(Video: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
If you’re a 90’s kid, chances are you have some fond memories watching The Mighty Ducks series. Freshman blue-liner Gianni Mangone may be from Calgary, Alberta but the beloved Disney trilogy made a Ducks fan and a hockey lover out of him.
“Paul Kariya was my favorite player growing up,” said Mangone. “Just how small he was and how much heart he had. Ever since then I loved the Ducks.”
When he laced up his skates for the first time at four years old, Mangone said the game of hockey was new territory for his family.
“I would play with my mom in the basement until she took me to a rink. My parents didn’t know much about hockey. My dad’s from Italy, so he didn’t know too much about it, and my mom didn’t grow up in a hockey family. It was all new,” he said.
Mangone laughingly confirmed that he didn’t shoot the puck in a Whirlpool dryer like Sidney Crosby.
“I had my buddy in net most of the time, so I actually got some good practice in.”
While playing in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Mangone established himself as an offensive-minded defenseman and a power play weapon who can move the puck and join the rush. 15 of his 23 goals as a Wolverine came on the man advantage.
Mangone looks up to Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr, arguably one of the best offensive defenseman to play hockey.
“With Bobby Orr its hard to play like him. Look at the little things he does, how well he moves the puck first pass out of the zone- that’s the kind of stuff I want to get better at. Coach [Powers] talks about that quite a bit so I think I should work on that,” said Mangone.
In his two first series as a Sun Devil,the 21-year-old from the Whitecourt Wolverines earned his first-goal game puck after unleashing a slapshot against Niagara in last weekend’s opening series. After another rout over West Chester, he added another goal and two assists to his stats sheet. Coach Greg Powers said that the key to a good defense lies in the details and starts in every zone. Mangone, Powers said, plays well in “all three zones.”
Even though it was quite chippy at times, Mangone didn’t let the chirping from either Niagara or West Chester benches affect his game.
“I just zone out and play hockey,” he said. “I don’t worry about people hitting or chirping. I’m pretty feisty out there. I’ll take a hit, I’ll get in someone’s face but otherwise I just stick to hockey. If a hit comes, you take it. If you gotta give one, you give it.”
A few members of the media now to refer to him as “Gianni Hockey,” alluding to Cleveland Browns’ Johnny Manziel.
“Some of the guys bug me about it in practice and I have some family back home who seem to think it’s pretty cool. [Manziel] is a character. I wouldn’t say I’m like him or would necessarily want to be like him, but the nickname is cool I guess.”
Mangone travels with the team next weekend to North Dakota to play Minot State in his first road-series as a Sun Devil.