I couldn't help but jump on my computer this morning and share one of the best stories developing in the NHL this season.
As you know I am based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. Living in this city it is all about the Canucks. They are the team I am most familiar with.
About 3 years ago the Canucks announced in the off season they had made two big signings. One was defenceman Dan Hamhuis from the Nashville Predators and 2nd was forward and face-off genius Manny Malhorta. When the season began you could just tell there was something different about Malhortra. He was kind, smart, polite and cute. Plus, shortly after joining the team Manny became the spokesperson for the Canucks Autism Network.
In March of 2011, less then a month before the Canucks were playoff bond on what was turning into the best season in franchise history, Malhotra took a puck to the eye. It was a complete freak accident. For the rest of the remaining season and into the playoffs Malhotra was out. Rumor has it he was between Vancouver and New York having some of the best eye doctors across the continent trying to save his eye. Then like a true champion Malhotra returned to the team in the Stanley Cup Final. It was game 2 vs the Boston Bruins and the Canucks had their face-off man back. The rest of the Final is history but Malhotra was back.
For the next two seasons Malhotra worked and he worked. Always trying to better his game and his vision. I was fortunate enough to get to watch Malhotra not only skate with the Canucks as Rogers Arena, I was able watch him during the 2012-13 lockout skate out at UBC with fellow teammates and the UBC mens hockey team. Malhotra was always willing to drop a few puck and show those university kids a thing or two about the face-off circle. Shortly after the lockout ended in 2013 Malhotra was put on injured reserve. This means he was out of the lineup because of injury but still receiving his pay cheque. Vancouver GM Mike Gillis said he wasn't comfortable playing Malhotra with his eye injured. Manny had no choice but to wait out the season and let his contract expire.
Well, leave it to Manny! Just because you aren't playing doesn't mean you stop working. Malhotra spent the rest of the season practicing and not missing a beat. He knew that once his contract was up he would be free to play for another team if the opportunity presented itself. September 2013 and I was out at the rink watching the Canucks practice before training camp started. As Henrik and Daniel Sedin, along with Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins, Kevin Bieksa and Alex Burrows all tossing pucks around with each other on the rink. I wandered over to the rink next door and saw Malhotra skating with a trainer. Not only was Malhotra on the ice but his buddy Dan Hamhuis was helping out with the drill passing Malhotra the pucks and doing whatever it was that needed to be done for Manny's drill. To the untrained eye, just another player working for his spot on the team. To a well trained eye this was a man not willing to take "NO" for an answer. An athlete who's poise, work ethic and positivity kept him working.
Soon enough it happened! I found out about Manny's signing with the Carolina Hurricane from my friend Ricky who sent me a text message the minute he found out. Add better to already a great story, in his 3rd game with the Hurricanes, Malhotra scored a beauty of an O/T breakaway goal to give the Hurricane the "W" with a 2-1 victory. To add to the excitement of the Hurricane vs Flyers game all 3 goals were scored in less then 7 minutes!
It was a 0-0 game heading into the 3rd period. Flyers forward Scott Hartnell scored the 1st goal of the game with less then 4 minutes left. Then Hurricane forward Jordan Staal scored the tying goal with his older brother Eric assisting with less then a minute left in regulation. Onto O/T is was. Halfway threw Manny saw his chance. It was a beautiful goal!
All I have to say is Congratulations Manny Malhotra! Vancouver Canucks fans couldn't be happier for you! Above I have uploaded Manny's goal from last night. Below I have uploaded the moment Manny took the puck to the eye, an episode of Hockey Talk with Courtney where I interview Manny and he offers some great advice plus a video of one last drill for Manny at practice! Enjoy!