Manson eyes Stanley Cup with Avalanche in Final after father came close

“Oh, I didn’t even think about [Father’s Day],” Josh, a Colorado Avalanche defenseman, said last week. “The focus has been on everything else. I’m sure we’ll be spending some good time together soon and we’ll want to make it special.”

Josh and the Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-0 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday to extend their lead in the best-of-7 series and will be traveling to Tampa on Sunday for Game 3 at Amalie Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“I think it’ll get pushed to the side a little bit with everything that’s been going on,” Josh said of Father’s Day. “But it’ll be nice to spend some time.”

Josh’s immediate priority is to accomplish something his dad didn’t.

Dave, an NHL defenseman from 1986-2002 and now an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers, twice came close to winning the Cup as a player. In his 14th NHL season, he played for the Dallas Stars, who lost in six games to the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 Stanley Cup Final. In his fourth NHL season, he and the Chicago Blackhawks reached the 1990 Campbell Conference Final but lost in six games to the Oilers.

“We’re so excited for this opportunity [Josh] has,” Dave said before the Cup Final began. “We have talked about how this is going to be very hard and also that this opportunity doesn’t happen very often. Hopefully he’s going to get to do this a few more times, but it’s very tough to do.”

In his 16-season NHL career, Dave had 390 points (102 goals, 288 assists) in 1,103 regular-season games for the Blackhawks, Oilers, Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Stars, and 31 points ( seven goals, 24 assists) in 112 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

The combination of that experience and family ties made this season’s Western Conference Final, when the Avalanche swept the Oilers in four games, so emotional for the Mansons.

“Obviously, it was bittersweet because one of us had to lose, but it was still special,” Josh said.

The 30-year-old scored one goal in that series, and has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 16 playoff games this season.

Acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks on March 14 for defenseman prospect Drew Helleson and a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, Josh has 120 points (28 goals, 92 assists) in 475 games in eight NHL seasons, and 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 38 playoff games, including a goal Saturday.

Dave’s return to the NHL cam Feb. 10 when he was promoted from an assistant with Bakersfield of the American Hockey League to an assistant for the Oilers, along with Jay Woodcroft, who was promoted from Bakersfield coach to replace fired Edmonton coach Dave Tippett.

He said he’s long been proud of his son and that it was never more true than during the series.

“I was proud of our team too, because we were in it,” Dave said. “I wish we could have found a way to sneak a game out here or there instead of going down like that, so it was very emotional. We were both looking for a chance to do something that doesn’t come along very often. It’s harder to do than people think.”

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When the Avalanche-Oilers series was over, the exchange in the handshake line was direct, encouraging, professional and fatherly all at the same time.

“Just [said], ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Go and finish it’ and ‘I love you,'” Dave said. “You don’t have a lot of time, but that was it. It would be so great to have the ultimate success in the League. I wasn’t able to do it as a player, got close to the Final. So I told him to go finish the job.”

Josh said his father’s message was what he expected.

“He’s a good dad because he’s caring, he’s loving, he’s supportive,” Josh said. “He’s everything you need out of a man and father to support you. He’s there every step of the way. He never pushes decisions on you. He guides you through the process. Obviously him being in the NHL now, it would be easy for him to be like, ‘Well, I did it this way and you should do it like this,’ really force it. But never once has he been like that. He’s only shared experiences and let me make my decisions as I go.

“I’ve never really had him as a coach. But I’ve heard from guys that he motivates you, he teaches you and he’ll push you to make sure you’re getting the best but he doesn’t get down or get hard on you. When you compare the two, it’s fairly similar. He treats you with respect, he pushes you and he’ll teach you the things he needs to teach you but he’s never going to force it on you. He’s going to let you do what you need to do.”

Dave said he and his wife, Lana, have always made that their goal.

“I think we were that way with all four of our kids,” Dave said. “We wanted our kids to be active in sports but we didn’t push them. If they wanted to do it, we just helped guide them.

“Josh was always a pretty smart hockey player from the get-go. He asked questions, and I’d help him with a few things here and there. But for the most part, and I truly believe this, you’ve got to let his coaches do their work. For Josh, I always thought if it was wrong [for him]he was able to figure it out.”

Figuring out how they may get together during the Final is the next task. After exit meetings and end-of-season business in Edmonton, Dave has returned to the family’s Bakersfield (California) home to get organized, and plans are very much up in the air. He said he’s hopeful to get to Denver for future games of the Final.

However the series turns out, joy will mark the next time Josh’s 2-year-old daughter Gemma has her father and grandfather together.

They are dreaming of how special a Stanley Cup championship could make that delayed Father’s Day celebration.

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