Hockey Shtick: Chandler Mom, Dad, Sons Find Play In Desert Cool - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Hockey Shtick: Chandler Mom, Dad, Sons Find Play In Desert Cool

November 7th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Hockey Shtick: Chandler Mom, Dad, Sons Find Play In Desert Cool
Sports and Recreation

By Carson Roberts

STSN Contributing Writer

Hockey is not a particularly big deal in the desert, but don’t tell the Manning family in Chandler.

They, like many other Hamilton High families, are involved in the school’s AHSHA hockey team. The Mannings have witnessed the progress of a group that now has championship aspirations.

Only recently did Hamilton become a pure program, or one that consists only of players from one school. Some teams are blended, featuring players from multiple schools.

Hamilton assistant coach Brett Manning, along with head coach Tim Newlin, attribute some of the success to more-intense practices.

“We’re bringing club-level drills, NCAA-level drills, to try and ensure that,” Manning said. “Most of the high school players only get one practice a week, so we want that practice to be as productive as possible.”

The Huskies have multiple players who also play travel hockey, including Manning’s three sons – Brendan, a forward; Connor, a defenseman; and Hayden.

The boys all followed in their father’s footsteps, finding a natural fit on the ice.

Brett said that growing up in Canada led him to the sport that became a central part of his life.

“If you’re born up there, you’re either a reader or you play hockey because the winters are long,” Brett said.

According to Brett, he has played hockey for about 40 years. At 46, he still participates in an adult league.

He tried to get his sons interested in other sports. Hayden even confessed to playing lacrosse for a few years. However, the kids never felt forced into hockey because it always was just the family pastime.

“It’s definitely a family affair. We all enjoy time at the rink. When we’re not here, we’re watching it on TV, so it’s just part of life and part of the family,” Brett said.

It can get messy, however. Sometimes, the boys play each other in travel leagues.

Kelti Manning, Hamilton’s team manager and mother of the family, shed light on one of those times.

“The twins have played against Brendan, (in a) semifinal game at a tournament. There was no good side of the red line for me to sit on. Connor checked younger brother Brendan. Brendan sniped Hayden in net. (It was a) long drive home,” Kelti said.

To add fuel to the fire, each family member claims allegiance to a different professional team.

Brett loves the Maple Leafs, and Kelti continues to be a die-hard Canucks fan. Connor and Hayden are fans of the Blackhawks and Penguins, respectively. In a strange twist, Brendan cheers for the Sharks.

The rivalries don’t stop in the NHL. The parents grew up in Canada; however, the sons were born and raised in the United States. They’re all partial to their respective national teams.

Connor called it “a house divided.” On the surface, it does appear that lines have been drawn between the Manning family and their passionate fan bases.

One notable game was the gold-medal match in the 2010 Winter Olympics. The generational rivalry erupted between the parents and children in Canada’s 3-2 overtime win over the United States.

Another family highlight was Hayden’s Penguins and Brendan’s Sharks squaring off in the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals.

Hayden said it was exciting to see two of their teams play on hockey’s biggest stage, but also brought out a fair amount of taunting from each side.

The rivalries and little divisions just add to the enjoyment. Hockey really brings the Manning family together.

“It’s really everything,” Connor said. “You can’t go into a room without seeing something hockey. It’s a really big deal to us.”

Although the Hamilton High team has increased the quality of its training, one practice a week is a miniscule work load.

Therefore, AHSHA teams often lean on travel-team players. Some schools have been able to attract players because AHSHA can be an opportunity to relax and play while maintaining the competitive atmosphere.

“With travel, there’s more pressure, especially when you go to showcases and tournaments because you’re trying to get scouts to see you,” Hamilton goaltender Hayden Manning said. “With high school, it’s a little more laid-back. You can relax and play hockey.”

The free-flowing sport may not be popular in Arizona, yet, but the Mannings will be the first to tell you everything the desert has missed and that it never is too late to embrace the culture.