TORONTO – Two months after being drafted second overall in the 2001 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft by the Calgary Roughnecks, Blaine Manning, a Calgary native, found himself wearing a Toronto Rock jersey.
Five years later, Manning, 26, couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out.
With three championships and three All-Star appearances, Manning has proven that the Rock made the right move by acquiring him from Calgary. He currently resides in Toronto with his fiancée Christine where he works full-time for a bond brokerage company. Manning is the youngest of four children, and often found himself looking towards his older siblings for guidance. He credits them for his love of lacrosse.
“Growing up, we’d play a lot of sports together,” says Manning. “I started playing (lacrosse) when I was about eight. My brothers were a year ahead of me. I would watch a couple of games and saw how much fun they had throwing the ball around to one another. My parents bought me a stick so I could play with them.”
Although he played soccer at the time, he felt it lacked excitement compared to lacrosse. Manning began to play lacrosse in the summer and hockey in the winter.
“Around (the age of) 13 or 14, I started kind of shifting my purpose. I still played hockey, but lacrosse started taking over.”
Now in his fifth season of professional lacrosse, Manning earned the honour of the NLL Rookie of the Year award in 2001 and back-to-back-to-back All-Star team selections in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
He completed the 2005 season with 105 points, the second highest total in the league, behind teammate Colin Doyle who finished with 107. In the past four seasons in the NLL, Manning has earned 150 goals and 229 assists. He has had many memorable moments, but lists the three championships won by the Rock in the 2002, 2003, and the 2005 seasons as the most memorable events in his career.
“The first one in Albany was obviously fantastic. Then, the following year we won in Rochester. And, being able to win for the first time in Toronto last year was another moment,” he says. “Those are definitely the ones that I cherish the most. I don’t think I could pick one over the other.”
During his first season in the NLL, Manning said he feels privileged to have been coached by Les Bartley. Bartley was forced to step down as coach in 2004, after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Sadly, Bartley passed away on May 15, 2005, a day after the Rock won its fifth NLL championship.
“I learned so much from him. He taught me what it takes to play at that level and what he expected from me,” explains Manning. “He was a very influential part of my life.”
Manning was re-signed during the off-season by the Rock to a one-year contract. And, with the return of many of last year’s players, the Toronto Rock organization looks to be one of the strongest teams on the field this season.
“Hopefully we can continue having success in the years to come,” concludes Manning. “Especially this year!”