Former Blackhawk of the Week: Dave Manson

Manson was one of the NHL’s top enforcers during the late 80s and 90s.

Nothing fuels rivalries more in the NHL than playoff matchups.

Three straight postseasons featuring series between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues from 1988 to 1990 meant that any regular-season games between the Norris Division rivals were highly combustible, with several players on each side happy to lend the igniting flame to the feud.

And one of the best at adding that spark is today’s Former Blackhawk of the Week: Dave Manson.

The NHL, in the 1980s and early 1990s, was borderline insanity. Lots of goals, lots of fights, and a general sense of lawlessness that permeated throughout the building (and it wasn’t just the players on the ice, either). A trip to an NHL game was like drawing a wild card: there could be a plethora of offense during a 10-9 shootout or a massive line brawl that would result in more players ejected than goals scored.

That was the era that Manson entered when he debuted with the Blackhawks in the 1986-87 season, after they drafted him in the first round (11th overall) in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft. A capable defenseman, yes, but Manson was best known for his fists. In the 1988-89 season, Manson racked up 352 penalty minutes, second in franchise history to Mike Peluso’s mark of 408 during the 1991-92 campaign (the Blackhawks entire team had 597 PIM last season). But Manson also had 18 goals and 36 assists that year, with only Doug Wilson posting a better mark along Chicago’s blue-liners that season.

But offensive contributions are not why Manson’s name is remembered: it’s the fights. Typing “Dave Manson” into a YouTube search brings up a long list of scraps with other famed NHL enforcers: Tie Domi, Bob Probert and Tony Twist, among others. To this day, Manson has a low, raspy voice that resulted from a damaged larynx after being punched in the throat during a fight with Sergio Momesso of the Blues — of course.

Another game against those hated Blues, though, probably serves as the crescendo of Manson’s career in the NHL: March 17, 1991, a game that later became known as the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre.

There are line brawls aplenty in the 9:45 video below, but the title bout begins around the 5:00 mark, when Manson skates to center ice with St. Louis captain Scott Stevens. Manson bloodies Stevens during the scrap and the Chicago Stadium crowd erupted when it saw the gash that Manson had opened on Stevens’ face.

The box score of that game is comically long, with the teams combining for 278 penalty minutes. Chicago won the game 6-5, with third-period goals from Wayne Presley and Greg Gilbert breaking a 4-4 deadlock late in the game. Twelve players were ejected and Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan told reporters he was “embarrassed to be involved.”

Manson played in the NHL for another decade, retiring in September 2002. He became a journeyman over the later portions of his career. His long list of transactions included:

  • Traded by Chicago the Edmonton Oilers in 1991, a deal that brought Steve Smith, an earlier focus of this series, to the Blackhawks.
  • Traded to the Winnpeg Jets in 1994
  • Moved with that franchise to Phoenix in 1996
  • Traded to the Montreal Canadiens in 1997
  • Traded back to the Blackhawks in 1998. That Blackhawks team was notoriously loaded with enforcers, resulting in their head coach taking a punch in the face from then-Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee, who is now the GM for the Vegas Golden Knights.
  • Traded out of Chicago— again — to the Dallas Stars in 2000
  • Signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 2000-01 season
  • Traded back to Dallas in November 2001 for his final NHL seaon. /

Since retiring, Manson turned to coaching and, three months ago, joined the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors as an assistant coach.

The Manson names lives on in the NHL today, as well, with Josh Manson — Dave’s son — entering his fifth NHL season this fall with the Anaheim Ducks.