled to have a player like him and, more importantly a person like him, in our program.”
Dragicevic, Canada West coach of the year for this past season, will be entering his 11th season at the T-Bird helm. He figures the program is on the verge of bigger and better things. The team was 12-12-4 in 2011-12.
“Led by Neil Manning, we look forward to having the best recruiting class we've had in 10 years,” said Dragicevic. “Last year, we made some nice steps with 10 first-year players and now it's time to take a big step and be considered a top team in Canada West.”
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