Bandits tap Mantha as new head coach Ducks like his qualities as communicator, teacher

July 25, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Moe Mantha visited Baltimore four years ago as an assistant coach for the Hershey Bears and immediately knew he wanted to come back.

Mantha and his family were charmed by Harborplace. They spent the day shopping and looking at the boats.

Now the Manthas will be relocating here. The Baltimore Bandits yesterday named Mantha as their new coach, making the announcement at the Baltimore Arena, just a few blocks away from those same shops and marinas.

"This gives me the chance to build my own credibility and credentials of coaching," Mantha said. "It's going to be a challenge to motivate my players to perform to their ability and get to the NHL.

"The comment was made [four years ago] that we should live here. When I told my kids I got this job and we were moving to Baltimore, they were high-fiving each other."

A similar reaction took place in the offices of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the Bandits' NHL parent club. When Walt Kyle decided to take an assistant coaching position with the Ducks a few weeks ago, Anaheim began thinking of Mantha, a defenseman for 12 NHL seasons, as a replacement.

Mantha, 35, was born in Ohio, but lives in Ontario. He spent two years coaching the Columbus Chill of the East Coast Hockey League after leaving the Bears in 1994. He guided the Chill to the playoffs in each of those seasons, but resigned this summer to become coach and general manager of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

The Ducks had to wait as Mantha worked his way out of his contract with the Knights.

"Moe was always the No. 1 guy," said David McNabb, the Ducks' assistant GM/Bandits GM. "We sort of zeroed in on him right away. It was just a matter of waiting for everything to work out. I know London was excited about getting him and they were very disappointed to lose him."

Mighty Ducks general manager Jack Ferreira was GM of the Minnesota North Stars when Mantha was a player there, and the two have remained close. Mantha played for the Winnipeg Jets in the early 1980s with Paul Fenton, who is now the head professional scout for the Ducks.

"Jack and Paul have a very good working relationship with Moe," McNabb said. "He was always somebody we talked to about players in the ECHL. We have a great rapport with him. He was a natural choice."

McNabb said the Ducks were especially impressed with Mantha's defense-first coaching style and his ability to mold young players. McNabb said the biggest difference between AHL and NHL players is the ability to back-check and protect the defensive zone.

Glowing reports from former players and the strong ties Mantha has built with them also impressed the Ducks.

"He communicates well, he teaches well and he teaches the defensive part of the game," McNabb said. "To play in the NHL, you have to do more than play in the offensive zone. Moe has a good feel for his players. He communicates the essential part of hockey very well."

Mantha said he builds his teams in his image. Mantha was never the most talented player on the Jets, North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins or any of the other teams he played for, but he was always a hard worker.

He expects the same from the Bandits.

"A Moe Mantha team is a team that comes to play," Mantha said. "I expect them to bring their lunch bucket to work. We'll battle in the corners and we'll battle in front of the net. We'll come to play."

The Mantha file

Playing: Moe Mantha played 12 NHL seasons (1980-1992) -- for the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota North Stars and Philadelphia Flyers. He played in 656 NHL games and had 81 goals and 289 assists for 370 points, with 501 penalty minutes.

Coaching: He was an assistant coach with the AHL's Hershey Bears in 1992-1994 before becoming head coach of the Columbus Chill of the ECHL. In 1994-95, he guided the Chill to a 31-32-5 record. In 1995-96, the Chill went 37-28-5. Both teams made the playoffs. Mantha was a three-time member of Team USA and an assistant captain of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team.

Personal: Mantha is married and has three children. He co-owns a golf course in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, with his father.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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